Empire Textiles are famous for our selection of West African Fabric and Textiles, but many people are drawn to our shop by the range of Italian designer shoes and bags.

Italy and Africa? Seems like an odd combination! Well, we’ve got our reasons for choosing accessories from Italian designers.

Italians use experts for every step

Visit a tannery in Tuscany and you may be surprised that the whole leather-making process isn’t taken care of by the same company. Quite often it will be completed in the same village, but the product will be refined by several small companies. Italians believe in narrow specialisations, which means a top-quality job every step of the way.

The same applies to fabric and beading: every material that goes onto a designer Italian shoe or handbag is crafted by people at the top of their profession.

Italian leather is vegetable tanned

Vegetable tanning is the old-fashioned way of making leather – and it’s still the best, in our (and the Italians’!) opinion. Many of our shoes and handbags are partly, or fully, crafted from Italian leather.

Vegetable tanning takes longer than its modern rival, chrome tanning, but it retains several advantages:

It comes out in a lighter shade. This is very important to us, as it means it can be dyed vibrantly

Each piece is completely unique – no “off the shelf” feel (more on this below).

The leather is soft and gorgeous to the touch. There’s nothing better than owning an accessory that feels like a luxury.

Vegetable tanning is far more environmentally friendly than chrome tanning. It’s a natural process without harmful artificial chemicals.

Italian craftsmanship is durable

If you buy your dream accessory, you want it to last the distance. This is another reason for us stocking Italian shoes and handbags: Italian leather is famously long-lasting and resistant. Many scratches and scuffs can simply be wiped away from Italian leather, whilst they would ruin pieces made of inferior materials. The glamorous beads, bows and buckles that feature on the shoes we stock are sturdily sewn on.

Along the same lines, Italian leather is generally easy to maintain (although if you buy a shoe with lots of decoration, it will be more difficult to clean than our simpler styles).