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Craft the Leather: announced the winner of the tenth edition

The winner of the tenth edition of the competition Craft the Leather, a project partnering the Italian Vegetable Tanned Leather Consortium and international schools with a culture of making, is Balbina Brunell from Parsons School of Fashion, NYC USA with the collection “An Analogy of Tarnished Culture”.

The evaluations expressed by the Technical Jury were combined with the votes of the visitors collected at Lineapelle and on the Consortium‘s social media to determine the winner.

After her participation in the workshop in Tuscany, Balbina Brunell presented a capsule collection made up of three accessories inspired by both the physical reaction of tannins in veg tan leather to iron and the consideration of her roots in the industrial city of Monterrey, Mexico. In her collection An Analogy of Tarnished Culture, she explores gestures of traditional cultural expression in strongly sculptural forms that can be bags, containers and body ornament.

Balbina reflects that:

In today’s rapidly changing world, the tension between traditional culture and global development is often palpable. This collection unravels the two conflicting forces of heritage and gentrification coalescing into one, contributing to a deeper understanding of how culture evolves in the modern age.

Drawing inspiration from my own heritage, these products reference and distort signifiers of Mexican culture on veg tan leather with a steel corroded surface design. This process is made possible by the leather’s natural ability to evolve and transform boundlessly allowing the rusted materiality to obscure and industrialize the initial inspiration emerging An Analogy of Tarnished Culture made entirely and exclusively of vegetable-tanned leather provided by member companies.

The Italian Vegetable Tanned Leather Consortium awards a cash prize to the winner as a contribution to continuing their education.

The expert jury, which evaluated the collections taking into account various indicators from both a technical and design point of view, unanimously expressed a special mention for the “Wearing Etiquette” collection by Shiyu Gong from the London College of Fashion in London .

The in-person vote at Lineapelle

For professional visitors to Lineapelle, the collection that was most appreciated, was “Leather Waves” by Alessandro Brienza of the Accademia Italiana in Florence.

The social vote

On the social channels of the Vera Pelle Consortium, where it was possible to vote until 4pm on 23 February 2024, followers’ likes rewarded the “Eternal Vitality” collection by Bingbing Bai of Kingston University in London.

The sum of all the votes collected proclaims BALBINA BRUNELL of the Parsons School of Fashion in New York the winner of the 10th Craft the Leather International Creative Competition 2023, with the collection “An Analogy of Tarnished Culture”.

Everyone involved in Craft the Leather and the Italian Vegetable Tanned Leather Consortium join to offer our congratulations to Balbina.


Craft The Leather is a training project of the Italian Vegetable Tanned Leather Consortium, by invitation only, dedicated to a group of talented young designer/makers from all over the world. The schools, selected from among the most prestigious and innovative international fashion and design institutes with a culture of making, participate with a teacher and their most promising student.

The project is divided into two phases with a training workshop in the summer of 2023 in the Tuscan Tanning District, to learn about the qualities and potential of a leather created according to a centuries-old tradition and highest environmental and ethical standards. In the second half of the year each designer creates a collection using exclusively leather provided by the Italian Vegetable Tanned Leather Consortium.

Project Tutor

Diane Ellen Becker Creative consultant, who has worked in the all aspects of the specialty leather business from visual merchandiser and buyer to designer of high-end leather goods and shoes, specializing in international trend research, consultancy for brand identity and educational activities, both to fashion/design professionals and educational institutes. Focus on sustainable design and creative use of resources.

EDITION 2023/24

Designers at Craft the Leather 2023

Alessandro Brienza Accademia Italiana – Italy

Cierra Headings College for Creative Studies – USA

Kerli Valter Estonian Academy of Arts – Estonia

Karitas Spanò Iceland University of the Arts – Iceland

Bingbing Bai Kingston University – UK

Shiyu Gong London College of Fashion – UK

Balbina Brunell Parsons School of Fashion – USA

Ioana Stefanescu University of Technology Eindhoven – the Netherlands

The Jury evaluation criteria

– Relevance of the creative concept to the intrinsic qualities of vegetable tanning
Innovative use of vegetable tanned leather
Aesthetic excellence
– Manual skill – manual ability in creating the product
Coherence and harmony of the collection. Does the collection tell a story?

Jury Members

  • Bill Amberg – Founder of Bill Amberg Studio an industry leader in bespoke leather products, interiors and furniture. Bringing together designers and artisans from the worlds of saddlery, case-making, bookbinding and other forms of fine leather craft, the studio has a mission to explore the aesthetic and material possibilities of leather.
  • Antonella Bertagnin – Creative director and “Trend Selection” coordinator at Lineapelle, she is today considered to be one of the foremost and most trusted Italian trend forecasters in the field of footwear and leather goods.
  • Cassandra Kane with a long background in design and production of leather goods, she is co founder of Zerolab and Zerow , hub for circular design solutions and the upcycling of the waste of the luxury leather sector.
  • Faye Sevilla Smith – Creative vision and hands behind the innovative shoe company SevillaSmith. Her background in cinematic costume design coupled with a strong pragmatic and ethical standard makes her work and network of makers stand out in the industry.
  • Liza Snook – Shoe collector, founder of the Virtual Shoe Museum (the online museum – a renowned platform for shoe designers and shoe lovers) and curator of exhibitions and events all over the world. Besides the exhibitions, she scouts talent, helps designers to promote their work, judges at design colleges and works as image researcher for international publishers.
Balbina Brunell and her collection An Analogy of Tarnished Culture @LINEAPELLE103
Surface’s details of An Analogy of Tarnished Culture by Balbina Brunell
Click to find out more visual details about An Analogy of Tarnished Culture