I've been surrounded by beautiful Argentine leather goods all my life. My parents traveled to Argentina regularly for 30 years, and inevitably returned laden with wallets, purses, handbags, jackets and belts. The quality of the leather, they said, surpassed anything available in Europe.
My grandfather meanwhile was among the thousands of British engineers, entrepreneurs and financiers that flocked to Argentina in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was a railway engineer who designed a tunnel that linked Argentina and Chile across the Andes. His leather chaps, riding boots, and the holster he later took with him to the front in the Great War, were so well made, of such fantastic leather, that they remain in excellent condition today, more than a century later.
In 2010, I moved to Argentina, where I founded Estados, together with my sister, Marisa Orchard. Estados draws on a centuries-old Argentine leather making tradition to offer a range of beautiful, handmade, contemporary leather goods in the UK.
In 1536, 44 years after Columbus first landed in the Americas, a settlement was established on the site of Buenos Aires. The colony was soon abandoned though, along with the cattle the settlers had brought with them. When it was later re-established, the cattle had multiplied to the extent that eyewitnesses described there being 'millions' roaming the surrounding plains. Expeditions were sent to hunt them for their hides, which were found to be of exceptional quality, and the Argentine leather industry was born.
Argentine leather is special because the unique climate and geography
of the Pampas (the plains around Buenos Aires) combine to create the
perfect environment for cattle. Abundant, lush pasture means they never need eat grain, plentiful water sources ensure they never have
to walk very far, and the climate is mild year-round. All of these contribute to the extraordinary health and suppleness of their hides.
Today, 60 million heads of cattle roam the vast, flat plains, and some of the best-known Italian and American fashion brands quietly source their leather from Argentina.
Estados leather goods are manufactured by a fourth-generation leather craftsman called Adrian Maldonado. He works in Salta, a small city in the foothills of the Andes in north-western Argentina. Adrian has been working with leather for over 30 years. Originally from Buenos Aires, he moved to Salta in 2010 to establish his own workshop with the help of Fundacion Impulsar, the Argentine affiliate of the Prince's Trust.
Despite his traditional background in leathercraft, Adrian has embraced some modern production techniques. Selecting and cutting leather, and assembling the different parts of a wallet, he prefers to do by hand. For dividing leather however (for finer applications such as the individual card pockets in a wallet), and for most stitching, Adrian believes that a machine produces a more refined and durable finish. Our construction technique can therefore be described as the best of the old combined with the best of the new.
(Watch Adrian making a purse here.)
We buy our hides from La Teresa in Buenos Aires, a third-generation, family-owned tannery. We believe that La Teresa achieves the highest possible quality in terms of suppleness, surface texture, and appearance. Hides are graded on a scale of 1-3, depending on how soft and how marked they are. We exclusively use Grade 1, full-grain hides.
We use both vegetable and mineral tanned hides. Vegetable-tanned leather has a rich, natural surface appearance, however it stains easily, and must be sealed. It is typically used for luggage, furniture, and equestrian goods.
Mineral tanning produces softer leather, ideal for wallets, handbags and accessories. All textured and coloured leathers are mineral-tanned.
Estados' full name is 'Estados Animicos', which means 'states of mind', 'moods' or 'soul states'. This reflects our design ethos of using and combining different colours.
Estados leather goods are designed by myself and my sister, Marisa Orchard. Our guiding principles are:
- Conservative but contemporary (traditional designs, often with a splash of colour)
- Functional (with innovative, useful features)
- Durable (no compromise in materials and construction)
- Distinction (clean lines, simplicity, elegance)
Following these principles, our beautiful leather goods will not only last, but give you pleasure, for many years to come.
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