The Secret of Javanese Leather

Posted by Jason Ryou on

Java leather’s industry secret: while humidity is the enemy of leather, cows raised in humid climes like Java’s yield a much more comfortable and responsive leather of superior quality


             In majestic and archipelagic Indonesia, the island of Java reigns supreme as the epicenter of history, art, and culture, as well as being the focal point of the nation’s thriving economy and vibrant demography--a culmination of thousands of years of indigenous Javanese history and external waves of influences from Europe to Asia to Oceania. Today the island is home to over 150 million inhabitants, or over 56% of the national population; just for scale, that is more than the entire population of Russia in an area a little smaller than Florida.

             As one would imagine, every inch of arable, habitable land has been put to use and work. Despite its small overall area, Java has extremely fertile soil as a result of consisting almost entirely of volcanoes; some still very active. As a result, the land has been intensively cropped for millennia--goods such as coffee, sugar, cassava, pepper etc. continue to be exported to this day (indeed, in many parts of the world today the term ‘Java’ is synonymous with ‘coffee’).


             Undoubtedly, the tropical climate with no summer and winter extremes enabled such splendid agriculture on the island--which in turn spurred another lucrative industry. East Java accounts for more than 32% of the national cattle herd, and over 90% of cattle production in Indonesia is derived from family owned smallholder operations each with 2-3 cattle. Over the years, with breeding and “fattening” as a business growing, medium to industrial-scale feedlots have popped up. Still, the overwhelming majority of operations are smallholder cow-calf endeavors that rely on as much locally sourced feed as possible along with strong government support.


             Naturally, leather manufacturing has also seen a boom, from backyard tanneries to large manufacturers and wholesale suppliers. Many operations have emergedand thrived in recent years, producing leather apparel, handbags, and even baseball gloves. With such an infrastructure in place, it was inevitable that Java became the international powerhouse in leather goods that it is today.