HOW ITALIAN LEATHER IS MADE
STAGE 1: Liming
- Hides are preserved by salting after slaughter.
- Natural dirt is removed by washing with water.
- The original water content is restored to 65%.
- During the liming process fats and other unnecessary natural substances are removed.
- The high pH value during this process loosens and dissolves the hair chemically.
STAGE 2: Splitting
A moving blade is used to split the leather horizontally (like a sandwich) creating 2 layers:
- The top grain /the outer part where there the hair was
- The split / the inner part.
Bovine leather cross section
Note that the fibers in the top grain are much more compact than the ones in the split.
The top grain is therefore softer, much more resistant to tearing and as a result more expensive.
STAGE 3: Tanning
- Tanning preserves leather over time avoiding decomposition.
- Tanning can be done using different tanning agents, the most common of which is chromium that produces a bluish color, hence the name ‘wet blue’ given to tanned leather.
- Especially, Italian leathers are respected worldwide for its traditional vegetable tanning process, making leather more friendly to environment and customer (vegetable tanning leather are all used for making our high-end product lines)
STAGE 4: Dyeing
- Dyeing involves immersing the leather in penetrating dyes which color all its surfaces and sections.
- Then the ‘wet blue’ dye becomes “crust”.
STAGE 5: Selection
- Leather is selected based on the presence of different natural characteristics and intended use.
- Semi Aniline
- Pull Up (Waxed)
- Suede (Nubuck)
STAGE 6: Stucco application
(only for pigmented leather)
- Leather often has a number of natural markings which require removal to ensure they are desirable to customers.
- This is done by filling or covering them with a white paste called ‘stucco’ before removing the top part of the grain.
- The upper part of the top grain is then removed using abrasive paper to smooth the surface removing most of the natural markings.
STAGE 7: Finishing
(only for pigmented leather)
- Color the basecoat with pigments to cover all defects and to create a uniform finish.
- Emboss with a hot plate or a roller to achieve the desired texture and hide any further visible natural markings.
- Apply a transparent top coat to block any transfer of color, protect the leather and confer the feel and opacity desired.
TYPES OF LEATHER
ANILINE (also known as ‘Natural’)
The surface of this leather is dyed with transparent dyes.
This effect of transparency is similar to the one observed by looking at a piece of colored wood, where the color does not cover, but enhances, the nodes and natural grain of the wood. In fact, the top grain remains natural and very visible. The aniline leather will then have some imperfections that naturally occur ensuring that each piece is unique. Leather of this type has only minimal coverage on its surface, so it is more sensitive to the effects of wear.
To maintain its natural beauty it is absolutely necessary to follow a a cleaning and protection routine from the beginning of its use.
- Natural appearance
- Excellent feel
- Natural, top grain and minor defects
- Very soft and breathable
- Visibility of natural defects
- Variations in color
- Hard to keep clean
- Poor resistance to light
- Unevenness of grain
This type of leather is covered by a slightly pigmented finishing, to make the color more uniform and hide small defects.To preserve the natural look of the leather, they are then sprayed with bright, transparent colors.
- Natural grain finish
- Pleasant feel and appearance
- Improved lightfastness compared to pure aniline leather
- More practical than aniline leather
- Visibility of major natural defects
- Slight variations in color
- Needs maintenance
This is the most widely used finishing technique consisting of a uniform surface of a basecoat of pigments and resins followed by a protective topcoat. They can be identified by their consistent color and uniformity. This type of leather is ideal for frequently used items like furniture and automotive seats especially when a ‘child friendly’ solution is required. Full refinishing is possible whenever restoration is necessary.
- Uniform color and covering
- Good coverage of defects
- Easy to maintain
- Looks less natural than aniline leather
Nubuck is actually aniline leather that has a sanded surface to give a fine, velvety surface. The look and feel of this leather are incomparable and work well for infrequent use.
- Velvety appearance and touch
- Very soft, warm and natural
- Soft and breathable
- Sensitive to stains which are difficult to remove
PULL UP (Wax &/o oil)
Fashions come and go, but waxy, oiled leather is here to stay!
‘Pull up’ was originally used to describe the effect on a type of leather known as “Timberland” after the well-known footwear producer made this type of article famous. This leather lightens when stretched, folded or “pulled up”.
- Great look and feel
- Vintage effect
- Unique streaked lightening effect when pulled or folded
- Requires regular maintenance
This leather type requires a completely different system of finishing or enhancing ‘split’ or ‘heavily buffed’ leather which maintains uniform thickness and softness. The technique consists of creating a finishing film on a continual support of release paper. An adhesive is applied to the film, then the film is pressed onto the leather. The finished leather is then removed from the release paper displaying a perfectly uniform surface.
When bycast leather is stretched, a lighter color is visible which disappears once it is not pulled.
- More resistant than ‘split’ / ‘heavily buffed’ leather
- An unnatural look and feel
- Requires protection from skin oils
QUALITY / PRICE OF LEATHER
Why is there such a difference in price between different types of leather? Price depends on the amount of natural marks visible on the leather at the time of slaughter. Hides totally free of natural markings are rare and therefore very expensive.
These are found very frequently in animals and are caused by:
- Insect bites
- Tarola (insect lava)
- Open scars
- Healed scars
- Blind grain
- Branding iron scars
WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT ITALIAN LEATHER?
It is made to last! More so than any other leather, Italian leather is extremely robust! Able to withstand the wear and tear of everyday use, most scratches or scrapes can be simply wiped away! If hardwearing is what you are looking for, make sure you look for leather products that come with a long or lifetime guarantee.
It is unique! Italian leather, in particular vegetable tanned leather, is unique! Do not mistake marks in the hides for imperfections – these are actually natural and give the leather an individual and antique look. No one item is the exact same!
It is classic fashion! Italian leather is always seen in the most prestigious fashion catwalks. It is a material that oozes sophistication and style and has, and will continue to be, an important front runner material in fashion.
It is easy to maintain! Are you fed up of constantly cleaning your handbags? With Italian leather you do not have to! Italian leather should age beautifully gaining unique looks. You can clean the leather if you prefer, but it is by no means necessary!