Purchasing quality leather goods is a distinctive experience. They not only carry our treasured belongings. Over the years each piece ages alongside its owner, ever-changing whilst still holding nostalgic sentiment. Whether it be a bag, wallet or journal, leather products are a timeless investment. Bought as a gift or accessory for oneself, the act of purchasing leather signifies a celebration.
YOUR GUIDE TO BUYING LEATHER
But before deciding upon your perfect piece, it’s important to consider every aspect of this luxury item. From the hide to the lining, each feature contributes to a piece’s quality and durability. Below you’ll find the key details to remember when buying the best leather goods.
THE QUALITY OF LEATHER
Grain, skin and tanning - what to consider when shopping for leather
When it comes to investing in leather, the first consideration is the quality of the main material. Below are three things to look out for.
1) LEATHER GRAINS
When looking to purchase real leather goods, you might be surprised to find that many producers use a lower quality grade known as genuine or premium leather. This may sound like the best option but is in fact the opposite. The other name for genuine leather is corrected-grain leather, as it is sanded down to remove inconsistencies, often resulting in a thinner, weaker material.
Top-grain leather is often used for mid-range products. Sanding or buffing away the outermost layer of the hide gives it a more uniform look and leaves a more workable finish. However this can mean it doesn’t produce a natural patina over time and is less durable than the highest grade.
Full-grain leather should always be your first choice. A thicker, heavier texture preserves the hide’s natural grain, celebrating the marks and variations that make every piece unique. Its quality is the best your money can buy and unlike any other leather, it only gets better with age.
2) TYPES OF LEATHER
Leather can be produced from any animal skin, but today the most common comes from cattle which makes up over 60% of the world’s leather goods. To many people leather is just leather with no thought to where it comes from, but the truth is that it’s vital to use leather made from other animal hides and skins leftover from the food industry, otherwise they are simply destroyed.
Each type of leather has unique characteristics and benefits, but a particularly special option is goat leather, a soft, strong material that is matched with long-lasting resilience. It’s both supple and strong, which makes it a brilliant material for leather craftsmen who transform it into rugs, bags and wearable goods. Due to goat leather’s distinctive natural grain, no hide is the same. At Billy Tannery, we enhance each piece’s individual inconsistencies resulting in completely bespoke British made goods.
3) THE TANNING PROCESS
Before leather can be turned into first-rate products, it must go through a complex tanning process. The most common of which is chrome tanning, a quicker industrial solution for mass-produced products. Chrome tanning uses an inorganic chemical solution created from metal salts to tan hides into leather.
Vegetable tanning is a more natural, traditional process. Hides are soaked in a solution made from organic tannins found in bark or other vegetable matter and produce a distinctive and robust leather. As one of the only tanneries in the UK to produce vegetable-tanned leather, we create distinctive goatskin products that age to perfection.
THE FINISHING TOUCHES
Don’t forget the craftsmanship of fittings and fastenings
Leather isn’t the only material that contributes to a premium product. Every piece will include various fittings or fastenings that will impact its longevity. Sturdy details are the difference between a product that lasts decades and one that loses its shine.
Cheap buckles and rings scratch with use, making even the most expensive leather item look low quality. It’s therefore vital to look for heavy-duty fittings that will ensure your piece grows old gracefully.
All Billy Tannery products are made using solid fittings that won’t mark or come loose over time. Thick stitching seals our leather with strong British cotton lining whilst edges are coated to strengthen against moisture. A last layer of protection is then added with a delicate finishing wax.
A RESPONSIBILITY TO BE SUSTAINABLE
Conscious leather production - how to shop sustainably
We must each play our part in reducing our environmental impact. Leather has been used for thousands of years in clothing and furnishings yet its mass production is no longer sustainable. Instead of being locally sourced, most leather circles the globe leaving a huge carbon footprint. Thankfully locally made leather products are a sustainable alternative.
Billy Tannery is revolutionising the UK leather industry. After discovering that thousands of goatskins were discarded each year, our founders began turning wasted food by-products into natural goat leather goods. This beautiful bark-tanned material has reignited British leather making, supporting local businesses and producers.
Each step of our leather making process is as green as can be, from our microtannery that recycles 90% of water to our refillable paper made from recycled leather scraps. Find out more about our sustainable practices at Billy Tannery.
When it comes to purchasing premium leather goods, remember to look out for:
- Full-grain leather to ensure maximum durability
- Strong, solid fittings and fastenings
- Sustainable craftsmanship using local produce
- Vegetable-tanned leather for timeless age and beauty
Ready to shop? From backpacks to card holders, take a look at our most popular high-quality leather products here.