Any visitor to Ubrique would never know that this unassuming, remote Andalucian town has a secret - it is the nucleus of Europe's luxury leather goods manufacturing - and it prefers to stay that way!
Aside from its pedigree in leather craftsmanship, Ubrique is a hidden gem nestled in the foothills between the Grazalema and Los Alcornocales natural parks. It is surrounded by a rocky landscape hosting a diverse range of flora and fauna. It is one of southern Spain's pueblos blancos (white villages), villages which are renowned for their picturesque locations and white washed architecture.
Ubrique's leather tradition has been dated back to Roman times but it was in the 19th century, with the arrival of Italian immigrants that the leather trade became an important part of the local economy. Throughout this time, the local people have refined their skills from generation to generation to the extent that their precise leatherwork and skilled manufacturing is in high demand due to its quality and handcrafted nature. According to Jose Urrutia, founder of Spanish brand La Portegna, "The beautiful thing about this place is it's not just about one street or a couple of houses, it is the entire village. There is craftsmanship and authenticity in every stitch. That unmistakeable human touch is the hallmark of our work. It imbues our design and our manufacturing, distinguishing each La Portegna product as a true original."
The town's geography helps ensure that it maintains the confidentiality and discretion expected by the impressive array of luxury fashion houses and large brands its many small workshops supply. Well known luxury brands such as Loewe, Carolina Herrera, Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, as well as English brand Connelly and well known Scottish brand Strathberry are all reported to use Ubrique artisans to produce their high-end leather goods.
If you are interested in fashion and design or leather techniques, you could visit the Museo de la Piel (Leather Museum) which is situated in a restored 17th-century Baroque monastery or search the town for the secret entrances to one of Spain's best kept secrets! It is a wonderful day trip and allows the possibility to see a different side of Southern Spain and understand more about the cultural richness that can be found away from the coast when you venture into the interior! Let us know if you do visit as we would love to share this!