The tanning region of Santa Croce sull’ Arno is one of the three large Italian tanning clusters. In the 50km radius of the town are located around 400 tanneries of various sizes. The town is most famous for the manufacture of quality, fashionable footwear upper and leathergoods leathers. Also located in the region are some of Italy’s most famous producers of vegetable side and sole leathers.

Clariant, like a number of leather chemical and machinery suppliers, have established a technical centre to serve the local industry in the area. They also have other technical centres in the tanning regions of Arzignano and Solofra.

‘This region of Italy is where a number of the leading fashion brands are located and most of the major labels use highly fashionable leather produced by tanners in Santa Croce’, says Dr Alessandro Cavassi, leather division manager, Clariant Italy. ‘We have been working very closely with consultant stylists and they have helped us create a range of highly fashionable leathers using Clariant leather chemicals.’

Clariant were keen to promote their fashion credentials during the opening ceremony of the new technical centre in Castelfranco near Santa Croce. Around two hundred invited guests from the local industry and Clariant Italy and Germany were invited to the event, which took place on April 11.

Five fashion themes were highlighted as follows:

* Spotted leather

* Geometric 3D effects

* Striped ‘Rigato’ effect

* Hand brushed leathers

* Red and white leathers

The themes were the culmination of work carried out between Clariant finishing technicians in Santa Croce and the consultant stylist, Anna Grazia Egidi.

She began working with Clariant last November with the aim of providing Clariant customers, especially in Italy, with something new. ‘I believe that a colour card is no longer important for a customer which is involved in making fashionable leather’, Egidi told Leather International.

‘There is a need for new materials and new looks in the leather industry. A traditional item such as a ladies’ shoe can be transformed using leather with a different appearance’, she said.

Egidi has been working as a style consultant with a number of companies over the past six years. The new effects are aimed at providing tanners with something new in a very flat market and they meet all the required chemical and physical properties for the end-user.

New facilities

With an estimated total investment of €1 million, the new technical centre is an amalgamation of three former sites of Sandoz, Quinn and Hoechst which have been acquired by Clariant. The site features beamhouse and finishing application facilities, a warehouse and offices. A physical testing laboratory is to be added shortly.

The technical centre is located on a new industrial area on the outskirts of Castelfranco di Sotto near Santa Croce.

The 2,000m2 site has a large chemical storage facility with a capacity to hold up to 45 metric tons of leather chemicals. Clariant leather chemicals stored on the site are imported from Clariant’s European manufacturing plants in Germany, the UK, Spain and also in Milan, Italy.

A separate storage area has been built to store flammable materials. Adjacent to the warehouse is a storage area for chemicals used in the Clariant application areas.

The application areas are divided into beamhouse and post tanning, and finishing. The finishing area features all types of finishing equipment including two rollercoaters from Gemata and Rollmac, spray booths from Barnini, a buffing machine from Bergi, a Mostardini hydraulic embossing press and toggle drying frame unit.

Approximately 16 staff are employed in the technical centre and three technicians are employed in finishing and a further six on the wet-end development. The technicians also serve local tanneries. The wet-end section contains 18 drums of various sizes including two new stainless steel pieces from Italian manufacturers Sani and Testai. Experiments can be carried out on small pieces of leather through to 20kg matched side trials.