Leather – Ethnic Collective Co.


Fez is well known for its leather, the Chouara Tannery is the oldest of the 3 in the city. The men working with leather are still using the same methods used centuries ago.

White limestone and pigeon droppings wash to leather for 1 week, removing the hair and opening the pours so the dye can easily be absorbed. Once cleaned and dried they are left in the tubs with the chosen dye for 7-10 days. Most of the colours derive from natural materials, red from henna, green from mint, brown from cedarwood and yellow from the skins of pomegranate. When dyed and dried in the sun the leather is then scrubbed for up to 30 minutes to achieve that soft supple leather the customer wants. 

We met with Mr Habib, a colourist who can produce 17 different colours in his leather dying workshop. Starting in 1976 at the age of 12, is he a master colourist, who provides coloured leather to many artisans within the Medina. The leather is dyed with a hot dye, and dried and re-dyed 3 times before reaching the desired colour. It isn't a quick process as the leather is taken out in the courtyard twice to dry, and once all the way out of the city on a mule to dry in the fields. 

We then got to see Mr Habib's leather being used to make purses, it was pretty special to be able to see the supply chain within this small community. It's made to order so the men in the workshop plan out what designs thy are going to make. We saw all the stamps that transferred designs onto the leather, and learned there is only 1 artisan left in the medina handmaking these stamps.