After graduating college, future Bati founder Taylor Ross traveled to rural Paraguay to teach English to disadvantaged youth.
While there, he met Joel, a wide-eyed 16 year old whose dream was to go to college in the United States. They became peanut butter and jelly.
Ross helped Joel apply to schools, and Joel was ultimately accepted to attend the University of Pennsylvania on a full scholarship. He attended, and even before graduating (a double-major) had already received juicy offers from various Fortune 500 companies. He currently works as a software engineer at Google. Ross and Joel have stayed close, and duo have sent funds over the years to other disadvantaged youth like Joel, who live with limitless ambition and limited resources.
Bati Leather Goods, derived from the name of the village in Paraguay, Tobati, was conceived as a vehicle to create more opportunities for local youth who lack educational resources.
The culture, people, music, traditions, climate, landscape, the good AND the bad of Tobati, Paraguay are all central elements to the brand and exist in each hand-stitched leather good. The soft, natural leather bares the scars and natural imperfections from the cow; no two goods are the same - just like us, each one has its own story to tell.
Bati is about embracing our scars instead of hiding from them, and realizing that that courage is what ultimately makes us stronger. We believe the sun doesn't feel as warm on your skin unless you haven't had to wait for a bus in the rain for a while. We believe in giving a jump to the person on the side of the road, talking to the shy person in the corner, tipping well, taking a salsa class just because, planting stuff and watching it grow, eating something that looks gross, drinking tereré (yerba mate), calling your friends, remembering your roots, and most importantly, taking time to smell the leather.
Elevate the Ordinary. That’s our ethos. We take ordinary items that people use every day and elevate the aesthetic by wrapping them in leather.
We're known for our hand-stitch finish, which you'll see on all of our goods.The stitch technique has been held under lock and key by our family of leather artisans in small village in the Paraguay for decades, and it holds the secret to how to stitch leather within the tight, cramped spaces of an item that a machine can't get to (as seen below, the area under the handle on our Sangria carafe - now those are some calloused fingers!).
In Paraguay, the country’s overwhelming natural beauty is overshadowed by its crippling poverty rate, which hovers above 40%. Its people are resourceful, humble, and make the most out of what they have. In creating Bati, we hope to use our leather goods as a vehicle to show the world the beauty Paraguay has to offer and to tell the inspiring story behind the students of The Macchi School, who we support with proceeds by subsidizing college tuition costs.
CHAPTER ONE: BATI GOODSBati Goods are handcrafted with soft, vegetable-tanned Paraguayan cow leather by seasoned leather artisans in Tobatí, Paraguay. Our leather bares the natural imperfections of the cowhide and develops a beautiful patina over time. There's a beauty to the scars - each one tells its own, unique story and reminds us to embrace our imperfections instead of covering them up. We strive to elevate the ordinary. Our original, inspired pieces espouse a minimalist aesthetic and draw your attention to the impeccable leather quality and craftsmanship behind each good. Each leather good is unique to the hide it comes from and ages differently depending on use, care and sun exposure.
CHAPTER TWO: CUERO (LEATHER)
We source our leather locally from various towns across the state of Cordillera, Paraguay. In Paraguay, there happen to be more cows than people. Travelers often bypass the small country of 7 million for the bright lights of neighboring Brazil and Argentina. But although not a popular tourist destination, the country more than makes up for it with its rich culture and natural resources.
Over half of Paraguay's leather is exported to Italy every year and used by high end designer brands. The climate in Paraguay is so hot that the powerful UV rays from the sun burn off harmful parasites that damage the cowhide. Cattle roam freely amongst the vast, untouched Paraguayan countrysides and feed on grass until they get a tummy ache. These various elements help make Paraguayan leather some of the most sought after in the world.
Bati's full grain cow leather is vegetable-tanned. "But what does that mean," you may be asking. During the tanning process, we use natural vegetable tannins to treat the hide. Because this process is so much more arduous, only 10% of the leather in the world is treated this way. Using chemicals (how most leather is treated) would speed up the process but be much more harmful to the environment (vegan leather is created by burning plastics, for example).
CHAPTER THREE: ARTESANOS (ARTISANS)
The artists behind each Bati Good come from the renowned artisanal community of Tobati, Paraguay. We work with local leather and wood workers and credit them for the distinct beauty that each product radiates. Sure, we design the stuff, but it's their decades of experience and dedication to their craft that allow us to wrap such intricate pieces in leather. Nothing we do would be possible without them.
La Familia Fernandez - The leather wrap masters have been in business for over 100 years. It's a family run shop, and each special crafting technique is passed down from generation to generation. It stays in the family, which brings everyone closer together and makes it harder for copycats to steal their ideas. The combined knowledge learned from the descendants of the Fernandez family has allowed them to wrap some of the craziest things in leather. Whether a bicycle, a car, or a statue, they take on each challenge with a smile.
We're privileged to consider the Fernandez family some of our closest friends. Over the years we've grown close by working together on new designs and hanging out at their weekly Asado Sabado (Saturday BBQ). They've let us into the circle, and even taught us some of their special stitching techniques. We are most humbled by this.
La Familia Portillo - The Portillos are the wood-workers behind Bati's Cedar / Leather Collection of trays and housewares, and have some of the strongest handshakes you've ever seen.
They're a family run shop too, and craft each piece with such precision that you would never believe it was done by hand. Everyone helps each other out, and when someone's in need of a tool, all they have to do is give a holler!
They source their wood from the remote Paraguayan jungle, which just happens to be in their backyard. The resources are rich, and their hands have grown calloused over the years from working with various types of wood.
Although there are other, cheaper alternatives for products we could wrap in leather, we value the handmade process and think that the small details are what make the product great. Like the smell that's created when the cedar wood is wrapped in leather - it fills up a room!