HELLER-LEDER – leather-tanning professionals since 1920
HELLER-LEDER is one of the oldest and biggest tanneries in Germany. Alongside leather-tanning for the furniture and accessory sector, the family-run company amongst others, produces leather for the German handbag brand BREE and the entire leather interior of Porsche cars.
During a presentation of the company at the International Design Center Berlin (IDZ), I met Frank Fiedler, the CEO of HELLER-LEDER. He invited me to a tour at Hehlen, the tannery’s headquarter.
Mr. Fiedler, HELLER-LEDER produces up to 1.500 hides per day. How do you manage the production of such large quantities and where do all the rawhides come from?
Our tanners work 6 days a week, 24 hours a day in 3 shifts. The hides arrive directly from the slaughterhouse in the early morning and are being processed just-in-time.
All cowhides come from Europe, 90 % of them are from German cattle.
In addition to the traditional leather-tanning techniques, you use the wet-green®-technology in order to produce your natural leather series BLATTWERK. How did you come to this idea and for what is this leather used?
Our intention was to create leather with a sustainable tanning agent. First we thought about vegetable tanning methods with quebracho, mimosa or even German oak rind. Yet none of these seemed sustainable enough for us.
With wet-green® we found the optimal tanning method with which to produce BLATTWERK. The tanning agent wet-green®OBE is made from olive-leaf-extract. It is free of chrome, metals or chemical-synthetic reactive tanning agents.
Left open-pored after dyeing or finished with beeswax for protection, a leather with a very smooth and soft feel arises. It can be used for accessories like handbags, small leather goods or shoes, as well as for furniture.
Next to the Federal Award Eco-Design for the BLATTWERK series and a Gold Rating from the LEATHER WORKING GROUP, HELLER-LEDER is the first tannery worldwide to have received the German eco-label „The Blue Angel“. What is the purpose of this certification and how do you manage to maintain it?
The Blue Angel signals that excellent leathers minimize the environmental and health impacts from production over the entire service life up to utilization and disposal.
The eco-label is therefore intended to provide an orientation for the consumption of sustainable products with:
- high environmental standards in the manufacturing process,
- prevention of harmful chemicals in the product as well as
- good usability.
Holding the Blue Angel certification means a lot to us. We not only fulfill the very high standards which are generally required of German tanneries – with this certification we go one step further.
It took us almost one year to review and restructure our whole leather-tanning process. Every single production step and chemical had to be checked according to the “Blue Angel” requirements. Some had to be substituted by new ones and some leathers, we even had to exclude from our production.
In order to maintain these high standards, we also pay special attention to the following factors:
- Climate: HELLER-LEDER receives approximately 30% of its energy from the heating use in biogas plants. The residual heat generated during the generation of electricity is passed on to us via cogeneration. Consequently, we save approximately 1,000 t of CO2 per year.
- Water: We have our own sewage treatment plant and ensure that the water returns perfectly cleaned into the river. Thus, anyone can take samples at any time.
- Air: Solvent-free dressing – all leather surfaces are being protected almost without organic solvents. HELLER-LEDER fulfills all requirements for low-emissivity leather according to RAL 148 and can label them with the “Blue Angel” eco-label.
- Waste: 95% of all waste produced in our production is being reused.
All plant and emission parameters are monitored, documented, and evaluated daily in our own environmental laboratory.
One of your principles is „Herzblut – Heart and Soul“. Please tell us more.
Heart and Soul is very important in business. Thomas Strebost and I do our very best to run HELLER-LEDER following this purpose.
Working with parts of dead animals, it is very important to respect them and the nature around us. Thus, we only use cowhides which come as a by-product of the meat-industry.
And our employees are the ones who make HELLER-LEDER happen every day. By valuing them, the German leather-tanning tradition continues and we can produce wonderful high-quality leathers in Germany.
What kind of leathers do you produce and where are they available?
We tan wet blue, wet white and wet-green® with commercial contracts exclusively for business clients. Therefore, we have structured our whole tannery in order to react in a customer-oriented manner.
Worldwide, we work together with retail partners who offer a big variety of different leathers in more than 1.000 colours.
For more information about HELLER-LEDER, check the website.
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