Our Guide To Leather
The leather used for our premium sofas and armchairs is 100% Italian natural full grain Aniline leather.
In this blog we’ll take a look at the most common type of leather available on the market, different leather grades and explain why Aniline leather really is the bees knees.
Full grain aniline leather swatches from the Auburn Fox showroom, Thrapston, Northamptonshire.
Leather is Leather, Right?
Not all leathers were created equal, some leather types have been processed so much that they hardly resemble the hide they started as. Others like bonded leather aren’t really leather at all! To make things even more difficult for us non-ranchers and cattle rustlers, the terminology used to describe leather types is really misleading. When you’re making an important and expensive investment like a sofa it pays off to invest in a quality piece made from the right leather type for your needs. More about types of leather later.
The language used to name each grade is also super misleading. A common misconception is the term ‘Genuine Leather’. We’ve all seen products with genuine leather stamped onto them, we see them and we think great it’s not faux leather, it’s genuine, it’s real. Whilst genuine leather is real leather this isn’t actually what the term ‘Genuine Leather’ is referring to.
A cows hide is thick and so it is cut into 3 different leather grades using the various layers of the hide. If something is described as ‘genuine leather’ it’s actually referring to its grade not if it’s real or fake. ‘Genuine leather’ is actually the least desirable leather grade. I know, confusing. Here’s the three different leather grades and the layer of hide they’re taken from.
This is the lowest possible grade of leather. You’ll find it on items such as shoes, belts and cheaper furniture. It isn’t as thick or hardwearing and is what’s left once the top layers of the hide are stripped.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the ‘top’ must mean the highest... it’s actually the middle grade. I said it was misleading. It’s a corrected grain made by taking the full grain and sanding back the imperfections. It’s used by designer brands for wallets, purses and other higher priced leather items. It doesn’t age well and wears out over time.
This is the leather we use and it’s the whole grain of the hide including any imperfections from the surface. It’s the full thickness of the grain and the highest grade that there is. It is the most durable and hardwearing and you’ll likely have it for your entire life. It only gets more beautiful with age as it will develop a beautiful rich patina.
This is the next thing you need to consider when making your purchase. Not all leather types will be appropriate for your lifestyle and it’s important to consider how your piece will be used before committing to purchase.
We won’t spend much time here and our advice is that you shouldn’t either. Bonded leather is a mix of leather dust and remnants mixed with vinyl bonded together and embossed to create a leather looking material. It’s only called leather because it contains around 10-20% leather scraps, a bit misleading in our opinion. It’s not very hard wearing and will last about as long as... oh it’s already cracked. You get the picture.
A flawed hide, sanded down and finished with synthetic materials.
Corrected grain leathers are the most widely used type of leather around the world. They’re called corrected grain because the leather has been altered in a way that changes it’s appearance from the original hide. The leather is subjected to varying degrees of sanding and buffing to remove the original surface imperfections of the hide. The hide is then embossed in an artificial grain and finished with a pigmented top coat to create a uniformed finish hiding any imperfections.
The good thing about this type of leather is it reduces wastage by still allowing heavily scarred and disfigured hides to be used. Another advantage is that the top coat makes it more resistant to damage however it is often less breathable and less supple than uncorrected grains. In the short term it is more stain resistant and can be the best choice for busy households but ultimately it is not as hard wearing and will look old and worn over time.
A close up image of the Aniline Leather on our sofas in the showroom.
So what is Aniline leather?
Aniline leather has an uncorrected grain coloured only with soluble aniline dyes. Simply put, it is the finest natural leather available and the most sought after leather type. It’s often reserved for use exclusively on luxury goods because it’s rarer to find a hide of high enough quality to use with aniline dyes, the finish is softer and more luxurious which is why it commands a higher price.
The hides with very little scarring and imperfections compared to others are the only ones used for this method. As the grain is uncorrected, the leather will still bear the markings of the original hide with scars and mottling visible on the leathers smooth surface, this can be seen in the image above. Aniline leather is softer and the most natural looking leather available as each piece tells its own story, is completely unique and full of character.
Like every person, every hide is different.
Our leather is completely natural and no two pieces will ever be the same. The texture and colour will vary from piece to piece and between batches as each hide will absorb the dyes differently. If you are ordering more than one piece and require a very near colour match then we can request that your order is manufactured from the same batch of leather.
An example of how the shade can vary between batches.
Aniline leather has a wonderful appearance, texture and warmth due to its lack of processing, however this does mean that it is more susceptible to damage. If you have young children or pets then it’s worth considering if aniline leather would be suitable for you. It’s certainly the most durable and long lasting however it does mark a lot easier.
If you’d like to know more about any of the sofas and armchairs we offer at Auburn Fox then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re always happy to answer any questions that you have and the most important thing of all, we’ll never sell you something that we know not to be suitable for your needs.
I hope this blog has been helpful and helped to dispel some of the misconceptions about leather and the terminology used by the industry. It’s by no means a comprehensive guide but is designed to give you enough basic understanding to have confidence in your purchasing decisions.