This village in Spain makes handbags for the world’s top fashion houses.
Think along the lines of Louis Vuitton, but nondisclosure agreements keep the labels anonymous.
The leather industry in Ubrique, in the province of Cádiz, dates back to the 18th century. The secret to its success is a commitment to quality above all.
“Since I was a child I have been taught to care a lot about details, any detail, any seam, any well glued part, any well ironed thing, the leather well looked after, all these details that make the product one of high quality,” said Alejandro Oliva, co-owner and manager of handbag manufacturer El Potro.
Most of the workshops here are small, family-run firms. They managed to survive Spain’s economic crisis and competition from Chinese manufacturers.
“Around 2003 there’s an enormous crisis. The crisis particularly affected Ubrique. Ubrique is a place which was specialized in high-end leather manufacturing for the best luxury brands worldwide. When these decided to go produce in China, it provoked a big crisis,” said Julián Izquierdo, the director of the clothing sector at ICEX, Spain’s public institute in charge of promoting foreign trade.
However, 5 years ago, clients began coming back.
Izquierdo said Ubrique is the “most important” and “prestigious” leather manufacturing cluster in Spain.
“Nowadays it (Ubrique) has again become a manufacturing hub for nearly, well, you can’t say all, but it’s easier to name the luxury brands that don’t manufacture in Ubrique than those who do,” he said.
Ubrique manufacturers said they survived because a good quality luxury designer handbag is something always sought after.
“I believe Ubrique has survived better than other similar places of other business for two reasons. First, the specialization in premium and luxury products, where clients don’t care much about price, what they want is a very well-manufactured product. And second, because handbags are considered the great luxury accessory for women’s fashion. Fashion has democratized itself and many articles can be bought for very different prices, but the handbag is the great symbol of luxury,” said José David Romero, co-owner and marketing director of Piel Fort, another leather manufacturer in the town.
Exports of leather manufactures from the province of Cádiz increased more than threefold from 2009 to 2015, according to ICEX.
Ubrique manufacturers also make their own label-less leather goods. They hope their products can be recognized for the quality whether it has a designer label or not.