Cortina Leathers: Leveraging the Enduring Legacy of Leather

Photography Courtesy of Cortina Leathers

As one of the oldest and most sustainable material practices, the earliest occurrences of leather tanning can be traced back to more than 7,000 years ago. Emerging at the turn of the twentieth century as a small handcrafted maker of upholstery leather, Cortina Leathers holds a long history of its own. The pioneering producer of premier-quality, design-inspired leathers works with a network of artisanal tanneries around the globe to deliver unique customizable collections that combine the abiding artistry of old-world tanneries with the swiftness and immense scale of modern manufacturing.

Photography Courtesy of Cortina Leathers

Origins and Evolution

Operating out of a factory in Conneaut, Ohio, Cortina Leathers was first founded as Conneaut Leather in 1903 with the initial incentive of tanning and finishing leathers for use as furniture upholstery and leather luggage. This steadily evolved over the years and by the 1940s the company started supplying desktop leather to the residential furniture industry. They started to specialize in the finishing of leather and began to rely on other tanneries for raw material. In the early 1960s, Cortina Leathers diversified into manufacturing leathers for the automotive aftermarket, residential furniture industry, and aviation leather, and shortly thereafter they moved into manufacturing for the contract furniture, automotive, marine, and bookbinding industries. “Beginning in 1976, Cortina Leathers was a pioneer in introducing unique Italian designs and color theory to the U.S. leather market,” says Jack Prause, President of Cortina Leathers. “By partnering with family-owned, artisan tanneries to produce only the articles in which they had a particular expertise, Cortina Leathers was able to offer a much broader range of leathers at a higher quality level than had before.”

Photography Courtesy of Cortina Leathers

By 1980, Cortina commenced working with a select group of artisanal tanneries operating across Europe. Leveraging the international fortes of these top tanneries with design inspired manufacturing, their product portfolio was expanded to feature over 750 leathers, which are all available at a moment’s notice. “If you dream it, chances are we can make it,” says Jana Weill, Cortina Leather’s Marketing Director. “We stock over two million square feet of raw materials in Ohio and can create a custom leather in days.” In recent years, Prause has spearheaded the evolution of Cortina’s contemporary offerings, evolving its specializations to include custom capabilities such as in-house stamping, stitching, color expertise and proprietary performance treatments. Cortina Leathers processes approximately 9,000 hides per month, playing a vital role as a supplier to an international design industry. “Our capabilities range from custom colors to custom grains and finishes,” adds Weill. “On the more decorative side we offer custom embossing through our Cortina Emboss program, and on the more practical side we can add a Crypton topcoat to over 20 of our stocked leathers.” Though they are now headquartered in New York, Cortina Leathers also still operates out of their original Ohio factory.

Global Reach and Sustainability

Crafting comprehensive collections of quality leathers while controlling each step of the supply chain to ensure quality and performance, Cortina Leathers leverages its global operational capabilities to ensure the sustainable sourcing of raw hides from artisan tanneries across Europe and the Americas. Moreover, sustainability is also at the core of their manufacturing practices. “At Cortina Leathers we have always taken pride in being a leader in creating sustainable leathers and we have increased our efforts over the past five years to reduce our footprint even more,” says Prause. “We were the first to offer chrome-free tanning to the design and office furniture markets and the first to convert our leather finishing facility to 100-percent water-based (no solvent) solutions.” Thus, all of Cortina dyes, pigments, and topcoats are water-based rather than petroleum-based, and they do not use harmful solvents or produce volatile organic compounds in the finishing process.

Photography Courtesy of Cortina Leathers

Cortina Leathers also boasts a domestic ISO-certified manufacturing plant that specializes in performance and Crypton-protected leathers as well as unlimited custom capabilities with short lead times. “Two major initiatives we have pursued recently include leveraging the strength of our global supply chain to ensure that >90-percent of all our leathers are tanned by operations certified by the Leather Working Group for environmental Stewardship and pursuing ISO 14001 environmental certification, which would make us the first leather company serving our markets to achieve such certification,” adds Prause. With an eye towards a global influences and sustainable sourcing, the enduring quality and everlasting beauty of leather continues to inform Cortina Leathers today.