The Bastin & Fils Tannery
The only shoemaker with its own sole leather tannery, the manufacturer takes time to do its job at the heart of the Tannerie Bastin in Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat. Here, a few kilometres from Limoges, is where skin becomes leather. Using traditional techniques, nature, helped by man creates the best quality leather. Leather soles timeless.
An apt description of the environment in the Tannerie Bastin. Founded in 1806, this leather establishment became part of J.M. Weston in 1981 and exclusively produces the sole leather for the factory’s shoes.The Tannerie Bastin sets itself apart through its traditional vegetable tanning methods, giving the leather an unrivalled durability and the shoes their exceptional quality. The skin goes on a long journey, punctuated by steps where nature, time and the craftsman work together.
Respecting the unhurried pace and the rare craft, the Tannerie Bastin perpetuates a manual skill, far removed from any industrial consideration.
It all starts with the farm. Absolutely attentive. For cow hides that are neither too thin nor too thick, barely scratched by bushes or fences. Then the hides are selected. Necessarily extreme. Only the butt, the central and hardest part of the skin is used – because the belly is too soft, the neck too wrinkled. The expert eye of the skin buyer identifies the qualities and defects and discards, chooses, and spots the potential in a future leather...
This quality raw material then arrives at the Tannerie Bastin, where the true alchemy takes place, transforming the still-fragile skin, into a strong leather.
Firstly, everything needs to be cleaned, it is essential for the skins to be washed and degreased. They are then shut in a sort of large wooden drum and a mix of sodium sulphide and slaked lime added so as to prepare the material for the tannins. When they come out of the drum, the water-filled skins are dubbed «wet blue» because of their mollusc-like appearance with bluish highlights. Then the fleshing roller removes excess fat and a second turn in the drum is used to delime them.
The tanning can then begin. The skins are stretched across frames and dipped into a series of baths containing tans of increasing strengths. These tans are made from Italian chestnut flour or Latin American quebracho, the only tans authorised by J.M. Weston for this delicate operation.
The tanning then continues with the skins placed in pits. They are piled on top of one another in open-air pits with a bed of ground bark between each layer, like a sandwich. Water is added before leaving the tannins to act for between eight and ten months. Time takes hold of the material.
The last fine days of autumn, the thick snow of winter, the first buds of spring... The skins sleep underground until they are brought out into the open air. At this precise moment, they become leather. The magic of tanning. Various processes then begin that will give the leather its most beautiful appearance. It is spun, stretched and massaged with cod liver oil to nourish and soften it, then it is put out to dry.
The moment for the final finishes has come. To tighten its fibres and make it stronger, the leather is struck with a hammer. The heart of the tannery rumbles with the rhythm of dull thuds. Then the leather is put on a hot-plate, boarded and a pigment finish is applied.
It is inspected by practised eyes, that detect and discard the slightest flaw, the smallest imperfection. The leather then leaves the Tannerie Bastin, ready for a new life walking with you.