The use of leather is a key component in "VVA by Sarah Haran" handcrafted handbags and we make sure that we use the finest high quality leathers that will age beautifully and provide you with a hard wearing handbag. We thought it might be useful to explain a little bit more our leather, the tanning process and the leathers that we use in our handbags.
All leather has to come from animal skins and we only purchase leathers that come from leather manufacturers who are ethically focused. This means all the leathers we use are bi products of the meat industry i.e farming of the meat for food is the priority and the skin is of secondary importance. On that basis we feel great about taking a bi product and turning it into a beautiful hand crafted handbag that our customers will use for years and years.
All the tanneries where our leather is purchased conform to European standards regardless of tanning origin.
How Leather is Made:
To start with we will take you right back to the basics of how leather is made. The chemical process that animal skins go through is known as tanning. The process takes approximately six weeks and includes up to 120 steps including- curing, preserving, soaking and de-hairing the raw skins, cleaning the flesh side by soaking in a salty solution, then removal of excess moisture, then splitting, shaving, dyeing, drying again, conditioning, buffing, finishing, and finally the measuring and grading the skin ready for sale.
In terms of the finishing process a wide variety of finishes are applied with the aim of enhancing the natural beauty of the leather.
The most common finishes include:
- Aniline – rather like staining wood the finish allows the natural grain to shine through.
- Pigmenting - like painting, this technique covers the natural surface of the skin.
- Nubuck - the top or grain side of the leather which has been buffed with a fine sand paper to give it a velvety appearance
Other finishes include patent, metallic, oily, waxy, and suede.
Types of Leather
So now you understand a bit more about how the leather is made you need to understand about the different types of leather. Animal hides have natural markings or flaws which are a guarantee that the leather is genuine. When the leather has been cleaned and treated as described above it will be split in half:
- Top Grain - The outside layer and the best and strongest section which shows the natural leather surface, often referred to as full grain.
- Split Leather - The inside section of a hide, it does not have the durability of top grain and is usually less expensive.
VVA craft our handbags in both top grain and split leather, though top grain is always our first choice.
Types of Leather Produced
Hide - A heavy leather tanned from cow hide. Often used in shoes and industrial footwear.
Calf - Leather from a small bovine animal. Fairly thin, high quality leather with a fine grain appearance: light weight and supple for better class shoes. Many of our Ivy and Willows are made using this superior leather. Often it is printed on so that you have exotic animal finishes - leopard, zebra or cheetah or designs such as those seen on our Willow and Ivys.
Kid - Young goat leather from the skin of a young goat. Fine grain, firm texture and elegant appearance. Often used in glove making and a little fine for our current range of handbags.
Kangaroo - Soft, light and strong: very durable and flexible. We have used this in both Ivys and Willows and sometimes when we want to create fur inserts in our handbags.
Pig - Shows the grain of strong pig bristles and we use this for our lovely interiors in pink and trim with the colour leather of the outside handbag. Pig skin can also be treated so that it has a patent finish or exotic skin finishes.
Hair on Cow - The furry part of the cow is left on the skin and often it is dyed a plain colour or a design like an exotic animal is printed onto the hair - leopard, zebra or cheetah for instance.
Fox Fur - used in our pompoms and handwarmers. Sourced from an ethical farm in Finland which has strong legislation around farming for fur.
Leather Sizes and Storage:
Typically our leathers are purchased as full hides. VVA use Lamb, Pig, Calf and Cow hide with hair on or off. To give you some perspective of the sizes of the leather that we deal with we've outlined the sizes of the skins as follows:
Lamb – Average 9 Ft
Pig – Average 15 ft
Cow – 50 ft
Once we receive the leather we hang it up on rails or roll up and store on leather shelves. We keep our store clean, dry and free of humidity to ensure that the skins remain in tip top condition until we are ready to turn them into our lovely hand crafted handbags.