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Debunking the most common myths surrounding leather…

Leather is a material that is valued for both its quality and timeless style. However, despite its popularity, leather is surrounded by a number of myths and misunderstandings. These range from ethical concerns, to the lifespan and versatility of the material. So we’ve decided to debunk three of the most common myths surrounding the leather industry.

 

Myth 1: “Faux/vegan leather is more sustainable than genuine leather!”

Debunked:

Faux leather is a synthetic material made from a Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), or Polyurethane (PU) coating applied to a composite leather or fabric backing. As Faux Leather often doesn’t use any animal components in its production there is a perception that it can be better for the environment – but is this true?

 

Biodegradability:

Natural, unprocessed animal hides are biodegradable and naturally decompose in a fraction of  time. This cannot be said about the Faux Leather alternative as it can take hundreds of years for the plastic in the material to decompose, this ultimately emits harmful gases which impact animals and human health too.

Real leather is biodegradable. In natural environments, microbes and other organisms break down leather over time, returning it to organic matter. However, in certain conditions, such as those found in landfills where oxygen and microbial activity are limited, leather degradation may be slower.

Faux leather, when made from materials like polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is not biodegradable in the same way as natural leather. While some newer formulations of faux leather may incorporate more environmentally friendly materials or additives to enhance biodegradability, the majority of faux leather products on the market today do not biodegrade easily.

By-product:

It is an urban myth that animals are on the whole killed for their skins. Leather is actually a by-product of the meat industry. The hides from animals killed for their meat represent less than 4% of the overall value of the animal. Studies show that the leather industry converts around 7.3 million tons of hide a year which would otherwise end up in landfill.

Durability:

Finally, when it comes to longevity, genuine leather undoubtedly takes the lead. The natural strength of the fibers in leather provide a natural resilience to tearing, Generally, full-grain leather, which retains the outer layer of the hide, is considered the most durable and long-lasting type of leather. With proper care and maintenance, leather products such as bags, shoes, jackets, and furniture can remain in good condition for many years, often developing a desirable patina that enhances their appearance.

So in actual fact, when everything has been considered real leather is actually better for the environment than its Faux counterpart.

But don’t just take our word for it, Tanja Hester, an environmental activist, writer, and the author of Wallet Activism says that the idea of vegan leather is just greenwashing. “It’s truly just plastic, which is rarely recycled and in vegan leather form it’s impossible to recycle – there’s essentially no sustainable vegan leather,” she says.

 

Myth 2: “All types of genuine leather are the same!”

Debunked:

A common myth is that all genuine leather is the same, which is in fact far from the truth. To begin with leather is split into three section, Full grain, Split layer and Flesh layer.

 

The Full Grain layer:

Full-grain leather is considered the highest quality and most premium type of leather available. It is made from the top layer of the animal hide, where the natural grain and fibers are the densest and most intact. This layer has not been altered or sanded down, so it retains the natural markings, imperfections, and character of the animal’s skin, such as wrinkles, scars, and insect bites. These characteristics give full-grain leather a unique and authentic appearance.

The Split layer:

The split layer of the hide, also known as the corium layer or simply “split,” is one of the main layers of leather located beneath the grain layer. It is obtained by splitting the hide horizontally into two or more layers during the leather-making process.

The split layer is composed of densely packed collagen fibers and is typically less dense and less durable than the grain layer. It lacks the natural grain pattern found on the surface of full-grain leather and may have a more uniform appearance. The split layer is often used to create various types of leather products, but it is generally considered to be of lower quality compared to full-grain or top grain leather.

The Flesh Layer:

The flesh layer, also known as the flesh side or flesh split, is the innermost layer of the animal hide, located closest to the animal’s flesh. It consists of loose collagen fibers and adipose tissue and is typically softer and less dense than the outer layers of the hide.

During the leather-making process, the flesh layer is often removed or trimmed away, especially for higher-quality leather production. This is because the flesh layer lacks the strength, durability, and desirable characteristics found in the grain layer and split layer of the hide.

However, the flesh layer can still have some utility in certain applications. For example, it may be used to create suede leather, which is characterized by its soft, napped surface. Suede is created by buffing or sanding the flesh side of the leather to produce a velvety texture. While suede may not be as durable as full-grain or top-grain leather, it is valued for its luxurious feel and aesthetic appeal.

 

Myth 3: “Marked leather means its damaged!”

Debunked:

If leather hides show natural markings it’s not damaged – in fact quite the opposite. Unique and individual markings on hides give the leather a unique identity and character which only enhances its natural beauty.

It is sometimes said that the history of the animal can be visible in its hide, giving the skin a rich past.

Marks and Scars:

Some of the natural characteristics seen in hides are as follows:

  • Veins
  • Scratches
  • Insect bites
  • Fat wrinkles
  • Stretch marks

It’s key to understand that no two hides are the same and all of these natural marks on the hide can create a unique look that can actually add to the aesthetic appeal of the leather.

Aniline leather is famous for its unaltered natural appearance, which highlights the hide’s origins. If you notice marks or scaring on your leather, it certainly doesn’t indicate any sign of damage or faults.

 

Now that you have gained a clear understanding of the common myths surrounding leather, you can fully appreciate and embrace this remarkable material for its versatility, durability, and timeless appeal. With this knowledge, you can confidently make informed decisions, knowing that leather is a sustainable and long-lasting choice of material.