Hidesign, India’s premier leather goods brand, has introduced a unique collection using East India (EI) leather, first discovered and popularised by the British East India Company in the early 1800s.Recounting the 200-year-old history of the leather, Dilip Kapur, founder of Hidesign, says, “During those times, leather was primarily made in South India using the traditional method of vegetable tanning.
East India leather as it came to be known was celebrated as the leather of the highest quality around the world, for over two centuries. Its USP was durability and naturally glowing texture which made it the most sought after by the Italians and British in the 20th Century and put India on the map as one of the few world centres in the high art of leather tanning.”
The production of EI leather declined when cost-effectiveness and ease of tanning made chemically tanned leathers famous. Produced by leather tanneries around Tamil Nadu, EI leather was acknowledged by registration under the Geographical Indications of India in 2008, which gave it international recognition and paved the path for its much-needed revival.
The present collection aims to revive the lost art. Kapur adds, “When I was working in the US in the early 1970s, I came to know that the finest leather in the world came from where I grew up, and that led me, on my return to search for the few skilled tanners who had not yet given up the EI technique. I decided to dedicate Hidesign to research more innovative methods of vegetable tanning, something we have held on to over the past 40 years.”
The raw materials used for the tanning are native to the forests of South India, such as the bark of the Wattle tree and Myrobalan seeds, while the Pungam seed oil is used to soften the leather. This collection highlights Hidesign’s effort in recreating this beautiful leather that is not sustainable but exemplifies India’s rich legacy of traditional methods and handcraftsmanship.
The East India Collection has a range for both men and women that are both modern and minimal that bring out the beauty of EI leather.The bags are priced at `2,595–`7,595 and available at all Hidesign stores and its website, www.hidesign.com.