The first known instuctions for tanning leather date back to the seventh century BC. Alsace has  long been a region synonymous with tanners, as demonstrated by the many districs and streets named after them in its towns and cities. The region enjoys an abundance of factors essential to this craft industry including cattel farms, waterways which never run dry and oak and chestnut forests, from which powdered brak was used as a tanning agent until modern times. Tannery was, in France, the second largest industry in the late 19th century. At the time, there were more than 300 tanneries  in Alsace, which among other things supplied the Alsace, which among other things supplied the Napoleonic armies with leather. The town of Barr and the surrounding villages were a well-known production centre: in the early 20th century, around 10 major industrial tanneries employed some 2000 tanners. Today, only around 20 tanneries remain in France, employing approximately 1700 people in all. The last two Alsatian tanneriers, Haas and Degermann, are located in the Barr area.
Originating from Schramberg, in Baden-Württemberg (Germany), Aloise Haas moved to Barr in 1827. In 1842 he bought a textile factory in Eichhoffen, where he began manufacturing slippers. To strengthen the soles, he set up a tannery and had a canal bullit to divert the waters of the Andlau to supply it. His son Emile took over from him in 1868. He ceased the production of slippers and focused exclusively on tanning, using the plant-based tannins from the chestnut trees of the forests around Barr. The discoverery of a new tanning method using chrome, which had come from the United States, brought the tannery into the industrial era, under the management of Alfred Haas. The Box Calf, tanned with chrome, is a smooth and frim calfskin, with a shiny glazed appearance. After the Second World War, for several decades “mill leather“ became the speciality of the company Haas. This is a highly technical leather requiring a precision of  0.05 millimetres in thickness, used in the textile industry to cover he cylinders of the spinning machines.
 „My father made the right choice by linking the future of the company to that of the fashion and luxury goods market.“
An innovation gives rise to a new soft and supple from of leather …
Joining the company in 1932, Jacques Alfred Haas had the task of rebuilding the tannery, which was destoryed by fire in 1942. Following a fortuitous twist of fate, in the late 1950s he invented Novocalf, a thick and supple leather which won a gold medal at the Brussels Universal Exhibition in 1958 and enjoyed great success in the footwear industry. „At the time, leather varieties were as stiff as board. In our production facility, modifications to the manufacturing process led to the creation of this thick and supple leather, something which was completely unexpected. Jacques Alfred Haas successfully adapted this product for industrial production and improved its reliability: Novocalf was born. This product, for which a trademark was subsequently registered, helped bulid the reputation of Les Tanneries Haas for more than 50 years. Novocalf became a bywod in tanners language to refer to the soft feel of this new typ of leather. In the 1960s, paediatricians recommended it for the production of children‘s footwear as it performed well and did not harm the child‘s feet, explained Jean-Christophe Muller, Chairman of Les Tanneries Haas.
It was at this time that Jacques Alfred Haas was joined in the company by his son-in-law, Roland Muller, a trained brewer. Unfortunately, on September 11, 1966, the tannery was partly destroyed by fire. Three years later Jacques Alfred Haas was obliged to file for bankruptcy.
 In February 1970, in partnership with a supplier from the Aveyron area, Roland Muller sought to relaunch  the company in very difficult conditions at a time when the ‘‘mill leather“ market had collapsed. He diversified production and sought out new markets such as  the clothing industry. Leather jackets, which had become fashionble thanks to the rock stars, were now all the rage. Les Tanneries Haas supplied the leather for the lecterns at French parliament. Above all however, the new manager focused on luggage and saddle making ‘‘My father made the right choice by linking the future of the company to that of the fashion and luxury goods market. Thirty years ago, choosing to position the business in the top oft he range markets was certainly not the obvious chioce, as at the time these sectors  contributed only small amounts of business and large amounts of bother.  The chioce proved tob e a wise one, however and thr high quality oft he services and products did the building loyalty among clients in this industry, in which France is today a world champion‘‘, added Jean-Christophe Muller.

Wax and oli baths to guarantee a long life
In the early 1980s, Roland Muller began a promising business relationship with the luggage and leather goods manufacturer longchamp. Among other things, Les Tanneries  Haas would go on to produce silk screen printed leather for brand, for exportation to Japan. “Over a decade or so, we produced roughly 500,000 square-meters“. This Alsatian tanner would soon attract some of the greatest names  in luxury fashion and leather goods, which we are prevented from naming here by confidentiality agreements, but also in the footwear industry (Paraboot, Weston, Church and Heschung, the last remaining Alsatian cilent of the House of Haas) and in the saddle industry, (Hermes, in addition to most of the European saddle manufacturers).
