The first step to the production of the bag is the selection of the leather. A master craftsman must first assess the hide before cutting the pieces. The texture and the thickness of the hide can vary dramatically, including natural blemishes attesting to the life of the hide. One side can be substantially thinner than the other and depending on the “style” of the bag this can be desired or not. For example the smooth rich lines of Furla and Royal Highness bags require an unblemished and uniform thickness, whereas Campomaggi bags incorporate these “flaws”. In fact they are cut into the bag on purpose and give each one personality and character. A Toscanella bag however, has a distinct rustic look, and in this bag’s case the leather could boast of some blemishes. Therefore it is the responsibility of the master craftsman to chose the correct sections of leather by accurately positioning the bag’s correlating pattern. Thus a master craftsman or craftswoman, will know not only how to read the vegetable tanned leather before them, but they will also know how to interpret it for the bag that they are cutting.
The second aspect of the leather cutting process that a craftsman will take into consideration the amount of hide needed. Due to the natural blemishes or deep scratches it may be necessary to use more than one piece of hide to complete a handbag pattern. Therefore the amount of leather one has in stock is not always a direct correlation to the amount of bags it can produce. Since it is common that one hide, however large, may not be enough leather for one medium sized bag due to damaging marks, thickness or roughness, it becomes necessary that a master craftsman match the hide with a second piece so that the final result is homogeneous in color, texture and thickness. After the hide is assessed and the pieces are in place, the crafter will then proceed to lay the pattern and cut out the pieces with an extremely sharp scalpel like tool. A crafter with experience will make smooth cuts with expert movements.
Not all pieces are hand cut. The use of a machine to die cut is necessary when there are several small intricate pieces, or in large factories where quantities are important. Dies are metal frame like structures, where one side of the die is extremely sharp, and the other is dull. The die is placed on the hide, sharp side down, and pressed using a high pressure machine. Die cutting is used in place of hand cutting and assures uniformity among the pieces, so it is possible that in a bag some pieces will be hand cut and some pieces will be die cut. Quality, however, is not compromised considering that the master craftsman is still selecting prime areas of hide. The bag can then go into assembly once all the pieces are cut. It is virtually impossible to tell if a bag has been hand cut or die cut once it is assembled.