In Eichhoffen, in eastern France, the Haas family have perpetuated their tanning expertise over six generations. Their full grain calf leather is in great demand in the luxury sector.
It all started in 1842 when Aloïse Haas had the idea of transforming a spinning mill into a slipper manufacturer, adding a tannery to make the soles. This tannery, ideally located next to the Andlau River and a forest of chestnut trees (providing the tanning agents) would expand greatly in the industrial era.
Tanneries Haas soon became renowned for its high standards. Over the decades, it developed a number of innovative specialities: “white calf” tanned using oak and chestnut, Box-Calf tanned with chrome, “spinning calf”, which was once used for spinning machines, Novocalf which won an award at the 1958 World’s Fair for its softness and strength, or Barénia which is ideal for adding a patina...
The tannery suffered two fires and filed for bankruptcy in 1970, but then underwent a revival driven by one of the Haas family son-in-laws, Roland Müller. The company diversified to respond to the growing popularity of fashion and accessories. A lasting partnership was formed with Longchamp, the leather goods maker.
Management remained in the family when Roland Müller’s two children joined the company in the 1990s. His daughter, Emmanuelle, has created a quality laboratory for testing and research, whilst her brother Jean-Christophe is CEO, managing over one hundred employees producing 155,000 skins each year.
95% of the tanned hides come from French farms, where the calves are raised on their mother's milk. "This makes a real difference and guarantees the quality,” according to Jean Christophe Müller, who is committed to meeting the exacting demands of his clients, 70% of which are leather goods makers. The footwear, saddlery and ready-to-wear sectors have also played their part in developing the company, which between 1995 and 2005 doubled both its output and its turnover.
Tradition and innovation go hand-in-hand throughout the 35 000 sq. metres of the tannery. The tannery – which is regularly visited by the leading luxury labels – has been equipped with the latest machinery, a de-chroming facility, and it orders its Iroko wood drums from the last cooper (barrel maker) in Alsace.
Tanneries Haas is also actively engaged in improving the quality of the raw material and recycling of it. It provides funds for tens of thousands of vaccines to treat animals for lice and ringworm, two parasites that cause scars and warts. “This has resulted in a four-fold reduction in the number of discarded hides,” the director confirms. To make best use of waste materials, the hair is systematically recovered (one ton per day) and compacted to make heel pieces, whilst rejected leathers are recycled or re-dyed.
Innovation, which in the past has allowed the company to regain its foothold, is a key issue for the future for Jean-Christophe Müller. R&D and customer service are two strategic directions focused on the luxury sector. “We have to be attentive to our clients’ needs and provide them with “bespoke” products on an industrial scale.”