Preface: Diamond in the Rough
The conception of Bati took place long before we started making leather goods. After college, Co-Founder Taylor Ross traveled to a small, rural village off the beaten path in Paraguay called Tobati to teach English at a school for the underserved. There, while quickly doing his best to quickly pick up Spanish, he fell in love with the culture, drank yerba mate on the reg, and most importantly valued his time with his students.
Inspired by his work helping three students receive full scholarships to study at American universities (UPENN), Ross thought of more ways to bring resources to these students who had served as such an inspiration to him.
He'd made friends with some local artisans who ran a leather shop that had been in the family for over 100 years, and would marvel each time they'd show him the hand-stitch techniques they used to wrap irregularly-shaped objects (thermoses, bicycles, coolers, cars). Ross loved their outside the box methods. Soon he became a regular at their weekly Saturday Asados, where everyone laughed together, jabbed each other, and washed down five-star finger-food cuts of steak with cold beer.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Ross knew in his gut that there was a place in the world of high design for these handcrafted gems - especially when one considers that 50% of Paraguay's leather is exported to Italy every year and used by brands like Ferrari. Feeling like he had found his diamond in the rough, he teamed up with lifelong best friend & business partner, Jose Valladolid Jr., designed some initial samples, brought them back to Los Angeles, and threw them in the deep end to see if they would float. Batí was born.
The duo designed the leather goods to reflect the natural, vibrant beauty of the Paraguayan countryside. The goal? Use the goods as a vehicle to share the inspired stories of the disadvantaged Paraguayan students and provide the youth with the educational tools they need to graduate college and break the shackles of poverty that have bound their families for centuries.
Chapter One: Bati Goods
Bati 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.
No two goods are the same. Just like us, each one's got its own story to tell.
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).
Our use of exclusively organic ingredients allows us to preserve, strengthen, and add color to the hide. It leaves bare the scars and imperfections of the hide, which we believe adds the real character to each piece. We pride ourselves on our sustainable process and value the land that has provided us the resources to create our leather goods.
Chapter Three: 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!