It sounds amazing to say that we make our goods with premium full-grain vegetable tanned leathers, but what do all this mean?
Basically, a hide can be up to 3,5 cm thick and is divided into a few different layers. Each layer has its own properties, strength and flexibility, therefore quality varies between them.
Full Grain Leather
For instance the outer layer of the hide, is what we call full-grain, because the natural appearance of the leather is preserved, this is literally the best part of the leather that money can buy. This part is the strongest yet most flexible part, like any noble wood, you will be able to appreciate in some occasions the veins or even the mosquito bites on the leather which should not be deemed as defects but as a real statement of natural quality.
This part will also develop a natural patina overtime which will add character to the leather as it ages. Not every hide is good enough for this use, and only an approximate of 15% of the hides worldwide can be used as full-grain leathers. This part of the leather is unique in every personal way, and that is what makes it perfect.
Top Grain Leather
The second layer is called top-grain, which is the layer of leather remaining after the outer layer is removed. This layer isn’t so bad, however is not as natural and resistant as the first one is because it needs to be corrected (sanded or buffed to give it a nice appearance) and it also won’t develop that precious natural patina that comes over time with use.
The third category is what is called genuine leather. This part doesn’t have any grain and comes from the bottom half of the leather. Together with top-grain is the most widely used and sold as the real deal, when it actually isn’t.
Lastly, they make bonded leathers with a series of glues and chemicals bonding them together with the remaining of what is left from that hide and all the sanding leather dust and shavings collected from the top-grain and genuine leather layers, buffed and corrected to make them look just like genuine or top grain leather (even full-grain..). Genuine and bonded leather are usually pigmented (spray painted..), not tanned.
Don’t be fooled by the ‘genuine leather’ tag, it isn’t good enough. Regardless of where you buy the leathers from, always get full-grain as it is the most resistant part of the leather, it literally is the best money can buy and will also age beautifully as it develops a natural patina over time which add character as well as personality to your goods.
What about the vegetable tanning? Why is the tanning important?
When the tanning process is not done properly, the inner part of the leather doesn’t acquire all the oils and preservatives it needs to last you long, therefore these leathers will crack and tear easily. Is like painting a wet wall, you know the paint will hold for a few days, but the paint will eventually start cracking and fall off in front of you.
A simple way to know if the leather has been tanned properly is to check in the middle where the edge is, if it is either white or blue, it means that it hasn’t been dyed-through properly and it will most likely not last you long. But nowadays some companies use these cheap leathers badly tanned anyway and paint the edges to hide this. (beware, some other companies paint or wax the edges for aesthetic reasons even though they are using good quality leathers)
When giving colour to the leather, almost 95% of the leathers worldwide are done using chrome and other hazardous chemicals that are very harmful for the environment and in some cases, even toxic for yourself (chrome tanning can be okay so long as it complies with EU regulations).
Vegetable tanned leathers are those where the leather is given its colours by using organic materials such as oils and tree barks. They can take up to 30 days to be treated and are generally done by hand. Unlike the mass produced chrome leathers, vegetable tanned leathers are kinder to the environment than the normal chrome leathers and are also non-toxic for personal use.
At Harber London, we leave our edges unfinished and unpainted so that you can always see for yourself that our leathers have been dyed-through properly, for us is a sounded quality statement, we are not hiding anything.
This is why in Harber we only use full-grain vegetable tanned leathers, because they’re better, they will last you longer, they’re kinder to the environment, and non-toxic for your personal use.