Hi! I am Stephanie, leather artisan with more than 10 years experience and if you are looking for advice on how to choose a place where to buy high quality leather goods in Florence, you are in the right place!
Bag making and working with leather is my passion. Searching for materials and tools, and developing the perfect bag or wallet for every one of you are aspects of my work that make my heart sing with joy. Since many of you ask me how to spot o good, or authentic leather store or workshop in the mass of shops in Florence, here is my take on it!
Florence is the epicentre of Leather Goods in Italy, and maybe Europe.
Many visitors come to Florence with the idea to buy a leather bag, a belt, a leather wallet, because they heard that Florence is famous for well made leather goods. Many are then overwhelmed by markets and shops that all seem to offer the same bags, everything is always on sale and everything is "real leather" or "genuine leather".
To be very clear, "real leather" says NOTHING about the quality of the leather. The product just needs to contain a certain amount of leather, and cannot be made entirely of fake leather, reinforcement and fabric. It can be the worst choice of leather, coated in plastic to seem of higher quality. The same goes for "genuine leather".
If you want to buy high quality and locally made leather goods, you need to look for artigiani - artisans. Artisans work in their workshop - bottega - and have their own, recognizable style. Nearly all artisans design, buy materials for, produce and sell their own goods. There are also some bigger leather good brands with their production around Florence or in Tuscany, or Italy, who also offer good quality.
However, in my very biased opinion, if you are already in an artisan rich city like Florence, it is worth it to look for a bottega with one artisan or a couple of them working and get talking. Most of us are more than willing to talk about our passion and to find a solution for you, if we have nothing ready that fits your needs!
Red Flags - Avoid shops or stands, if you see the following:
- Overfull shops featuring the same goods as the ones beside it
- Worn looking Sale or Discount signs
- Seller is willing to quickly drop the price by up to 50%
- Seller insisting on it being "real leather"
- Long sewing stitches
- Plastic smell
To be sure you are in the right place, search for
- someone working in the shop/workshop
- leather rolls or pieces
- a workbench, tools, accessories
- a sewing machine
- creations that seems to have their own signature
- the smell of leather
- a person who is eager to talk about their work, which probably is their passion
- transparency about origin of materials
- the "right" number on the price tag
The last point is crucial. If you find a shop that seems to fit most criteria, but sells you a seemingly handmade belt for 40€ it is either a scam or someone does not know how to price their product. If a medium sized handbag costs less than 150€ (and that is a low price for an artisanal medium sized hand bag), it is probably made by an underpaid worker from mediocre materials.
Artisanal leather goods are worth their price. An artisanal made leather hand bag will last you for a long time, will be repairable and you will take home a piece of the artisan's passion and soul, because we pour everything in our creations. Buying from an artisan can be a very personal experience. You know that the item in your hand has been designed, cut, glued, sewn and finished by two hands only. I as an artisan take so much pride in my work that I make sure to choose excellent materials to create beautiful and long lasting hand made leather goods.
If you are looking for hand made high quality leather goods in Florence, look out for leather artisans like Frau Leman.
Photos by https://www.olga-makarova.com/