Bringing it All Together: The Craft of Leatherworking

What does it take to make a Troubadour product? Ricardo Brugnoni of Ricky Pelletteria in Florence, Italy, explains why the highest level of craftsmanship is just as important as using the finest materials.

Nicola, Ricardo and Michele Brugnoni of Ricky Pelleteria.

Creating a Troubadour bag is quite a complex process: from leather cutting and stitching to hand finishing, it takes a long time to make sure every detail is perfect. Only the most talented artisans can make leather goods of true quality, and mastering the skills can take a lifetime of dedication to the craft.

Our head artisan has 25 years’ experience, and it takes anything from 15 to 25 years to attain what we call 360-degree expertise, depending on the person’s skills. As well as dexterity and knowledge, the true artisan brings a unique attitude to their work – this comes from being raised in a culture of craftsmanship and caring about what you do. It’s why the best craftspeople always want to create pieces that are better than anything they’ve made before.

Hide selection: Each hide of leather is inspected and selected by hand to exacting standards. As a natural material, hides come in all shapes and sizes and an expert eye ensures the appropriate leather is chosen for each of our pieces.

You can see and feel the results when you hold the product. The details of each part of a bag reflect the Italian craftsmanship that goes into it. Making Troubadour pieces from vegetable-tanned leather is a special experience. Vegetable tanning creates leather that is wonderful to touch, yet also hard wearing. We need to pay close attention to the peculiarities of each hide when we work with vegetable-tanned leather, the shapes are not uniform as they come from an animal and there is natural variation in the texture of each hide. We must consider how pieces of leather will come together to ensure a consistent texture across the final product.

While we use modern technology, many parts of making this bag are best done by hand. For example, we hand sew specific areas – such as small link stitches and the Troubadour signature grey stitch – to give the product additional strength where needed.

Creating consistently beautiful seams that are also tough and durable means we need a thread that is very strong and has excellent wear resistance. We think Gutermann Mara 30, from Germany, is the best on the market. Thread might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of leather goods, but a product’s integrity depends on the quality of its stitching and thread!

In creating sample products, the best hide is selected and the design is cut by hand with a bespoke knife created especially for the precise, desired pattern.
Troubadour's signature hand-stitch detailing secures a folded pocket.

Where two or more layers of leather are stitched together, we can seal them together in a process called edge painting. For the smooth raw edge that we make on all Troubadour handles we must start with great leather. The edges of the leather are sanded clean and moistened to fuse two pieces of leather into one, then we apply a leather oil-dye. This is oven-dried and the process is repeated four times: additional layers of dye are applied and polished for a smooth finish.

Raw-edge painting guarantees beauty and consistency across every aspect of each Troubadour piece.

To reduce the stress on the seams where the handle joins the bag, Troubadour handles are fixed to the body of the bag with rivets before being stitched to the bag – this is the strongest way of attaching two pieces of leather. A local accessories supplier in Florence makes these rivets, so we can keep a close eye on their quality.

Given all the care and attention to detail in the rest of the bag, it’s essential to use the best hardware too. That’s why we use zippers from Raccagni, one of the world’s leading zipper manufacturers, based just outside Bergamo.

The combination of the finest materials and expert Italian craftsmanship means Troubadour bags are made to last for many years – much longer than other bags we know. For me, it’s important that each bag is made with care, by highly skilled people.