For this blog post, I thought I’d get a bit into the types of leather we used for Faire Leather Co.’s initial collection launch and the reasons as to why I chose them. We’d selected 2 types of leather:
Vegetable Tanned US Top Grain Cowhide
Cross Grain Embossed US Top Grain Cowhide (Chrome Tanned)
Firstly, a few basic comparisons on the terminologies used:
Vegetable Tanning vs Chrome Tanning
I won’t get too much into the science behind tanning but it’s basically a process that stops skin from rotting by drawing water out and modifying its molecular structure.
Vegetable tanning The oldest method of tanning is vegetable tanning. This is done by soaking it in a solution made up of vegetable tannins derived from certain trees. As the process is relatively long and complex, it requires the expertise of skilled craftsmen.
Mineral (chromium) tanning Sometime down the line, chrome tanning was invented. Essentially, this method of tanning does the same thing as vegetable tanning but can be automated and done much more quickly. The mechanism of altering the molecular structure of leather generally makes chrome tanned leather thinner and softer than vegetable tanned leather.
I’ve summarised the differences in the table below:
Vegetable Tanned Leather
Chrome Tanned Leather
Will get softer
Will not soften much over time
Colour will get darker
Colour will not change much over time
Prolonged exposure to heat can cause the leather to dry out and crack
Quite resistant to heat
Will develop a patina over time
Will not develop much of a patina
Not as water resistant — may develop water marks when exposed to water
Quite resistant to water and stains in general
Top Grain vs Full Grain
Full grain leather comes from the top layer of the hide and includes all of the natural grain. Top grain leather means that the topmost layer of full grain leather is buffed to remove surface imperfections and further embossed with a fine print. This results in a nice, sleek appearance — the kind that we were after. The embossing process also makes the surface more scratch resistant.
Top grain leather has less fibres than full grain leather. While this makes it weaker, the material is lighter and easier to work with. It’s also less porous, which means it’s more water resistant and doesn’t absorb stains as easily as full grain leather.
The following table summarises the key differences between the two:
Newer leather brands tend to choose full grain leather over top grain leather. The established international luxury houses, on the other hand, have been around for decades, with some boasting over a century’s worth of heritage to their name. This would most certainly result in them having a greater understanding when it comes to leather options. Whilst they always use high quality leather, it isn’t restricted to only full grain leather. As a matter of fact, the Faire Vegetable Tanned US Top Grain Cowhide is similar to the ones that some luxury brands have used or are currently using.
Although my family might not have the same years of experience as some of these brands, 30 odd years in the business has given us valuable insights on thousands of leather types. At the end of the day, we selected the most suitable leather type to reflect the kind of product we wanted to create:
We wanted the product to have a polished and sleek appearance
We needed leather that was lighter — with the numerous compartments we added (which would mean a heavier bag) that would help you organise your daily essentials better, we had to find other ways to bring the overall weight down
We needed leather that was easier to work with — this was a complex product and we needed material that was more manageable with respect to manufacturing
The Faire Options
Now that we’ve covered the basics, I’ve created a table to break down the differences between our 2 leather options to help you choose which is more suitable for you. We’ve classified the Vegetable Tanned Cowhide as (VT1) and the Cross Grain Embossed Cowhide as (CG1).
Vegetable Tanned US Top Grain Cowhide
Cross Grain Embossed US Top Grain Cowhide – Chrome Tanned
Less scratch resistant
More scratch resistant
Will develop some patina over time
Will develop less patina over time
Less water resistant
More water resistant
Less heat resistant
More heat resistant
Less water/stain resistant
More water/stain resistant
Top to bottom: Burgundy Cross Grain Embossed (CG1), Tan Vegetable Tanned (VT1), Navy Vegetable Tanned (VT1).
Remember, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to your selection. The important thing is that you choose one that suits your usage and the look you’re going for.
Going forward, we may or may not continue with these leather choices — we’ll simply go with whichever leather is best suited to the type of product we want to create. With the backing of Tocco Toscano’s experience and the power of Yventure’s data analytics, we’re confident our choices will give you the experience of luxury whilst still fulfilling the product’s function.