The strong connection between man and leather dates back to the origins of human existence, when animal skins were first recognized for their durability and resilience. From the prehistoric age, leather was used for various basic human functionalities that still translate to common uses today -- protection from the cold and other elements (present day apparel), shelter from the rain (present day interiors), and the transport of liquids and foods (present day accessories).
Once people developed an understanding of how to preserve animal hides for long-term use, the tanning industry was born and quickly began to boom. Between the 18th and 19th centuries the first tanneries opened in Arzignano, an industrial town in Vicenza, Italy. The small town's position in the high part of the Chiampo river valley allowed for rich water supply; over time, this element combined with the industriousness of the area allowed Arzignano to become a world center for tanning.
Fast forward to the 21st century and you will find FA.PEL, a tannery at the heart of Vicenza sticking to its roots and helping keep the Italian city on the leather-production map.
FA.PEL opened its doors in 1986. Andri Alessandro, one of the 2 original founders and the company's current CEO, wanted to start a business as an independent tanner. Over the last three decades, he has led FA.PEL in perfecting its production of cow split leather (or suede) for footwear, apparel, furniture, and other leather goods for which it is now recognized domestically and internationally.
"WE LOVE SUEDE!" exclaims Stefano Andri -- FA.PEL Sales Director and son of Alessandro -- proudly. And rightfully so. The family-owned tannery has gained its success and prominence primarily due to its production of suede textiles, offered in several different thicknesses, prints and finishes. Usually, suede is obtained from split leather and is different from the upper part of the hide which has the grain. With its velvety surface and soft touch, it is ideal for footwear and soft furnishings, as well as accessories and other leather goods.
FA.PEL gets all its raw material from Italy and nearby France, England, Holland and Finland. What sets the tannery apart from its competitors, aside from the intimacy and appeal that come from a smaller family-run operation, is the company's obsession with fulfilling customers' needs and overall customer satisfaction.
"We have the dimension to stay flexible but also the organization to follow the important productions," explains Andri.
A fundamental detail of the company is understanding and complying with customers' needs. Therefore, all production is held under strict regulations, starting with the selection of leather and ending with the final measuring and delivery. Most of FA.PEL's production is for luxury footwear and accessories like bags, wallets, and belts. Accordingly, the company works with many prominent brands across Europe, which includes those in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, England, Germany, and Poland. Because of the company's recognized quality, control and the utmost care to detail are critical -- the tannery has many customers to keep satisfied.
Along with a sincere dedication to its customers, FA.PEL excels in that it is extremely flexible and versatile with its suede offerings. For footwear, apparel and leather goods its suedes are chosen among luxury brands and more athletic, "sporty" brands as well. This functionality allows the tannery to be first pick among customers worldwide, and not just limited to footwear or apparel but to a wide range of markets.
This year marked the 30 year anniversary for FA.PEL, and the company has much to celebrate, both past, present and future.
"The biggest challenge has probably been the [economic] crisis of this last decade," says Andri. "We overcame this trying not to find compromises but offering our good quality at a fair price; investing into new technologies and people."
In the coming months, FA.PEL plans to increase sales with new articles and new collaborations, maintaining the high quality and the focus on the customer that it is known for. Currently, the tannery is finalizing its newest collection to present at leading international leather fair Lineapelle in September 2016, as it has done for the past several years.