‘‘One of our staff is based in western France to constantly make the farmers aware of the need to preserve the quality of the hide.“
Around the same time, Roland Muller updated a production process for a soft and supple full grain leather, this time for the luggage industry, whilst Novocalf was used mainly to produce footwear. Marketed under the registered Barenia trademark, this leather undergoes a double tanning process, firtly with chrome and then with vegetable extracts. It is then submerged in a mixture of nine wax and oils prepared in a bain-marie. Lubricated in this way, the fibres remain supple and after being handled for years, the leather acquires its distinctive sheen. Roland Muller retried in 2001, while continuing to keep a watchful eye the progress of the company, which was now managend by his son Jean-Christophe, who had had another career in mind in his late teens. With a keen passion for nature and the mountain environment, after his studies in geochemistry at university his father asked him to join the campany and he came onboard in 1990, at the age of 28, a year after his sister Emmanuelle. Tanning was not really a new environment for him as from the age of 15 upwards he earned pocket money during the summer holidays by working as an operator on almost all of the machines. After further updating his knowledge in the field of hide chemistry at the tanning school in Lyon and undertaking various internships with suppliers, he held firstly sales and later technical posts, before becoming genral manager of the company in 2001.
The Quality of the cattle rearing also determines that of the hide
The conversion of slaughterhouse waste into an attractive leather item requires a high degree of technical skill and know-how. Les Tanneries Haas use only calfskin, considered as the top of the range in the tanning industry. When the hides arrive from the slaughterhouses (a by-product or ‘‘fifth quarter“ of the animal) preserved in salt, the tanner is naturally unaware of what lies under the hair.  ‘‘The calves are not reared for their hides, but the quality of a hide is greatly dependent on the  rearing methods. For this reason we work closely with the farmers. One of our staff is based in western France to constantly make the farmers aware of the need to preserve the quality of the hide. We finance vaccination campaigns and anti-parasite treatments to improve them. You can‘t produce a good leather from a poor raw material“, explains Jean-Christophe Muller. However, it is only eight days after the start of the operations, at the end of  the ‘‘river work“ (removing the hair from the hide by dissolving the hair in lime, a process which was previously carried out on the river beds) and the tanning, that the tanner discovers the true condition of the hide.                                                                                          
During the 4 to 6 weeks required by  the transformation process, this hide will undergo around 80 different operations. The hides are made rot-proof by the tanning operation carried out using mineral salts and are then sorted according to appearance and thickness criteria and placed into around 15 different categories.
The fashion houses are constantly on the lookout for something new
At this stage, the common treatment procress shared by all hides comes to an end. Retanning, dyeing, currying (mechanically working the hide) and finishing througt the addition of colouring agents and pigments are performed to order according to the quallity of the hide and the orders from the clients. Les Tanneries Haas process between 650 and 700 hides per day, i.e. approximately 40,000 square-metres of calf leather per month  ‘‘In the late 1990s, we were tanning 15,000 square-metres per month. Over the space of 15 years, production has almost tripled and the workforce has doubled. A tannery is a labour-intensive operation. It remains very expensive to produce in France. As we produce only custom products for the luxury goods industry with small production batches, these on-costs are fortunatly less for a problem for the company.
‘‘The recognised quality and know-how, the consistency of the products, the excellent customer service and that added touch of creativity are the foundation on which our growth is based“, explans Jean-Christophe Muller. A research and development department with five staff makes it possible to constantly offer the major luxury goods producers new textures, surface appearances, and materials, all of which they eagerly embrace for their new collections.
Les Tanneries Haas are also very keen to protect the environment. In the late 1980s, the company bulit its own water treatment plant which processes all of the effuent before it then goes for a second round of  processing in the municipal purification plant. The chrome sulfate is recovered in full and incinerated. These standards, which are stricter in France than elsewhere, increase production costs but also contribute to making the Haas tannery one of the most modern in France, thanks to ongoing investments. In August 2012, it was awarded the much coveted living Hertage Industry labels and is part of this label‘s ‘‘centenary club“.
‘‘The recognised quality and know-how, the consistency of the products, the excellent customer service and that added touch of creativity are the foundation on which our growth  is based“