For around 40 years, Hidesign has been researching traditional methods of vegetable tanning and is now a leader in India in this domain. Last year, having revived the age old Indian technique, the brand launched a special collection of East India (E.I) Leather Bags. I worked on this campaign with the incredibly talented Beverley Bathija (a wizard with words), my colleague at Hidesign, Dipen Desai and photographer Jane Dsouza of Love Boat Photography. P.S – Besides working on the concept, production and styling for this campaign, I also modeled for it.
In the early 1800s, the East India Company, the largest multi-national of its time, discovered the traditional method of vegetable tanning being practiced in hundreds of well – established tanneries in South India. By 1856, the British army – the most powerful army of that era was using E.I. leather for its accessories.
The E.I. leather production declined when chemically tanned leathers replaced it for their cost effectiveness and ease of tanning. Produced by tanneries around Tamil Nadu, E.I. leather was acknowledged by a registration under the Geographical Indications of India in 2008, thereby giving it international recognition and paving the path for its revival.
The raw materials used for the tanning of the range are native to the forests of South India, such as the bark of the Wattle tree and Myrobalan seeds, while the Pungam seed oil is used to soften the leather. This collection highlights Hidesign’s effort in recreating this splendid leather that is not only sustainable but also exemplifies India’s rich legacy of traditional methods and hand craftsmanship.