A different kind of leatherCreating a pair of Mohinders begins with a time-honored, local process of tanning water buffalo hides into leather. This tried-and-true method of tanning, called bag-tanning, uses botanical tanning agents and creates an especially durable, lustrous leather.
Use of regional botanicalsThis method is a vegetable-tanning process that uses two special agents: babul tree bark and the myrobalan nut. Both are found and foraged in the region, and bring special properties to the leather. Bark from the Babul tree—a tree in the genus Acacia—provides tannins needed to tan the leather, bringing it from a rawhide into a lasting, flexible material. The second is the myrobalan nut, the fruit of a native-growing tree. It's been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, and is used in this process both as a tanning agent and to add a rich caramel color to the final product. After its use, the remaining material + liquid is often used as a compost.
Why is it called bag-tanned?
The process starts with locally procured hides. They are limed, de-limed, and soaked in a "malani" pit filled with babul bark and crushed myrobalan nuts, for 2–3 days. Then, each hide is stitched, end-to-end, into a long, narrow bag, using date palm leaves as thread. A larger opening is left at the top, and the bags are hung vertically from a wooden beam. For three days, the tanning mixture of babul bark / myrobalan is poured and re-poured through the top opening of the wrapped leather bag, saturating it with tannins and natural dye as it runs through the interior. After drying and setting, each hide is hand-set to create a smooth surface.
Why we use full grain leather
You may already be familiar with the term full-grain leather. If it's new to you, here's what it means!
A piece of leather includes several layers. The top layer, the leather's surface, is referred to as the "grain." It's the part of leather with tiny pores, and a smooth but often irregularly-textured surface. When a piece of leather remains intact with all its layers, including the top grain, it is strongest and most durable. This is full grain leather.
To hide imperfections, manufacturers will sometimes sand or buff the leather's surface, then re-imprint it with a false grain or pebble texture. This is called top grain leather; it's weaker and looks less natural than full grain.
Or, to save on costs, some will create split leather, which is actually obtained by splitting a hide into two or more layers, which exposes the bottom and inside surfaces. This is called split leather, and has the lowest tensile strength of all three.
all images courtesy of Dr. Kris D'Août + www.futurefootwear.org