Style & Story: Indian Leather Bags
A collection of effortless bags from the desert region of Rajasthan, India
For generations, artisans in the sand-swept region of Rajasthan have practiced the art of leather tanning. Our Artisan Partners work to preserve this unique heritage – and help it evolve. While traditional tanning uses harmful chemicals, our Partners have developed a special tanning process using local plants. The result is a collection of handbags that are both beautifully designed and ethically crafted.
How it’s Made Matters
To create our collection of handcrafted leather bags, the Artisans start with high quality goatskins. The business we partner with is committed to ethical leather sourcing, and the goats are not killed for their hides. Goat and sheep leather are common in India, as cows are considered sacred and in Rajasthan, where the business’ tannery is, it is illegal to use cows for their hides.
Rather than using machinery, the Artisans use traditional tools to make each bag unique. The Artisan Business has a unique focus on creating eco-friendly leather goods and exclusively uses a “vegetable tanning” process that is much safer for the environment and the Artisans than conventional leather tanning. This vegetable tanning process is more time-consuming, but creates a beautiful, natural look that the Artisans take pride in. Vegetable tanned leather ages more gracefully than conventionally tanned leather. This means that each Noonday leather bag is an accessory you can carry for years to come.
Because it requires contact with animal hides, leatherworking is typically viewed as an “unclean” profession in India. As a result, leatherworkers tend to belong to the lowest social class and often face discrimination and high rates of poverty. By selling their goods to companies that are committed to ethical sourcing and Fair Trade standards like Noonday Collection, the Artisans are now earning regular wages they can rely on. As a result, they are able to rise out of poverty by the work of their own hands. Because of the way we does business, the Artisans earn enough to care for their families – and even enough to explore their passions.
Maangi Lal’s Story
Before working with our partner business in India, Maangi Lal used to live in constant uncertainty. He never knew when his next paycheck would arrive and his work hours were inconsistent and scarce. Now, he has a regular income that allows him to move out of “survival mode” into a life that brings him joy. Although he lives in a village where motorbikes are uncommon, Maangi Lal has been able to afford a motorbike of his own that helps him travel more efficiently. He works hard during the day and then uses his evenings to enjoy long rides on his bike.
Maangi Lal also has a passion for film and loves getting to catch the latest release in the local theater. As one of the group’s first Artisans, he has worked hard to become an expert leatherworker and enjoys sharing his expertise with the other members of the group. He has trained over a dozen young Artisans so far.
Your purchases help Artisans like Maangi Lal to support themselves and learn to dream again. They now have regular work, fair wages, and are able to send their children to school to help them break the cycle of poverty for good! We are excited to continue partnering with this business to grow their capacity and employ even more talented Artisans in their community.
A Growing Partnership
Noonday has partnered with the same leatherworking business since Fall 2014. Since beginning this partnership, the business’ goat leather styles have consistently been some of our top sellers. Our customers and Ambassadors continue to love the special story and high-quality craftsmanship behind each bag.
As Noonday has grown, the demand for this leatherworking business’ products has grown too—empowering the entrepreneurs behind the bags to expand their business and their local impact. In the spring of 2016, the business opened a brand new workshop in Chennai and hired 40 additional Artisans to be trained to work with goat leather!
In addition, in their New Delhi workshop, the business trained and hired 10 new Artisans, including a brand new team of nine women who manage quality control and ensure that each Noonday piece is of the highest quality. Since women are traditionally excluded from leatherworking roles, the fact that these women have been intentionally included is just one more way the business is making a meaningful difference in the community!
Meet Jenna Tanner
Jenna is Noonday’s Content Curator and loves to write about fair trade, social justice and Artisans around the world. She also enjoys marathoning her favorite TV shows with her husband, playing intense games of Ticket to Ride, and searching for the best tacos in Austin (let her know if you find them!).