Tärnsjö Tannery is one of the few remaining Scandinavian tanneries. It's located a couple of hours drive north of Stockholm. The tannery was founded by Fredrik Åström in 1873 in the small village of Tärnsjö, Uppland. The tannery thrived and grew steadily for almost a century up until the late 1980s when venture capitalists took control of Tärnsjö. Bankruptcy soon followed.
In 1993 Torbjörn Lundin took over the company and ended the years of demise. Mr. Lundin managed to position Tärnsjö as one of the world’s most respected producers of vegetable tanned leather.
In 1988 Tärnsjö decided to end the practice of chrome excel tanning. Although chrome excel tanning comprised approximately 25% of their tanning business, the company made a bold move to use the sustainable method of vegetable tanning exclusively; a decision that has proven to be ahead of its time. Although vegetable tanned leather is more expensive to produce, the negative effects on the environment is drastically decreased.
The sustainable production philosophy seems to be very important for Tärnsjö, something that is confirmed when I sit down and have a chat with Thomas Bayerlein, sales executive at Tärnsjö. The tannery only uses the byproduct of the local meat industry. Every batch of hides is marked with a unique number and Tärnsjö can track the origin of every single hide that passes through their tanning process. “We only source hides from local farms, most of them can be found within a 50 kilometers of the tannery. We only use bark extracts, water and water-based finishing when tanning. The process is more time consuming than chrom excel tanning, but the environment is important to us and our clients”. And Tärnsjö can quote an impressive list of clients, from Brooks England and Westley Richards & Co to Our Legacy and Gant Rugger. “Still, you have to understand, our production is very small scale. We produce about as many sides each year that some of the large industrial tanneries in Argentina makes in a day” says Thomas when we are touring the factory.
On the third floor of Tärnsjö Tannery the saddlery and Scandinavia’s last remaining saddlery school has their premises. Tärnsjö sees it as part of their core business to ensure that the education and development of Swedish saddlers not only stays alive, but thrives and prospers. The saddlery produces mostly upholstery for furniture, luggage and interior design details these days.