Quietly tucked away in the vibrant neighborhood of La Latina in Madrid, Piel Para Artesanos is a charming sight for anyone who notices the small shop.
Peering inside Piel Para Artesanos’ windows, one will see leather of bright colors and lengths draped all around the compact space. It becomes clear that this is a place where discerning artists and craftsmen must come in search for exceptional wares.
Piel Para Artesanos literally translates into Leather for Artisans in Spanish. In the small brightly-lit shop, racks overflow with bolts of leather material of every color and texture. In this creative paradise, you can find python prints in white or tan, glossy patent leather in hot pink or cobalt blue and glittery gold fabric with quilted or paisley patterns. It’s a haven for designers and artisans looking for high-quality material to make their own one-of-a-kind shoes, bags, clothes, belts and more.
The person behind this unique enterprise is Fernando Martin, a third generation vendor of Spanish leather. Fernando’s grandfather started selling Spanish leather around thirty years ago in the small town of Elche on the coast of Alicante. Fernando’s father later got into the same trade and leather was officially a booming family business. When it came to his turn, at the ripe age of seventeen, Fernando set up the first e-commerce shop in Spain which sold leather online. It was also Fernando’s idea to set up a new brick-and mortar store, starting with a shop in his family’s hometown in Elche, then eventually expanded to Madrid and Bilbao. There are plans to set up shop in Barcelona, then in other parts of Europe and eventually in the US as well.
Today, Piel Para Artesanos sells Spanish leather to customers from all around the world through its online shop. It also enjoys a loyal client base of artisans throughout Spain and plays an active role in promoting artisanal goods in local communities. Spanish leather has always been one of Spain’s top exports. The mild climate of the Iberian Peninsula and lack of insects prevents damage to the skin of the cows. Spain is also known for its extensive cattle raising practices and cows are left to roam more freely compared to in other countries. All of this results in Spanish leather that’s highly-regarded around the world for its buttery texture and superior quality.
None of the products at Piel Para Artesanos, however, actually come directly from the farm or factories right after the leather is processed. All of the leather sold in the shops is actually recycled and sold for secondary use. Factories that manufacture fashion accessories such as shoes and bags always end up with leftover stock which cannot be used after a season. That’s when Fernando and his team come in to buy up the remaining stock and then resell it directly to consumers. This way, individual artisans receive access to the right amounts of premium materials that they need, all the while promoting sustainable consumption. All the leather sold in the shop is made in Spain, with a few exceptions from Italy and Portugal.
Enthusiastic hobbyists and DIY designers – the bulk of the company’s clientele – stream in and out of the cozy location in Madrid throughout the day. The setup of Piel Para Artesanos is very unique in the sense that customers are able to see the entirety of the inventory available. In traditional shops for similar materials, products are stored in the back and are brought out only when the customer tells the shop attendant what they’re looking for. But Fernando wanted customers to be able to see and most importantly, touch the materials while shopping. His team is dedicated to making sure that customers leave with exactly what they’re looking for, and then some.
At Piel Para Artesanos, customers are only able to buy leather materials, rather than finished products like belts and shoes. But shoppers will be delighted to know that there’s a network of talented artisans throughout Madrid who sell designer goods made with leather from Piel Para Artesanos. Local boutiques such as Daniel Chong, Cuero y Alma and The Code embody the excellent craftsmanship Spain is known for and sustainability is built into every product.
Exceptional and sustainable in its products and operation, Piel Para Artesanos is a rare gem helping to keep the artisanal spirit alive in Spain and around the world. Visit pielparaartesanos.com to shop online or visit one of the shops in Madrid, Bilbao or Elche.