We all know that Buenos Aires is famous for its quality leather, but with so many leather shops vying for visitors’ attention, it can be hard to decide where to buy that beautiful, buttery cow leather for which Argentina is renowned. And let’s not even get started on the issue of inflation. However, for savvy shoppers, there are still some unique leather goods to be had offering good value for money. Here is The Real Argentina’s guide on where to unearth the city’s finest leather gems.
Many guidebooks will tell you that the streets of Florida and Murillo are where it’s at for bargain leather shopping. It’s true that you’ll find a huge selection of Buenos Aires leather shops but the quality varies, and many of the bags, jackets and other goods on sale are poorly made using cheap leather. Use your eye and nose to spot the good from the bad, checking the lining, zippers, seams and smell before you buy. Other signs of poor quality leather are inconsistency in colour, a stiff surface and blotchiness – the smoother and softer to the touch the better. And if you do decide to buy, don’t accept the first price they offer you. Try your hand at a bit of friendly bargaining.
Leather face-bag; photo courtesy of Beatrice Murch.
Bags of Style
Browsing the city’s multitude of bag boutiques, you’ll find the same old styles time and time again, but if you’re looking for something more unique then check out the limited edition handbag collection in Kennall’s showroom in Recoleta. The stylish collection of shoulder bags, clutches and handbags that have been selling like hotcakes through word of mouth, are designed by Gabriela Alemann and partner Alejandra Crippa and hand crafted by Argentine craftsmen. According to Alemann, “a woman’s handbag is a very personal, important space” thus every detail is carefully selected from the top notch napa leather and suede in the colours of the season on the outside to the beautiful silk patterned lining on the inside. They also come embellished with traditional Argentine elements such as alpaca, onyx or horn details.
For bags that combine form with function then check out Humawaca’s offerings that are specially designed to hold and control your modern day gadgets (and while you’re there, look out for their colourful range of leather gloves). Alternatively newcomer on the leather scene Juanita Jo pays homage to the new trends in neon colours with their brightly coloured bags, while heavyweight brand Prüne, with multiple outlets across the city, delivers your classic Mulberry-esque bag styles.
A Touch of the Exotic
If your morals don’t go against more exotic leather shopping then Delgè, tucked away inside the Sofitel Hotel, specialises in luxury leather accessories crafted from crocodile, stingray and lizard skin. The small collection includes edgy leather cuffs combined with sterling silver or gold that add a zesty pop of colour to your outfit as well as a newly launched and very elegant range of bags, clutches and purses that are all handmade and beautifully finished. Delgè’s exotic leather goods come at a higher price but they’re better value than anything you’ll ever find in the US or Europe. And before you start worrying about the fate of the reptiles, the skins are legitimately sourced in accordance with government and UN regulations.
Another popular leather that’s unique to Argentina is carpincho. Although you might be put off by the idea that it comes from one of the largest living rodents alive, a capybara, its skin makes for very distinctive stippled leather with unique markings. Pay a visit to Cardon’s chain of leather shops for their fine carpincho leather jackets, bags and other traditional Argentine gaucho garb.
La Casa de las Botas will do you a pair of made-to-measure polo, country or equestrian style boots in around 10 days (and send to you by mail if you’ve already left the country). The traditional atelier, in business over 40 years, has previously booted a variety of polo players, Royals and celebs. A pair of boots starts at around ARS $1,800 pesos (GBP £236 / USD $376) but, provided your feet have stopped growing, they are a solid, timeless investment.
For something more playful, Hermanas Aguila turns out a small collection of leather shoes including classic court shoes and loafers with a twist and cute ankle booties. Their stock is limited but prices are more reasonable than more established leather boutiques in Buenos Aires, and they also do custom made shoes in your choice of colours. They work out of a modest appointment-only little showroom in Barrio Norte.
Leather shoes by Hermanas Aguila; photo courtesy of Hermanas Aguila.
There are numerous shops in Buenos Aires selling off-the-rail leather jackets in the latest biker, bomber or asymmetrical styles, with Doma being one of the best. However for the same price or less, you can get yourself a beautiful bespoke leather jacket from Argentina custom leather tailor Bettina Rizzi in two to three days (or less if it’s really urgent). Either take along a picture of the style you have in mind or browse the models in her shop (including trench coats, cropped styles, biker jackets and reversible leather capes) and customise the details to your liking. The choice of leathers include baby calfskin, goat skin, lambskin, suede and carpincho and prices range from USD $180 (GBP £113) for a short calfskin jacket up to USD $600 (GBP £377) for a carpincho leather jacket. Says Bettina, “Lambskin is often the most popular choice as it’s soft, thin and molds well to the body.”
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Leather jackets from Bettina Rizzi; photos courtesy of Bettina Rizzi.
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