The tricky artisanal dyeing method that produces otherwise impossible transparent effects, shading and colour variations

After tanning and weaving, dyeing is one of the oldest production activities developed by man. Evidence of leather dyeing dates as far back as Ancient Egyptian times. But the technologies have evolved immensely since then, with synthetic dyes becoming available alongside the solely mineral- and plant-derived pigments.

The most popular leather dyeing techniques today include spray dyeing, which involves the use of special guns, and tumbler dyeing (or vat dyeing), which involves dipping the leather into a solution of water and dye, which is then heated up while the vat is turned: this enables deep penetration of the pigment.

When it comes to the footwear and leather accessories sectors (gloves, bags, belts), some brands opt for strictly artisanal methods. These are therefore trickier and require more time and effort, namely: precision dyeing, brush dyeing, carried out with a brush dipped in dye, or hand-buffing. The latter can performed directly on the finished shoe and produces transparent effects, shading and colour variations which would be impossible to create with other methods, making each shoe unique.

Techical matters

The buffing technique is mainly used on luxury shoes and has been passed on from craftsman to craftsman in the shoe world, but each has his own “tricks”, his own secrets and personal “recipes” for the dyes.

It is usually performed on so-called crust– or natural – leathers. Sponges or fabric cloths can be used as buffers. The fabric used is almost always cotton, but the choice depends solely on the craftsman’s taste and experience.

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Posted by Fratelli Rossetti on Friday, April 21, 2017

[In the video: hand-buffing by Fratelli Rossetti]