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A guide to the most common leather types

SorrentoIt isn't common knowledge that the term 'leather' is actually an umbrella term for a whole host of different tanning methods. Tanning is the treating of skin and hides using tannins to produce leather, which is durable and less susceptible to decomposition, by permanently altering the skin or hide's protein structure. 

Today, we'll be looking at some of the different forms of leather, including vegetable leather, Napa & Nappa leather, along with synthetic leather.

Vegetable leather

Vegetable leather is named so because it is, perhaps unsurprisingly, tanned using tannins found in vegetable matter such as tree bark. This tanning method leaves the leather with a supple brown colour that is absolutely beautiful, though the exact shade can be manipulated by mixing it with various chemicals during the process.

Vegetable leather is extremely flexible with a soft texture, which has led to it being used in leather carving and stamping. Vegetable tanned leather is also unstable in water and tends to become discoloured, nor does it handle being boiled as it tends to become rigid, though this has its uses, did you know leather armour and book binding were created by boiling vegetable leather?

Vegetable leather has several benefits, including its high durability and natural looking colours and textures. The long production time of vegetable leather is offset by how much usage you can get from a vegetable leather handbag. These handbags will be useable for many years to come!

One example of a vegetable leather handbag that we stock at Fiore is the Sorrento flap bag by Tumble & Hide. This small messenger bag is a beautiful example of Italian handbag design, and it is the perfect size to be useful without being cumbersome.

There is also the Saddle Originals series by Tula, which is made of saddle leather (which uses the vegetable tanning process). The large cross body is particularly stunning thanks to its versatile design.

Napa & Nappa Leather

AudreyNapa leather was first discovered by Emanuel Manasse in 1875 while he was working at Sawyer Tanning Company in Napa, California. Napa is leather made from dyed kid, cow, calf or lamb hide, but has no set characteristics used in testing. When something is advertised as Napa leather, it usually means that it is made of natural grain and has a soft feel.

Nappa leather on the other hand is a term for synthetic or faux leather, which again, doesn’t have defined characteristics, but is instead used as shorthand for leather with a smooth and supple feel.

While we don’t stock any Napa handbags, we do stock the Tula Nappa range! These include the beautifully sleek Audrey cross body bag and the Nappa Originals cross body bag. Both of which are perfect due to their practicality and lightweight design.

Synthetic leather

Synthetic leather was actually invented during World War 2 when vegetable tannins were in short supply, and it has since become hugely popular. Synthetic leather is tanned using aromatic polymers such as Novolac and Neradol, and is white in colour when it is finished, though it is usually dyed.

Synthetic leather is used to create some beautifully designed handbags, such as the Madison tote by Fiorelli, which combines contemporary colours with a classic silhouette, or the Candy backpack which is compact and easy to carry.

Whichever leather type you prefer, we have a huge selection of beautiful leather handbags available online, and in store at our Abergavenny branch. For more information on any of our products, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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