Tone Nume

Leather that beckons to be touched, always.

Since the birth of the "Tone Nume" series 20 years ago, it holds a special place in our heart among our numerous collections. It all began with the development of the ideal leather. Here, we would like to share the untold story behind the creation of "Soft Nume Leather" with you.

It all began with the pursuit of the ideal leather

About 20 years ago, in the still modest workshop of Tsuchiya Kaban, the endeavor was to create leather for a new series, aiming for a leather that exudes a natural feel, incredibly soft, and possesses a gentle touch that beckons to be touched forever. This material was what we now refer to as Tone Nume Series' "Soft Nume Leather."

The process to make our Hard Nume Leather involves using a unique blend of plant extracts to tan the cowhide and give an ultra-smooth finish to the surface of the material.  The resulting leather has a rustic, lived-in charm and ages beautifully over time. However, the defining characteristic of Nume Leather is its robust fiber structure, making it notably firm. Consequently, this quality imposed significant constraints on design and manufacturing at the time.

An exercise in Softness

There are several methods to soften stiff leather. One approach involves increasing the amount of oil absorbed by the leather. By saturating the leather with ample oil, the fibers become more supple. However, striking the right balance is crucial because excessive oil can lead to leather stretching or increased susceptibility to color fading.

Another method involves kneading the leather. Similar to how crumpling paper makes it softer, kneading leather loosens its fibers, resulting in a pliable and soft finish. A common technique is called “empty beating,” where the leather is placed in a large rotating drum known as a “taiko.” By vigorously striking and crumpling the leather in this drum, it becomes soft.

We commissioned tanners to employ both of these methods in finishing the leather. Applying generous amounts of oil and subjecting it to “empty beating.” While such treated leather was common in leather-producing nations in the West, it was relatively uncommon in Japan at the time.

Becoming the New Face of Tsuchiya Kaban: The Birth of “Leather You Always Want to Touch”

Through meticulous experimentation, adjusting tanning methods, oil quantities, finding the optimal drum rotation speed, and mastering the perfect duration, Tsuchiya Kaban has finally achieved the ideal softness in leather they envisioned.

In the end, the amount of oil infused into the leather was approximately three times the usual. The resulting leather maintains a robust texture that feels as though the leather has been well-worn for years. The designers and staff at Tsuchiya Kaban, upon feeling the irresistibly smooth and tender touch, knew they broken ground on a new level of material development.  

In addition to its supple texture, this leather possesses distinctive qualities. Abundantly infused with oil, it develops a deep, antique-like allure, mimicking a history but not sacrificing quality. The mingling scent of leather and oil is delightful, enhancing the aging process for a more profound richness.

Furthermore, the surface, adorned with natural wrinkles due to the hand pounding process, becomes remarkably expressive. The preservation of the natural texture of the leather makes each leather piece unique and fosters a stronger sense of attachment. 

Thus, a leather with a natural feel and a luxuriously soft touch, one that invites continuous touch, was born. Uncommon in Japan at the time, this soft tannin-tanned leather with distinctive wrinkles became synonymous with Tsuchiya Kaban. It sparked the designer's creative inspiration, giving rise to a new classic series for Tsuchiya Kaban.