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How much do you REALLY know about leather?

September 20, 2019


We need to talk about the L-word… Leather. 

In today's blog, we’re debunking major leather myths and saying tata to taboo leather folklore. 


The average consumer will shop for leather goods thinking that 'leather is just leather'. I know I’ve been guilty of purchasing leather goodies without giving it a second thought, but it’s our responsibility as consumers to take into consideration where that leather comes from. It is also the responsibility of brands we support to be transparent to the public about how and where we source.

 

Quality Over Quantity 

Before we dive into the world of leather, there are certain aspects that determine what type of leathers are the best quality. These factors are:

The quality and skill used in processing and tanning
The layer of the hide used
The layer of the hide that is used
(top-grain, full-grain, split)

 

There are different grades of leather to choose from, 1st grade being the best quality and 4th grade being the poorest quality. 

Let's break it down...

What are the different grades of leather?

 

Types Of Leathers

 Bonded Leathers

These are composed of leather leftovers essentially (I don't know about you but I always hated leftovers as a kid...nothing's changed when it comes to leathers, especially when they are leftovers from the leftovers- yuk!), and combined with polyurethane to bond the leather together. This type of leather is not very durable and will break down quickly over extended use, and are low-grade leathers.

Split Leather

Also known as corrected leather (hello, trivial night!), and has two uses, that being suede and finished split. When a leather hide is cut down in thickness and coated, it becomes a split-leather! These leathers can look nothing short of fabulous on the surface but aren't nearly as durable or long-lasting as normal leathers.

Top-Grain Leather

Top-Grain leather is referred to as the second-highest grade of leather. Unlike Full-Grain leather, Top-Grain hides are sanded down to get rid of any scars and imperfections. This also makes the leather a lot smoother and easier to work with. 

Nubuck Leather

One of the most prominent kinds of top-grain leathers is Nubuck. It has been buffed to create an extremely soft and luxurious outer surface. The rare combination of durability and suppleness is exactly why we choose Nubuck for some of our designs.

 

Full-grain leather

Full-grain leather comes from the top layer of a hide and has not been processed in any way (i.e., sanded, buffed, or snuffed). Since the grain is left completely intact, the leather offers the greatest degree of fibre strength and breathability, which allows it to develop a beautiful patina during its lifetime. Additionally, the leather maintains its natural blemishes such as scars, wire cuts, insect bites, stretch marks, and neck wrinkles, which celebrates its authenticity. Something we cherish in the hide rather than reject, while many in the fashion industry sadly disregarded these marketings as poor quality. Therefore, only the best hides can be used for full-grain leather, which is why it is considered premium leather.

 

Know The Difference 

Genuine Leather: Fact or Fiction?

Normally when you see a jacket or wallet made from genuine leather you think ‘this is made from real, expensive leather’ but most people don’t know that the genuine leather label can be deceiving and can often be the lowest quality leather. (Gasp!) That's right! Genuine leather is basically made from leftover leathers and doesn't always last as long as aniline leathers do.

The fashion industry is aware of the fact that the majority of people are unaware of the origins of 'genuine leather' and use this to their advantage when selling leather items. Yes, the products you’re buying are made out of leather, but it’s wrong to assume that it’s the highest quality leather. Genuine leather is just a broad term used when labelling products, so be mindful of that next time you’re on the hunt for leather goodies.

  

Water Usage in Dying Leather

In a country and economy who’s struggled with water restrictions and high water scarcity, South Africa needs to be especially conscious of the amount of water used when dying leather.

The leather-tanning industry has had a bad reputation for being one of the most water-intensive industries around the world, from the water used to raise the animals, to the water used to dye the leather. 

However, with advanced technology comes advanced solutions (yay, technology). Although these might not be the perfect solutions just yet, the industry is getting closer to maximizing sustainability with techniques such as recycling the water (I know, mind-blowing right?! Why didn't they think of this earlier) and new chemical processing that requires much less water. Another way is by making use of the moisture that is already present in the hides.

Matsidiso's suppliers are of those who are taking great measures to reduce the amount of water used when tanning their leathers here in South Africa.

You can read more about the tanning process, as well as how the leather industry is trying to do their part to reduce water usage here. Now lets all chant together, reduce, reuse and recycle!

 

The Matsidiso Way

At Matsidiso, how we source is just as important as how we work. Our suppliers consist of a series of proudly South African businesses that practice ethical employment standards and source their materials with the most care.

 

We only use top-grade, aniline, nubuck or suede from full-grain or Trophy grade springbok/cowhides, ensuring that our products are of the highest standards and that the leathers will only improve with time instead of chip apart or break down. We also celebrate the natural markings that occur on the hide and don't discard hides that might be seen as 'flawed', but rather see these as a celebration of the animal's life.

 

Further, our leathers are either a by-product of the meat industry, culling or come from contained farms within South Africa that have restrictions and best practice regulations inclusive of vet certifications to ensure the animals were treated ethically and were not mass-produced for their leathers.

 

 Now whenever you’re shopping for leather goodies, throw some of your newly learnt leather jargon around and you’ll sound like a super informed, conscious lady who knows what she wants!

 





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