Leather Manufacturing in China
Leather manufacturing is one of the most important and widespread industries in the world and has been for over a century. You might have heard about Italian leather from back in the day, or Australian leather more recently, but:
Did you know China produces the most leather in the world? The 4 billion+ square feet of leather produced here is more than double the next largest producer.
You might be surprised to learn that after China, India is the next largest producer of finished leather products worldwide while Brazil and USA fly up the charts given how they supply large quantities of hides for production in other counties.
Leather manufacturing is a bit of a specialty interest, but we’ll address the big and most basic questions below:
Why is Leather So Popular?
Some of the key properties that made humans so excited about leather for the last couple of centuries are its high tensile and tear strength, shape retention ability, high resistance to flexing and punctures, good heat insulation and its ability to absorb and transmit moisture.
Where is Leather Used?
Once upon a time, it’s greatest use was body armour and saddles, but today, leather is an essential component in book binding, clothing, footwear, furniture, gloves, watches, sports equipment, bags, cases, holsters, belts and a host of other accessories. Can you imagine a world without leather?
Did you know leather was even used as currency in India for a short period in the 14th century? Sadly, it was only a shot-lived experiment because citizens just made leather themselves until its value plummeted to the point of worthlessness.
What is the Process for Manufacturing Leather?
The leather manufacturing process is divided into three major stages: preparatory stages, tanning and crusting. All true leathers will undergo these processes while another, surface coating may be added depending on the type of leather.
This is defined as all activities and processes where the animal hide/skin is prepared for tanning. During this stage, unwanted components are removed and the skin is treated in a variety of ways depending on its intended end use. Activities and processes may include washing and rehydration, hair removal, proteins/fats/oils removal, pH value modification and many more.
At this stage, the raw hide/skin is converted into a stable material which will not putrefy and become suitable for a variety of end use applications, i.e. it stays in a flexible form.
This is when the hide/skin is thinned, re-tanned and lubricated. Often, this is the when the colouring operation is implemented once the chemicals added during crusting are fixed in place.
For some leathers, the surface coating is applied and tanners refer to this process as ‘finishing’. Activities can include oiling, buffing, polishing, embossing, plating, ironing and many more.
Leather Manufacturing in China
As mentioned before, China is the largest manufacturer of finished leather goods worldwide. New entrants looking to manufacture in China should keep an eye on four major issues:
Trust: the most easily accessible resources for finding manufacturers are Alibaba, Global Sources & Made in China. But with thousands of results and questions on legitimacy (e.g. ‘Gold member’ on Alibaba is a paid status), the best way forward, in order of preference should be:
- Visiting China and vetting suppliers (the preferable option, if feasible)
- Contract Manufacturing (If you don’t have trusted suppliers, find someone who does)
- Trade Shows and in-person connections (There’s something to be said for real connections and physical presence)
- Vetting of suppliers online (It’s not that this doesn’t work, but a true working partnership can be difficult to foster online alone)
Price: The sheer scale and wide array of use cases for leather production in China means it is possible to find economical options with a high degree of technical knowledge and a track record that speaks for itself. Remember – you get what you pay for, so don’t go straight for the cheapest option!
Quality: Leather is a nuanced industry with many specific needs for leather products, it is essential to vet the factories you work with thoroughly and ensure good quality isn’t lip service from sales representatives, but a reality of business. Ensure that you have a trusted on-ground partner to ensure the highest standards of quality control.
Sustainability: The leather industry has gotten a well-earned bad reputation over the years due to the heavy use of polluting chemicals during the tanning and transformation processes. Ask the factories to prove their environmental credentials and only engage factories and local vendors with a proven track record of environmental safety and sustainable practices
The MorphoMFG Way
Modern leathers have strict performance standards from global markets. At MorphoMFG, we only provide products that are authentic and tested. We have full control over the production process, from hide selection through to final delivery so we are confident of living up to these lofty expectations.
Our contracting facilities are organized to handle both small and large custom projects with equal efficiency. From component parts to patented finished projects and everything in between, we are your One-Stop Shop for Leather Manufacturing in China.
We guarantee the highest, safest standards of production, and industry-leading consistency of product, backed by quality of service. You design the product and choose details including materials, hardware, stitching and final accompaniments and we’ll take care of the rest. Our team works with you to develop a production schedule to meet your needs and timeline.