This is a question I’m often asked and it’s always difficult to give a simple answer. As usual I turn to the expert in these matters, namely Tim de Rosen from Bianca Mosca that makes probably the best alligator bags and accessories in the market.
The first criterion is selecting appropriate skins from the tannery. This has become extremely challenging of late as the demand for prime grade unblemished skins has soared on demand from the major fashion houses who are increasing the proportion of exotic skins used in their high fashion collections.
In order to counter this problem groups such as LVMH and Hermes have bought their own tanneries in order to “lock in” the best availability of skins.
As a result the prices of larger and perfect skins (i.e. more than 30cm in width) is increasing by 10% a year, piling the pressure on retail prices. Of course it’s possible to buy products made from the skins rejected by the major players but they will never be as appealing or tactile as those made from prime skins.
Dyeing and Processing
This is the most critical aspect of turning the tanned “crust” into a useable skin for making finished items.
“Skins are solid dyed, before a pigment-based surface treatment is applied to highlight the beauty of the material. Working on skins involves an alchemy that evolves constantly thanks to the innovations introduced by the Manufacture. This total control of production makes it possible to meet requests for customised items” says de Rosen of Bianca Mosca.
Quality control systems involve numerous laboratory tests on products to check their resistance to rubbing, UV rays, pulling and twisting, as well as their hypoallergenic qualities. All of this adds to the expense of producing the best products.
Making products from alligator is a time consuming and labor intensive activity. It takes many years of specialised training to attain the required levels of proficiency to make even a seemingly simple article such as a credit card holder.
Constructing alligator leather products is a very different endeavour than making products from cow leather and special tools and routines need to be employed in order to work the skins effectively and to ensure a fine result.
Bag making is altogether a higher art form and requires not just experience but also sensitivity for form and function as each piece is made over many hours entirely by hand from a paper pattern.
In France and Italy where the best workshops are located salaries and social costs are very high adding a large part to the costs of making these high quality products.
Durability and Longevity
There is no material that compares to Louisiana alligator leather. It has strength, durability and resistance to moisture, heat and light whilst also managing to be extraordinary supple and soft to the touch.
Over time alligator matures as it’s used and acquires a unique patina.
With proper care it should last a lifetime helping to underpin the relatively high price paid at the outset.