Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Design Details: Getting to know Horween, the family leather makers for Moto 360 and Moto X

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Authenticity of materials and quality craftsmanship are at the heart of every product we make. As designers we understand the importance of what we call “Materiality.” It is a critical component to engaging people’s senses in a visceral way: the look, feel, smell and sound of materials help elevate the quality of an object. Materials can add delight and surprise to a person’s experience and remind people of positive and emotional memories when they use our products.

Every material we choose must embrace a high standard of quality, both in terms of how it looks and how it feels against your skin, so that you can choose a distinct look to fit your style.

So when it came to choosing the leathers for Moto 360 watch bands and for the back of your Moto X through Moto Maker, the details counted. We turned to Horween, a classic, family-run leather company that has been making quality leather for more than 100 years.

We sat down with owner Nick Horween, whose great great grandfather started the company in 1905. Nick answered a few key questions about Horween leather and even let us snap a few pictures around the workshop near Chicago’s Loop.

 

Can you give us an overview of the Horween story?
I’m a fifth-generation Horween. The company was founded in 1905 in Chicago by my great great grandfather Isadore Horween who worked at a different tannery from 1893-1905. We bought our current building in 1920. The building was a tannery before. There were many tanneries in Chicago when we purchased the property, but we’re the last tannery today. Our factory has always been family owned and operated. All of our hides are fully traceable. They come from here in the Midwest and also Toronto, Quebec, and France.

Why do you think Horween leather ages so well?
It has a lot to do with what we put in the leather. We use vegetable tannage extract made from tree barks. Just like wood, when left out in the sun, the leather darkens. Our leather also reacts well to oils from hands, which instead of breaking the material down give it more color and character.

 

Where is Horween Leather used?
Forty percent of our leather is used for sporting goods. It’s used for NFL Wilson footballs and NBA Spalding basketballs. About half of the players in the MLB play with Rawling gloves made from Horween leather.

Another 40% of Horween leather is used for footwear. Then 20% is used for small leather goods. One interesting fact is that all of the boots for troops in North Africa during World War II were made using Horween Leather.

Why did you decide to partner with Motorola?
When Motorola approached us, it was a new market segment for Horween, which got us really excited. Motorola has been very good at taking something like Horween leather and making it functional. It’s been a great partnership

What is the production timeline for Moto X and Moto 360 leathers?
Our leather is made completely by hand, as my family has done for generations. For Moto X and Moto 360, the leather takes a total of five to six weeks to make. This includes tanning the hides, splitting the hides to weight, and dying the hides.

What is the best way to care for Moto X and Moto 360 leathers?
Really just continue to use them regularly. If you want to clean the leather, you can simply use a damp, soft cloth to wipe it down. The natural oils in your skin and hands help take care of the rest and make your leather more beautiful and distinctive over time.

Posted by Dickon Isaacs, Design for Wearables.

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