18 January 2022

Colomer 1792: Merging tradition with innovation

Drawing on over 200 years of history and experience in the tanning industry, Spanish sheepskin specialist Colomer 1792 is a global leader in its market thanks to continuous development and investment in R&D.


Established in 1792 in Vic, near Barcelona, Spain, sheepskin specialist Colomer 1792, a division of Colomer Munmany, is one of the longest standing tanneries in the world and is deeply entrenched in the rich tanning and leather-making tradition of its home town. The leather industry in the Vic area has its roots in medieval times, with early accounts of leather-making going as far back as 1147, and the first guilds documented in 1438. At the end of the 18th century Josep Colomer Costa married Carmen Munmany, whose family came from a long dynasty of tanners. A year later, she inherited the tannery and they founded the Colomer Munmany Group. Their three sons, Andreu, Rafel and Ramon, subsequently took over the family business. Andreu became managing director in 1936 and grow the company into a successful international enterprise which quickly became a global leader in fine leather.


Global expansion

When chromium salts were first introduced in 1858, it marked a turning point for the group and transformed tanning from a finely honed art into a science. In the early 20th century, Manuel Portavella became the first registered chemist to join the company as Colomer Munmany's technical director. He and his team began to develop their own technologies and beamhouse processes, as well as specific methodologies such as sulphur tanning for dry pickling, white tanning for gloving, and the use of sodium silicate to produce articles that were soft to the touch. This pioneering process was considered a visionary approach at the time, fuelling Colomer Munmany's international expansion and reputation as the producer of the best quality entrefino leather for garments and gloves. In the 1960s the group operated various tanneries throughout Spain, such as Baumann, Ciesa and Anonima Lanera, each specialising in different leather good, as well as leather trading companies such as Curtidos Barcino, Curtidos del Norte and Curtidos del Sur. In parallel the group had a stake in and provided technical assistance to other well-established international tanneries such as Hellenic Tanneries in Greece, Tanneries Libano Espagnoles in Lebanon, Nabegu in Kano, Nettletons & Porters in the UK and Xing Tai in China. At the time the group had around 1,000 workers in Catalonia alone, with a daily production of more than 50,000 skins.


Investment and growth

Another key milestone for the Colomer Group came in 2009, when it was acquired by the world's largest sheepskin producer, the China-based Henan Prosper Group, consolidating the expertise and leadership of both companies in the sheepskin market, and paving the way for further expansion and development. A series of investments under the new ownership, which continue to today, have brought significant improvements to the manufacturing and sales facilities. In 2010 a double face production line was established, which was further enhanced with a nappa production line and skin processing plant in the same year. These were followed by a new beamhouse, and calfskin and goatskin facilities for shoe leather production, which became operational in the following year. A wool supply line was also introduced, and in 2011 the Colomer Wool Trade Department was opened.

Another major investment was the opening of a new state-of-the-art water treatment plant in 2015, the largest 2015 The new water treatment plant became operational. 2018 The Fellmongery II plant was established. waste water treatment system in the global leather tanning industry, with a total area of 166,000m2, a daily processing capacity of 40,000 tonnes, and 30% of water being recycled and reused. Meanwhile, 2016 saw the introduction of a leather production facility in China, as well as further expansion and upgrades to beamhouse operations. In 2018 a second fellmongery plant was added. Colomer 1792's European headquarters in Spain were also bolstered with the official opening of a service centre in Les Masies de Voltregà (Osona). In 2020 the production systems were further improved with the installation of, for example, new pipelines to more substantially reduce freshwater use and water consumption, in line with the company's increased focus on what it calls 'eco-tanning' and its ambition to lead the leather industry in sustainability and environmental stewardship.


Close cooperation with industry partners

With Henan Prosper and Colomer Munmany's considerable joint production capacity and capabilities, Colomer 1792 is aiming for further expansion. In particular, a key goal is to utilise its European sales office for increased cooperation with partners across Europe, North Africa, South America and Turkey, providing an even better service to its customers and working together with them to create bespoke orders. 'We invite our customers to visit our showroom and see our facilities, which demonstrate not only the diversity of our products, but also our ability to assemble bespoke collections for them. We think that, in the wake of COVID-19, this kind of close cooperation will be one of the key components of a successful partnership and market recovery', says Gil Font, managing director of Colomer 1792.

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