Solofra TANNING district, Ancient tradition, modern technology


A historic business cluster, Solofra focuses on valueadded products in terms of quality and eco-friendly innovation. In order to establish itself as the undisputed leader of “made in Italy” manufacturing as well as an example of Southern Italy’s industrial excellence.

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Internationally renowned district specialized in leather processing, especially sheep and goatskins, for high-end leatherware, footwear and garments made in Italy, Solofra, according to UNIC annual report, is Italy’s third tanning district when it comes to production volumes (7% nationwide), to turnover (€350 million), to the number of companies (155) and employees (1,859).

Recognized legally by means of the deliberation number 70 issued by the Campania region on June 2nd, 1996, the Solofra business cluster – 12 km away from Avellino and 25 km from Caserta – has ancient roots, dating back to the Samnite period. In said area, tanning activities gained a strong foothold during the Middle Ages, thanks to a conjunction of favourable factors such as the abundance of water required for the production processes, the presence of chestnut woods for tannin extraction (a substance able to prevent animal skins’ putrefaction), the strategic location logistics-wise, given the proximity to the commercial harbours in Salerno and Naples – pivotal hubs for the communication with the Mediterranean nations – as well as to the Appian Way, since the latter allowed to reach by land the markets in Central-Southern Italy.

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According to some documents, in the XVI century, there were 51 tanneries; however, the district experienced significant development in the post WWII years, thanks to the technological progress and to the contacts with the international markets. In the 1950s, the number of tanneries rose up to more than 70, a figure that doubled in the following decade, while the employees were over 1,600. An unstoppable growth that kept on up to the 1990s, when the financial crisis affecting the Asian countries, – the latter grown into the new reference export destinations for the hides manufactured in the Solofra district -, leading to a reorganization of both companies and manufacturing processes.

Today, the leather district based in Solofra covers an area of around 115 square kilometres, southwest of the Avellino province. In addition to the town bearing the same name, it comprises also Montoro Inferiore, Montoro Superiore and Serino. Despite the difficulties caused by the Asian markets’ fierce competition, the cluster’s data highlight the key role played by these companies in fostering the local economy, acknowledged as a flagship, not only for the Campania region, but also for the whole Southern Italy. The majority of the enterprises operating in this area (in the following pages there will be a few examples) guarantee, in addition to articles in line with the top-notch standards in terms of quality, performance and style research, a low-impact and sustainable manufacturing cycle, thus enhancing a by-product of the food industry that, otherwise, would be sent to the landfill, resulting in considerable economic and environmental costs. Waste destined to become a beautiful product for the international high-end fashion industry.

AN ANECDOTE, The Nappa leather of the black-striped red jacket worn by Michael Jackson in the “Thriller” music video (1983), one of his greatest hits, was processed in the Solofra tanning district.