Which type of leather to use in your newly designed purses for women.Which type of leather to use in your purses for women?

In today’s market, a leather purse for women that’s “trendy” is rarely seen very positively. In fact, this characteristic is defined by a specific combination of one or more bells and whistles the bag possesses.

This, in turn, spurs “inspirations” (if not imitations) from hordes of other luxury handbag brands joining in on the bandwagon for profit. You know the ones I’m talking about. Like the oversized padlock of the Chloe Paddington, the sequins of the Fendi Baguette, the chunky chain of the Bottega Veneta Casette or the <5 inch size of the Jacquemus. Other than pure vanity, these features rarely serve any other function in these leather purses for women. In fact, in some cases (ahem…the painfully weighty Paddington…) these ornaments actually serve as hindrances to its users, who are even known to complain about shoulder or backaches!

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But most luxury handbag brands playing around with the trendy pieces lose appeal fast by subsequent seasons. Fashion houses that focus on “classic” pieces, however, remain relevant for much, much longer. In fact, the current market is dominated by “classic” leather purses for women. The Hermès Birkin has been in existence since 1984. The Kelly began its journey in the 1940s, and the famous Chanel Flap was launched in February 1955. Besides these ultra-luxe brands, there are others too. These include the Prada Galleria, the Givenchy Antigona, the Louis Vuitton Epi line, the Lady Dior, and the Saint Laurent Sac de Jour. All of them continue to thrive in this competitive market for more than a decade. So what do the leather purses for women from these luxury handbag brands have that the “trendy” pieces don’t?

Actually, if you take a while to search up or even look and feel these leather purses for women in person. You’d understand immediately. It’s their focus on the type of leather which distinguishes them. The Fendi Baguette, for example, makes use of beads and sequins, and canvas. However, the manufacturers of the classic leather purses for women feature various textures within the leather itself. They create distinctive, unique, and luxurious forms that can never be achieved on another medium. Clearly, it is these leather purses for women that have the potential to remain wardrobe staples in a market of fleeting trends and momentary “It” bags.

But when fashion brands are about to embark on a journey to make a leather purses for women on their own. They are likely to be met with a dizzying number of options. This is because even luxury handbag brands rarely follow a consistent naming pattern for the various forms they design. Not even in the types of leather they use. Hence, this guide serves as a useful starting point for designer brands who want to market leather bags for end-users, manufacturers, and new entrepreneurs of leather purses for women on the types of leather and its forms they might use for crafting.

The figure above shows an overview of some major properties of leather. Tanned from skins of different animals. Based on what kind of look and feel you want in your bag. Use the above visual to decide which leather you want for your bag. Further details on the properties of different animal skin leather is given below:

  • Cowhide: Considered the “regular” type of leather, this is generally from older cattle, regardless of gender (hence, can be either bull or cow). The hair pores on a cow remain constant throughout its lifestyle. So the pores get stretched, they are less dense and there are more imperfections on the hide owing to the animal’s long lifespan.
  • Calfskin: Although from the same animal, the age of the animal has a huge effect on the nature of the leather itself. So calfskin has smaller and more dense pores and is generally uniform and blemish-free. It also has greater tensile strength than cowhide. Calfskin also tends to be more expensive since the average calf hide is almost half the size of adult cattle
  • Goatskin: softer, lighter, more flexible, and also water-resistant in comparison to cowhide. Goatskin has a distinctive tight grain structure, although it also tends to be cheaper and less strong than cowhide. It’s also known as Moroccan leather. While most French high-fashion luxury handbag brands like Hermès and Balenciaga call it Chevre.
  • Lambskin: Much much softer than calfskin, it’s also a lot more delicate and lightweight. This means that it’s only used in ultra-expensive, covetable handbags like the Lady Dior and Proenza Schouler PS1. Or in leather garments and accessories. It goes by the name of Agneau under Balenciaga.
  • Sheepskin: Like the difference between calfskin and cowhide, sheepskin comes from mature ovines. This leads to more textured grain on sheepskin compared to lambskin. However, it’s still a lot finer than most cowhides and goatskins, although needs a little more care for durability.
  • Pigskin: It has a higher density and a similar texture to cowhide. Pigskin is durable, resilient, water-resistant, and lightweight, all at the same time! But its collection of desirable qualities tends to make it expensive too. No doubt leather purses for women made of pigskin in the market are very few. With only selected luxury handbag brands like Gucci having worked with the material.
  • Exotics: There is no argument that the most expensive types of leather out there are exotics. Exotics include skins from various animals like crocodiles, alligators, pythons, lizards, ostriches and more, and prices of its products can often exceed $100,000.
  • Deerskin: Ultra-soft, supple, lightweight, durable, spongy, and yet, highly durable. Deerskin is one of the only types of leather that can get wet and still dry soft, over and over again! It’s also a lot more comfortable than cowhide, and hence is a favorite of luxury handbag brands like Prada.

