When tanning seriously began about 500 years ago in the famous Portuguese tanning centre of Alcanena, its uniqueness was built on more than the good supply of water that was available. By that time, Portuguese tanning technology had already amalgamated a multitude of skills from all these historic origins, including their knowledge of interesting new vegetable tanning materials from Northern Africa and Brazil. Portugal was ahead of the rest of Europe in terms of its global explorations.

So as we now sit in Alcanena during their “Leather Days” of industry and EU meetings, the under exploited Portuguese leather brand is clearly coming to life. What is so good is that it is clearly a brand that already holds all the key elements, ready to go when the industry wants to develop it.

Since I last came to Alcanena thirty years ago, the Portuguese leather industry has had a few major lows, when the global industry had viewed leather in Portugal as insignificant if not just as history. Not least when much of the Portuguese leather industry was dependent on big overseas brands from the US and the EU, who were all leaving for Asia by the turn of the century. What is great about the current sustained period of advancement is that it is essentially being built on pure Portuguese strengths. Indigenous footwear brands are now a key part of the Portuguese scene, making types of quality footwear well suited to Portuguese craftsmanship and production. Building on these strengths, Portugal has a position where it is ready to take back segments of Asian production where customers want medium sized volumes of quality production with a lot of design and leather content.

This leather event in Alcanena has allowed us to see CITIC (Technological Centre for the Leather Industry), an impressive setup, and meet APIC (the Portuguese Leather Industry Association). It has made a loud statement for the Portuguese leather industry. It may not be the largest in the world, or even the EU, but we are going to hear a lot more about it. It is well positioned for the future of leather making within Europe, and the investment in tanning we have been shown in and around Alcanena looks like money well spent.

Mike Redwood


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