Established as a bare necessity to being handcrafted for the ostentatious, the transition of leather from being yet another product to timeless novelty reverberates in the hollows of our society. Humans have never backed from displaying their creativity with everything that nature has given them. Every little that was chanced upon was made ‘economically viable’: in terms of usage and hence, reaping returns. In the recorded history, it all began with keeping the basics in mind. Leaves weaved to make clothes, elements unearthed for shelter and tools and animals for meat and transport.
But these impressions evolved as the chromosomic clock ticked. The prehistoric man realized that there was more to be explored. And from here, these ‘economic heroes’ visualized hides. Dissuading themselves from the elementary, man discovered the methodology of crafting animal skins to perfection. Slowly the entire process, of hunt, skin, and bind drifted towards softening the raw hides to develop the technique of turning it into leather goods independently of one another. The evidence for the same can be found in early literature and archeological specimens from all around the world. The Primitive societies in Europe, Asia and North America, ascended in their use of leather as garments from the age of the Homeric heroes, about 1200 B.C. The traces of the same, in form of jewelries, dating from 1300 B.C. had also been found in Egypt. But with its origins unknown, the skins contributed towards structuring civilizations, obsessed over its diversity. During the Middle Ages, it spread over to unimagined nooks and crannies of the world, including the ever populous China and India.
But who said too many spoil the broth. With a rich biodiversity of both animals and people, India found its new industry. Providing employment to millions, its first brush with turning raw into processed came with the tradition of leather craft during the Indus valley civilization, nearly five thousand years ago. The experience and skill passed like a goblet, India drank in the knowledge of fine craftsmanship and thus exhibited a range in the use of animal skins that would even make the early man take a bow.
It left no stones unturned to seep leather into its every vein, be it with armory, currency, serving the elitist Mughals, trading with foreign exporters via the ‘Silk Route’ and export quality tanned material. Numerous references in ancient texts/ scriptures emphasized it as a predominant item for comfort, warmth and glory. But India was one country which truly emerged as pioneer of exemplary integration of heritage, material and historic designs embossed on the face of the markets worldwide. From being the largest exporter of leather accessories overall, each state and its art found its takers. Different regions possessed different goods to offer. Traversing from the dunes of Rajasthan to swampy West Bengal or mystic Kashmir to imperial Madhya Pradesh or exploring a folk traditional Karnataka, the unique style and pattern surpassed the boundaries of generally what met the eye. The beautiful camel skin bags and camel skin leather bags still finds its audience in tourists from all over the world. Even today, roughly half of all leather produced is extensively manufactured to make shoes and about 25% for clothing with upholstery demands lasting around 15% of the total produce.
The journey towards the international export, however, started much later, after the year 1880. The leather-making activities, mainly in the hands of the ‘chamars’ from village, were sufficient to meet the local needs. But the outbreak of World War II truly gave an impetus to the development of leather and leather products industry in India. They were now being cut into various shapes for the convenience of the customer. This inventive craftsmanship with the use of embroidered patches, geometric intertwining, stuffing puppets as well as practicing taxidermy, generous threads of gold and silver, made something to suit every taste. Validated by the first-person account of the intrepid explorer Marco Polo, also serve as a periscope. He mentioned that, “the curing of hides and the manufacture of leather were two of the most important of Gujarat’s 42 industries. Every year a number of ships went to Arabia laden with the skins of goats, oxen, buffalos and other animals. The leather was used for sandals and was cleverly worked into red and blue sleeping mats exquisitely inlaid with figures, birds, and beasts and skillfully embroidered with gold and silver wire”.
Through the ages, the timelessness of hides has been woven into the very fabric of our existence. But this fabric was always for the class, an epithet of eternity and pride of possession. The early humans were still in the phase of understanding the importance of leather and hence couldn’t barter it with basic necessities. But over millennia, the Greeks, the Romans and the Egyptians, insinuated this elemental product into luxury. Its vividness was aptly described by a Hindu sage, Agasthya, in one of his writings as, “I deposit the poison in the solar orb like a leather bottle in the house of vendor of spirits “. Furthermore, the infusion of modern technology has now turned it into a monetary wildfire. It has allowed for innovation in the leather industry, to greatly expand the aesthetics as well as the possible applications; not just for residential but also for commercial and governmental. Hence, the absolute collectors and active users still do not care about the eye-popping price tags. It is because of the grueling labor that goes into the creation of these exquisite pieces of ‘charm’. Even the wastage adds to the final cost. But with all that cost, it’s not a lost cause.
Investing in a good piece of leather has always worked as a blur between the lines of fashion, trend and utility. The ever rising economy of India and a competitive industry with a vast market share like this has now expanded its produces to not being keepsake trophies, limited to the royal gates and interiors of mansions anymore. Leather has now freed the shackles to see the shine of an abundant opportunity in today’s time. It has refurbished itself to emerge from being a crude utility to being a polished opportunity. Moreover, with its nearly immortal yet unconventional value, they still bear the capacity to fulfill your desire of a realistic glory to own a piece. The sheer joy to exhibit a prized possession trespasses the dated origin of hides. This Indian love affair with a highly versatile and useful material like leather, regarded as a symbol of prestige, has realized itself with affordable and genuine leather day to day use products available at www.theleatherworks.in. So, let the abacus metamorphose this simplistic history into a suave representative of the Modern you.