These were the types of animals from which leather is obtained. So for starters, it’s a great way to choose handbags from the type of leather that would suit their lifestyle best. However, you can actually find a plethora of forms and finishes on a single type of leather (calfskin or cowhide, for example). That can change the feel and alter the characteristics of leather altogether. This provides buyers with an expansive (albeit delightful) dilemma. In fact, sometimes even luxury handbag brands are not acquainted with the names and terminologies of these forms. This guide attempts to break down some of the most common finishes in a way that makes deciding between these easier.

So here it is, a starter’s manual to leather forms and finishes:

  • Pebbled Leather: One of the most popular leather finishes on the market. Preferred by both designers and manufacturers alike. The pebbled leather is tooled to give a slight bumpy elephant skin appearance. This gives an extremely high-end feel to the leather itself. It also gives a luxurious soft slouch to the leather purse for women that exudes elegance.
  • Saffiano: It derives its name from the cross-hatch pattern on the wax that was used to coat leather. Saffiano is durable, structured, and water-resistant. Pioneered by Prada for its Galleria range, it is now a staple in lineups of brands like Coach, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, and Tory Burch as well. A similar finish is Palmetto. This features a slightly different but larger pattern. Its characteristics remain similar to Saffiano though.
different type of leather
  • Shiny Calfskin/Box Calf: Made from the highest grades of certain types of leathers like calfskin. The smooth and shiny appearance of the box calf (as named by Hermès) is undoubtedly one of the most elegant. It develops a beautiful patina over time and any scratches can be buffed and smoothened. However, it is prone to watermarks, so it is not advisable in the rainy season.
  • Patented Leather: A layer of leather coated with vinyl or lacquer. Patent leather is the dressiest option there is. In fact, hues tend to get over-saturated on patented leather. The resulting handbags are almost always bright, cheerful, and glamorous. The patent treatment might also be done on an already embossed, crinkled, textured leather, bringing about an even bolder look. Its downside though is that the leather does not remain breathable. But it still remains absorbent. So unfortunate color transfers might occur.
  • Exotic-embossed: Crocodile, snakeskin, lizard, or ostrich, embossed patterns of most exotics are available on calfskin. In fact, they’re highly popular choices for product designers searching the “look for less”. On the other hand, luxury handbag brands, like Saint Laurent and Givenchy, who are looking to preserve rare animals and adopt sustainable skins also tend to favor embossed designs rather than use the actual exotics.
  • Suede/Nubuck: Suede is the soft underside of the leather. Whereas nubuck is the sanded, or “snuffed”, grain side of the leather, that is extremely soft and fuzzy to the touch. Mostly made from split leathers, they instantly provide a warm, cozy, fall spirit to any look and are available in almost every designer’s lineup!
Hermes Birkin bag. PC: Pinterest
  • Hermès Leathers: Most luxury handbag brands keep their choice of materials to a set range. Hermès, however, has indeed pioneered the art of leather-crafting. Its current range features over 30 different types of leathers and finishes. If one includes their discontinued or vintage models, that figure is likely to go over a 100! Their most expensive ranges are undoubtedly exotic (which go well over $100,000). Their starting ranges, priced just over $10,000, feature more variations of the basic leather. Some of the most popular iterations include Barenia, the OG saddle leather, Chevre Coromandel, a refined grain goatskin, Clemence, a slouchy, durable bull-calf, Epsom, where the grain is embossed, giving Saffiano-like characteristics, and Togo, which is made from baby calf and hence, is lighter.

So that concludes our extensive, although by no means exhaustive, rundown of the popular type of leathers, forms, and finishes used by luxury handbag brands. If you’re interested to learn further about the handbag world, don’t hesitate to drop an email at imtiaz@osfelle.com  or click the button below.


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