Know your Leather Better! - Types of Leather

Leather tanning and processing is one of the oldest industries in human civilization employing umpteen number of individuals. As per the Council for Leather Exports (Trade organization sponsored by Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Govt of India), Leather industry in India is employment intensive providing job to about 4.42 million people mostly from rural areas of India and about 30% of the workforce is women. Since ages, Leather is used to make intricate clothing articles such as footwear, gloves, armor, water bottles for travelers, weapons and fashion accessories.

The quality of leather varies on several factors. Different animals yield different quality of hides. Most of our leather is either a cow hide, goat hide or camel hide. The layers within a hide also impact the use and quality of leather. Quality of hide depends on the conditions in which the animal has lived: diet, nutrition and climate or exposure to disease etc. Other factors which affect the quality of the leather is the processing it is subjected to such as the tanning by chemicals and the dyes and stains which have been used and also the finishing process involved in making the final product.
An animal hide has several layers starting from the uppermost surface of the hide (side from which the hair has been removed) to the inner layer (where the hide is originally connected to the flesh). The fiber structure of the leather varies throughout the thickness of the hide, being tightest and densest at the upper layer and looser and soft toward the lower side.

In general, there are 4 types of leather. These include Full Grain Leather, Top Grain Leather, Nubuck Leather and Suede Leather. Majority of our products are made from Top Grain Leather.

1. Full Grain Leather :
Full grain leather comes from the top layer of the hide. The close vertical structure of fibers in this layer makes it strong and most durable part of animal hide. It retains the inherent toughness, as well as the imperfections giving a unique appearance sharing with us the life journey of the animal. It is the highest quality leather and also the most expensive one.

2. Top Grain Leather :
This is the second best layer of the hide. The surface of this layer is sanded to remove the imperfections giving it an overall uniform appearance. This layer is then dyed in desired color to give it an attractive look. The Top Grain Leather is thinner and more pliable, hence widely used in the production of quality goods like Handbags and Jackets.

3. Nubuck Leather :
Nubuck Leather comes from Top Grain Leather. Top Grain Leather is sanded and buffed on the outside to get a uniform appearance. The pressure and extent of sanding process varies in Top Grain Leather and Nubuck leather. In case of Nubuck leather, the sanding process leaves a slight nap of protein fibers, giving the leather a velvety finish. It is soft to touch and scratches easily. Rubbing the surface of Nubuck leather can give the feel of change in the color of the leather, this is because the direction of short fibers changes when you rub the surface.

4. Suede Leather :
Suede Leather is made from innermost layer of the hide which is directly in contact with the flesh of the animal. The surface of this layer is sanded, buffed and dyed resulting in softer, thinner and most flexible leather. Suede Leather is mostly used for making accessories like belts, gloves, jackets, bags, footwear etc. This material tends to last a long time but easily collects dust and dirt and hence needs to be cleaned after use.

Leather Alternatives
The most commonly available leather alternatives are PU (Polyurethane) and PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). Polyurethane leather is artificial leather made of thermoplastic polymer used for making furniture or shoes. 100% PU and PVC leather is completely artificial and is considered vegan. However being vegan doesn’t mean its environment friendly. PVC is considered to be more toxic to the environment than PU Leather as it does not decompose easily and also releases high amounts of toxic chlorine and harmful dioxides. The materials from PU and PVC leather will stay in landfills for generations together. Although lately, more forms of vegan leather have come into picture like leather from cactus etc. However the extent of them being eco-friendly is yet to be determined and known to many.

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