On Ostrich Leather
By Adeline J. Wells
A wide range of exotic leathers are utilized to create the luxury goods that rule the fashion world of today, including eel, snake, and alligator leather. Another leather that remains highly sought after is that of the ostrich. While not as common as bovine or other exotics, ostrich leather is revered in fashion for its high-quality, durability, and impeccable texture. At Belvedere, we proudly use ostrich leather when designing and crafting a variety of our own timeless styles.
Originally a byproduct of birds farmed for feathers and meat, ostrich leather is created by tanning the skins of ostriches. Ostrich farming began in South Africa in the 1850’s; the animals were raised for their lush feathers, popularly worn as part women’s oversized hats as they rode in carriages. Following the industry collapse during the World Wars of the early 20th Century, the nation’s Klein Karoo region worked to rebuild the ostrich industry by shifting the focus to meat. Most raw leather skins were shipped to Europe until the first tannery was built near the meat abattoir in 1970, allowing the South African ostrich industry to be self-sustaining through all processes. The end of apartheid in 1993 prompted the government to authorize the exportation of ostrich stock, opening the door for other countries to begin raising the birds. South Africa is still considered the core of the ostrich industry today, with the Klein Karoo Group as its leader.
Part of the reason ostrich leather is sought after is due to its limited supply; the bird has much less body surface area than other animals. Further, this leather is widely appreciated due to its unique appearance and texture. It is characterized by raised points in the hide that form little bumps, or quill follicles from feathers. These bumps are significantly raised near the hide’s center, where the bird’s neck meets the rest of the body; dubbed the “crown,” this is the most sought after portion of the leather. As it is such a small amount of skin, “full quill” ostrich goods are considered to be very luxurious, often accompanied by a higher price tag. The leather is also considerably tough while remaining supple, due to its contents of natural oils. A popular material for cowboy boots in the 1980’s, today ostrich leather is a favorite for a variety of goods such as accessories, handbags, and of course, shoes.
At Belvedere, we use ostrich leather in creating our collection of slim, stylish leather belts, as well as our popular Siena shoe. An elegant take on the timeless oxford silhouette, the Siena is crafted from Genuine Ostrich Leg Leather, which features more of a scaly texture than the Ostrich Quill leather. With a rounded moc toe and leather lining, the Siena is available in black, navy, burgundy, and amber; warm jewel tones that make this silhouette the perfect addition to any autumn look.