The Leather Lowdown
Years ago ‘Genuine leather’ on a tag used to mean the real deal, but if you’re thinking about making your next heirloom purchase - do read on!
Today it’s everywhere but the ‘genuine leather’ name tag has become a misnomer of sorts. Yes it does mean that your item ‘has’ real leather in it (it could just be referring to the label by the way) but it’s the lowest quality leather you can buy.
It’ll probably be made of the lowest grade leather fibres and more often or not it’ll be these fibres mixed with shavings of fabric or increasingly popular, plastic. Several layers of this will be bonded together with glue and then painted to look like leather. In an era where the majority of the population are trying to reduce their plastic usage and have become more aware of the harsh chemicals in our day-to-day lives; you really need to watch what you’re buying.
So, watch for Faux leather which is made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU). Both are bad for the environment and your health and have been linked to cancer.
Then there is Bonded leather, which is pretty much leather dust (left over from higher quality projects) bonded with vinyl to make a strong “fabric” which is then given a leather pattern.
Patent leather is coated in a glossy plastic finish (think plastic use again!) and Corrected leather is imperfect leather sanded down to create a smooth finish (people think this means smoothness = quality leather) and finished with a coat of synthetic materials, nice!
Long term investment? No! Substandard leather and faux leather will almost certainly need replacing a few years down the line, it’ll look worse as time goes on and of course this is regardless of how much you paid for the item in the first place!
Look for Full Grain leather, this is the highest grade you can buy and takes the entire grain of hide with all the scratches, scars, imperfections and in turn, toughness. It’s heavy-duty and will last you a lifetime. It’s so expensive for small leather businesses to buy because the larger, ‘designer’ companies won’t use a lot of the hides available because it’s scarred, has been branded or had natural imperfections. It’s breathable and it will develop an amazing patina over the years and is widely know as the best leather money can buy.
Bridle leather uses only the finest leather designed for the equestrian market. It's flesh and grain is stuffed full of greases and then finished off with wax. It's horrendously labour intensive and expensive but yet smooth and comfortable (as it's worn next to the horses skin). Again it will age beautifully and can stand up to all weather conditions and dirt that you'd expect to find in a stables! Few UK tanneries now produce Bridle leather.
Failing that, buy Top Grain leather, a happy half-way house. Many well know designer brands use this to make their identical, uniform wallets and purses. It is in fact split from a full-grain hide and then sanded and smoothed before being printed with a leather grain before being treated and coloured. This way mass production can take place and everything will always look the same on the store shelves.
Buy an Investment
Here at Morgan + Wells we only use the best! Our prices reflect this and we are proud to label our products with our stamp.
We care what goes on our shelves. We want each hide to be used sensibly, to be given our full attention and as we don't use machines, this inevitably takes more of our time.
-Each item is individually cut from the finest of hides. Time consuming, yes, but it means we can avoid large imperfections that large machines cannot avoid. We do think though that these marks add character and individuality!
-Everything is hand saddle-stitched too with waxed thread. This is the traditional way to stitch leather and involves using two needles at the same time. If you snag normal stitching it will unravel itself - saddle-stitching says firmly put, it will not unravel. It is mean and hardcore!
- Each item is then hand finished (if the product requires it) Some require edge-dying before being burnished with beeswax three times to create a waterproof and uniform edge.
We love the way we work. It’s taking things right back to when quality was paramount. When items were treasured and passed on through the family. Shop wisely and buy something that is made for life!
Morgan + Wells