Norman Ventura quit his job and is now devoted to an old craft: tailoring. He makes Lederhosen, just as they used to be made back in the day.
The train stops in its tracks at the Salorno train station. I immediately notice how wide this valley is as I step out of the train. High peaks reach into the sky at either side. The village is further back, snuggled up against the mountain. I follow the main road straight on, over a bridge and the Adige river. After a few minutes I can see the street sign that reads “Trientner Straße”, so I head to the right. Only a few steps and I stand in front of the “Salurner Lederhosenschneiderei” (‘Lederhosen tailor’s shop of Salorno’). So this is Norman’s kingdom. Stairs lead me into his , while my hand slides over an elegant wrought iron railing that his grandfather made. We sit down at the table in his ‘Stube’ (a traditional South Tyrolean wood-panelled parlour) and enjoy a cup of coffee.
Norman Ventura quit his job at an engineering office to devote himself entirely to the sewing of Lederhosen
The ‘Stilfser Hirschen’ – Stelvio Stags
Lederhosen are a typical garment of South Tyrol, Tyrol, German Switzerland and Bavaria. But where does the leather for Norman’s pants come from? “It’s deer/stag leather”, he explains. “After a selection process, the animals are shot in the Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio nature park. After that, they are brought to the last tanner in South Tyrol, who lives in Malles.” Now he’s made me curious. I want him to tell me how he produces his Lederhosen. We step into the second room of his tailor shop. Every machine has its designated spot, including the three sewing machines. Patches of leather, templates, glue and threads fill the shelves. There’s a few different tables, each one for a different production step. Next to the wall I see the press that Norman uses to precisely punch out various elements.
The stag leather is tanned with traditional methods
This side pocket traditionally holds the “Fuhrmannsbesteck” (‘Waggoner’s cutlery), something to take on the road just in case
Pants of yesteryear
Because of their sturdiness, for hundreds of years leather pants have been the ideal pants for working in the mountains. They are water-repellent and odor-resistant, thus only had to be washed very rarely. They are laborious to make and were often adorned with additional details, like for example the coat of arms of the town you’re from. They soon advanced to become a sort of ‘ID’. Nowadays they are usually worn at parties of folk bands, choirs, dance groups and the ‘Schuhplattler’ (a type of folk dance made mostly by men).
Two different models
– “Kniebundhosen“ reach your knees
– ”Seplhosen“ used to only be worn by children
– “Himmelstor” or “Sautirl”: a bigger opening in the front, so you don’t have to take off the entire pant if you need to urinate.
– “Messertaschl”: a small bag to contain ‘Fuhrmannsbesteck’(aka the ‘wagoners cutlery’): a knife, a fork with two tines and a fixing pin… or nowadays just fill it with your smartphone.
– 3 to 4 days for simple models
– 1 week for more complex models
Norman cuts leather stripes to braid into the so called “Steg” later on
Norman feels very connected to his home country and its history. The Schützen rifle companies that were lead by the freedom fighter Andreas Hofer (from the Val Passiria) back in the 19th century wore Lederhosen. Norman always loved sewing with leather, and he owes it to the Schützen that he’s working in this job today. They encouraged him to open the tailor shop. “Go on, sew us some Lederhosen” they said. That’s how Norbert’s new passion was born.
The templates are inserted into the press and guarantee a clean cut of the leather elements
While Norman and I dive deeper and deeper into the history of traditional clothing, his brother Thomas walks into the room. He’s an open minded and friendly guy, and just as ambitious as Norman. Soon the brothers are gonna go back to sewing Lederhosen, a craft that’s not done like this anywhere else in South Tyrol anymore. All historical tailors are retired by now. “In clothing stores we can find Lederhosen made in Pakistan or Bangladesh, made by people who are being exploited and exposed to dangerous chemicals. That’s the reason they cost next to nothing, but are also not made to last”, Norman explains. His pants are sturdy and can be handed down from generation to generation.
In friendly collaboration with the platform “Stories from South Tyrol” of the IDM South Tyrol. Editors, photographers and movie makers collect and recount real stories of people, products and lifestyles in South Tyrol.