A WORLD CHANGING IDEA
No bull: Our trademark Nixburg Bullskin® is the most cutting-edge leather in the luxury bag industry. It has wowed fashion vloggers, environmental executives, and customers alike – and was listed as a 2019 World Changing Idea by Fast Company.
- Full-grain bullskin from certified farms in northern Germany: highly durable
- By-product of the local meat industry: not imported from the Amazon or Asia
- Primary skin selection only: no brand or large bug marks
- Milled for 70 hours to bring out the texture of natural grain: truly unique
- Aniline-dyed: no shortcuts here. The leather is dyed through
- No embossing: textures of the hide shine beautifully, natural variation is expected
- Super-soft for optimal packing flexibility, but able to hold structure for refined aesthetic
- Exceptionally supple to the hand and sweet to smell
- Waterproof up to 2 hours at a time
- Lightweight versus other full-grain leathers
- 80% less water use than other leathers
- 75% less energy use than other leathers
- 99% usage of hide including byproducts
Leather is one of the oldest and most important materials in the history of humanity. It has been used by indigenous peoples for millennia. But leather has been turned into big business and corrupted by those in search of making a quick buck. Instead of using technology to add functionality and sustainability to leather, they’ve employed technology to make poor cuts look (temporarily) expensive, using a brutal brew of chemicals along the way.
Even of the good quality leathers on the market, none came close to meeting our criteria: soft but still structured, natural but not rugged, each hide refined and one-of-a-kind. When we found a rare hide that was close in substance, the toxic production process and lack of transparency surrounding the source of the hides were deal breakers. In this heartbreaking era of burning-rainforest-to-raise-cattle, we weren’t willing to turn a blind eye.
At points, it seemed impossible. At one point, we even considered throwing in the towel. It seemed like our vision for what leather could be was simply too bold.
“Even of the good quality leathers on the market, none came close to meeting our criteria: soft but still structured, natural but not rugged, each hide refined and one-of-a-kind.”
Glimmer of Hope (And A Snag)
But we did not pack it in. No, instead we packed our bags and journeyed to a rural town in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany. Here, a small tannery with nearly 130 years’ experience gave us a glimmer of hope.
Founded in 1891 with a handful of workers, Heinen Lederfabrik has grown into one of the world’s most innovative and progressive tanneries. As they say: “Ein Unternehmen mit Geschichte und Zukunft” — they are a “company with a history and a future.” Honouring heritage while moving boldly forward is a quality that resonates with us.
But Heinen was initially stumped too. Best known for durable full-grain shoe uppers, they weren’t making the high-end bag leather we envisioned. But we wondered whether Heinen’s reputation for long-lasting full-grain hides – plus world-leading approach to responsibility – could be applied to our vision.
So, we moved in. Sleeping in their tiny German village, we worked closely with their team developing iteration after iteration of Nixburg Bullskin®. We tested variations in the leather’s thickness and texture and tried numerous tanning recipes.
After months of continually refining the process, we finally did it. We created a game-changing leather using a process that works with the natural beauty of each hide. We milled each skin for dozens of hours to bring out the natural texture. Instead of using harsh, toxic chemical sprays, we applied safe additives that harness and enhance the leather’s natural waterproofing. And with careful measurement and German precision, we did it using less of everything.
The result? Nixburg Bullskin®, a full-grain leather that is luxurious, extremely durable and uses 80% less water and 75% less energy than our competitors.
With an unflinching commitment to our vision, we not only developed this trademark leather, we’ve won over the experts. Heinen believes in this product – and this partnership – so deeply, they granted Daveed exclusive rights to this proprietary leather and their cutting edge technology.
We set out to demonstrate that bold products of the highest quality can be made with integrity. Heinen Leather is an integral partner in our mission; their honesty and transparency is woven throughout their supply chain and business practices, starting with the hides they use in their tannery.
Sourcing skins only from animals raised on exceptional, registered North German farms, Heinen does not participate in the predatory exploitation of animals or of nature, particularly rainforests from which most other tanneries in the world source their hides.
Every employee is properly, and extensively, trained, and external audits by government agencies and consumer protection organizations ensure that effective safety measures are implemented and enforced. Every employee — and their families — has health insurance, retirement benefits, annual vacation, and pay above both minimum wage and union requirements. Bold. Progressive. Thoughtful. Heinen was the only choice for our leather.
The average tannery uses 450 liters of fresh water to tan 1 square meter of leather. Enough for six people’s daily water needs. In a time of growing water scarcity, we knew we had to do better. Nixburg Bullskin® uses just 90 liters per square meter — 80% lower than average. On our behalf, Heinen implements industry-leading water recycling programs. After the water cannot be used any further, it is cleaned chemically, mechanically, and biologically before it is released back into the natural water cycle. It is as clean — or cleaner — than before it was used.
A single kilo of hide requires as much as 500 grams of additives, a toxic cocktail which often ends up in the water source. In Bangladesh, where the average life expectancy is 70, tannery workers die by 50. Heinen reduces the use of dangerous chemicals, opting for biodegradable ingredients when possible. When not, chemicals are transported under stringent safety standards and handled automatically so workers are never exposed. Nor is the water source.
Nixburg Bullskin® is the first luxury handbag leather in the world that is carbon neutral in production. Heinen produces 50% of their electricity from their own thermal power stations; the remaining 50% is green electricity purchased from renewable sources. Heinen is the first tannery in the world to earn Energy Controlled Leather status. They have taken aggressive steps to cut energy consumption (below 10 kwh/m² versus more than 40 kwh/m²), reduce CO2 emissions by 50%, and we neutralize the difference with reforestation programs.
Only 25% of the raw material can be tanned into leather; most tanneries simply throw the remaining 75% away. Heinen does not. They use 99% of the hide overall, and by-products include energy production, technical gelatin, food gelatin, fertilizer, and even asphalt for streets.