Harold‘s looks back on almost 80 years of traditional production of top quality, durable bags. We achieve this by sharing know-how. The design and development of our products as well as the manufacture of a few select lines is done in our production plant in Obertshausen, a little town near Frankfurt in Germany. We share our experience with natural leathers with our long-standing and trusted partners in India
and Colombia. We regularly talk to our partners in their countries and analyse the special features of the local craftsmanship in order to guarantee that our design ideas are implemented as successfully as possible. We work together on the basis of respect and trust to achieve our vision:
To create sustainable bags with a timeless design and exquisite craftsmanship.
Harold‘s – companions for a lifetime –
The manufactories at a glance
History – Colombian Manufactory
The cooperation with the colombian manufactory was established in 1987 on the basis of labour agreements regulated by law and on the basis of jobs subject to social security in contrast to the usual and widely spread migratory labour in this region. As a result of these guidelines, most of the workers of our South American partner have been with the company for more than 20 years – a fact that guarantees profound and sustainable know-how and thus high quality of the products.
The leather applied comes from the surrounding regions in South America. The same applies to the cattle, which live in the nature in South America and not in barns as most of the animals in Europe do.
The metal parts and linings feature a high level of impenetrability and tear resistance and are as well part of our local supply concept.
Taking the above into consideration, the eco-balance of the products is marvellous although the products are finally transported across the Atlantic.
2002 Begin of the cooperation with dothebag. The bags of this trademark are designed by Olaf Schroeder and Sabine Wald, who are professional designers. This cooperation combines extraordinary design, traditional skills, and technical know-how. With dothebag the colombian production learned how to apply traditional workmanship on modern and puristic designs. The bags and other products of this trademark are shown on www.dothebag.de
The colombian production is an independent manufactory. It produces the Harold’s Concept and dothebag line. Additionally it is making the bag collection for two other american brands.
Material & Quality – Colombian Manufactory
South America is famous for its expressive leather. Traditionally the animal skins are processed as naturally as possible. The raw material is still visible in the products, for example in the form of the grains that have developed during the course of the animal’s life. South American cattle mainly live outdoors all year round in wide open areas, usually high up in the mountains away from civilisation. They feed on the natural grasses so that the fibre structure of their skin is more balanced and expressive on the surface, but still has little scars or bites as evidence of their life stories. This means each piece of leather has a unique grain giving each bag an individual character. The individuality of each skin can only be brought out in the product if the production is mainly done manually. “Hecho a Mano” is what the Colombians call this process.
In line with standard practice in Colombia, our producer in Bogota only uses materials from the immediate surrounding area for the bags. The cattle are slaughtered nearby and the skins, which are the waste products of the food industry, are also tanned in the vicinity. The other components such as fittings and yarns are also purchased locally. Very occasionally, certain components with special quality characteristics are exported into Columbia in order to satisfy our very high demands of the finished product. Incidentally, our Columbian partners are also very successful at selling our bags in their own country. So some of our products are not only made locally but also reach their final destination in the region.
Working conditions – Colombian Manufactory
The factory has 92 employees and most have been working there for over twenty years. They are all paid a wage, i.e. there is no piecework.
The workers are insured as follows: Health insurance (EPS), an industrial insurance (accident insurance), pension insurance, Caja de compensacion (unemployment insurance, housing allowance, family allowance).
The workers receive employment contracts with terms of at least 1 year. The employment contracts and the wages fixed in the contracts must be fulfilled in all cases. The Employer is not allowed to terminate the contracts prematurely. There are also many safety regulations for the factory.
The regular working week is 48 hours (8.5 hours on weekdays and 5.5 hours on Saturdays). Holiday: 30 (15 are paid). This is usually taken around Christmas. Together with other public holidays around this time, the plant remains closed for 5 weeks from mid-December to mid-January.
The insurance schemes mentioned cannot be compared with similar schemes in Germany, but they offer stable working conditions in comparison to the conditions of migratory labour which is very common in the leather goods industry. The working conditions (noise, distance, hygiene) match European standards, as does the quality of the machines which are mainly imported from Europe (sewing machines, punches etc.). Salsa music is played during working hours.
History – Indian Manufactory
The cooperation with the Indian manufactory in Calcutta began in 1998. Three young brothers from India were looking for a partner in Germany. They contact Harold’s, because they saw in us a partner, who can give them a deep know-how of craftsmanship of leatherbags. We started with the production of simple shoulder bags, in order to build up step-by-step know-how in the young production. During the following years, the collection was enlarged and the manufactory was introduced to more demanding bag designs and leather materials.
In this process waxed and oiled vegetable leather tanning was mainly used. These Harold’s typical open-pore leathers are characterized by their high usability and durability. Harold’s has supported the careful construction and extension of the manufactory with an evenly distributed order situation, mainly to preserve the established know-how. The conversation and further development of know-how among the craftsmen is the main issue for the consistently high processing quality of Harold’s bags.
Working conditions – Indian Manufactory
The common path finally led to a new factory in 2005. Since then, our partners have been cooperating with SEDEX and Bureau Veritas. Both organizations apply a concept that serves as a basis for companies to integrate social and environmental concerns on a voluntary basis. The currently 67 employees work for a salary that is above the statutory minimum wage. This is checked by the india state periodically. The contracts include social, health and accident insurance, as well as 15 paid holidays. A maternity leave covers 90 paid days. The workers receive their employment contracts in copy, as well as monthly paid salaries. The regular working time is 48 hours / week (8 hours x 6 days). Overtime is max. 2 hrs / day allowed and are charged with a double hourly wage (200%).
The minimum age is 14 years, but only form 18 years of age, the full working hours are obligatory. There no migratory labour, which support a high processing quality.
In the company there is a workers’ committee, which meets monthly and negotiates tariffs and concerns of the workers. This is contracted. The working hours and breaks are regulated, overtime is paid and does not exceed the legal requirements.
Equality policy is being pursued to avoid discrimination. The workers have a contact person to whom they can turn confidently. Diseases, e.g. HIV infections have no impact on employment and working conditions.
Materials – Indian Manufactory
In India the cattle is sacred. However, the Indian population consists of 13% Muslims. For this population, cattle herds are used for food production in east indian countryside. The processing takes place in state-run slaughterhouses, from where our partners purchase the rawhides. With the new factory and the cooperation with SEDEX / Bureau Veritas, the greening of the materials was gradually focused. The change takes place in three areas:
Conversion of semi-vegetable leathers to full vegetable leathers.
Use of organic cotton fabric as lining material for bags.
Use of sustainable, flexibly usable organic cotton packaging.
History – Manufactory Germany
In the post-war period Harold’s mainly produced bags for other brands. These production orders formed the basis for the development of Harold’s own brand in the sixties and seventies. In the seventies, however, these customers (brands) began to move abroad for bag productions. The process went on until the nineties. From about 1995, just finishings and repairs were carried out in Obertshausen. However, this remaining craftsmanship service safed our know-how and the most important sewing machines and production tools could be kept in the factory. In addition, thanks to long-term cooperation with our partners in India and Colombia, we were able to enlarge our know-how.
We learned to what extent local cultural, historical conditions can influence the making of bags. In consequence we have resumed the production of bags in our own manufactory in Obertshausen in 2010. In here, we are focusing on models which systematically consider local conditions. The models result from a well balanced mixture of simple design, material availability, local cost structures, regionality and individual treatment during manufacturing. We produce authentically local bags, which can only be produced in this form and expression in the own manufactory.