Let’s Talk about Our Leather: Why it’s Luxurious, Prestigious, and Highly Desirable

We have briefly touched upon our leather before and what makes our leather so unique and special amongst other companies and brands. We covered the basics on which leather is used in our collections, however we want to go over what truly makes this leather not only fashionable but so highly luxurious, desirable, and prestigious. In order to create luxurious bondage gear, we have to use materials that look and feel amazing. Our leather is hand selected and precisely picked from elusive and rich tanneries in Italy. We truly believe that in order to have luxurious leather in our products, they must come from the best.

The Beginning

Turning animal hides into leather is something that has been going on for thousands of years, and the exact process is still being practiced to this very day. Our ancestors first utilized the process roughly 5,000 years ago in Sumer (modern-day Kuwait and Iraq), where hides were soaked in Mimosa bark and leaves. Primitive leathers were formed from this process, which left people warm and provided camouflage for hunting and fishing.  

Of course, over time advancements have been made. The Babylonians and Ancient Egypt kept on with these traditions, but it wasn’t until the Romans who are responsible for being the first to regulate the industry. Throughout the years, this has allowed craftsmen of Tuscany, Italy retain their socio-cultural history, and is regarded as the leather heartland of Italy.  

Modern-day tannery contorsiums were founded by a small group of traditional Tuscan craftsmen in 1994. Though the process of making leather has been around for centuries, this particular group of worksmiths harmonized a manufacturing deposition that specifically uses the techniques and executions that artisans from centuries ago have been using. There are only 20 authentic consortiums in Italy that produce leather hides this way.

Pre-Processing: Before Tanning the Leather

The very first step to producing leather is to prep the hide for the tanning process. If the hide is not brought through these pre-processing steps at all, then it will rot and putrefy. Rotting destroys the grain, which is the most important part of the leather. If the leather rots, it is irreversible to bring them back to life again. This process stabilizes the protein in the hide and prepares it for a wide variety of end applications. To begin, any extra flesh and scraps are removed from the hide. Once this is finished, the hide is soaked in salt to purify and prevent any bacterial growth from spreading. The hides will sit for a few days re-processing while alkaline solutions cleanse the palates. 

Soaking the hides in salt and alkaline for a few days is shortly followed by a process called “liming.” The hide will sit in a pit soaked in Lime, which is a very potent chemical that burns off the hair of the hides.

Tanning: Vegetable-Tanned Leather

After the preparation stages, the hides are ready for the official tanning process. The specific and precision based technique of vegetable tanning is used to alter the protein structure of animal hides, allowing it to become leather. Tannins are used to treat the hide and they can be found in many different trees or plants. The organic substances in tannins serve three main functions: preserving, strengthening, and giving color to the skin without ruining any of the natural impurities that come from the hide. 

Now that the hides have been pre-prepped, they are placed into heavy drums filled with tannins and water. Each tannery operates differently – as there are closely guarded secrets passed down from generation to generation. However, a master tanner will curate their own blend with the tanning agents they feel will work best with the piece they are working on, bearing in mind the color, strength, and feel.

Vegetable-tanning in particular is the method that has been used since ancient times. It’s time consuming and repetitive, but the end result is what consumers thrive for the most in their leathered goods. For roughly 2-3 months, the hides are placed in and out of different drums with the tannin solutions until the solution gets progressively stronger. Ideally, you would think to just make a stronger tannin solution so this process doesn’t take so long, but tannins need to be delicately handled with care gradually or the pelt will be ruined. The tanning agents penetrate the skins and leave the hides with a distinct hue, aroma, and appearance. 

There are numerous reasons why vegetable-tanned leather is referred to as the staple piece in the leather industry. The durability and strength – if properly cared for – can last longer than a lifetime. Aside from its longevity, the tanning process also gives the leather a very faint yet sweet aroma, which also allows the colors to stay intact. Since vegetable tanning requires no synthetic coatings, the leather is allowed to “breathe,” resulting in the leather being able to absorb natural oils and moisture. Vegetable tanned leather is also very environmentally friendly. With the process of only using natural substances, it allows the leather to become biodegradable once it is on its last breath. 

Knowing the exclusiveness of vegetable tanned leather, as well as realizing how close it is to its ancient roots, adds a bit of prestige to owning something made of it. Knowing that the piece you are wearing has been painstakingly produced by expert artisans in the villages of Tuscany – who rely heavily on old techniques for centuries – is something to boast about.

Photo from: Tandy Leather

Chrome-Tanned Leather

Chrome tanning is much newer to the industry and it’s a much faster process to make it compared to vegetable-tanned leather. In fact, it’s so fast that it takes only a day to prepare the leather hides with modern machinery and technology. Since it is a highly-automated process, chrome-based leather tanning is much cheaper and popular. 

The chrome-based  technique is more common in leathered goods because of the fact that it is much quicker and convenient for consumers. The hide is taken in and processed so all of the natural imperfections such as wrinkles, lines, and pores are covered leaving a smooth and uniformed finish. The hides are dyed in chromium sulfate (hence the name “chrome-based leather), acid, and salt. This produces a light blue color once the hide is finished processing. After this, the leather is dyed whichever color is desired to lose the light-blue hue imprint.  Some consumers prefer the look of an even finish as opposed to a more rough and flawed look.

Picture from: Tandy Leather

Split Leathers: Full-Grained vs. Top-Grained

Considerably, two of the best quality leathers in the world are full-grain and top-grain. While both are sumptuous and rich, they have their differences. Full-grain leather simply means that the leather immediately enters the tanning process as soon as the hair is removed from the hide. All of the natural imperfections such as oils, wrinkles, and pores remain intact. Full-grain leather is stronger and more durable than any other in the market. Only specific animal hides can be made into full-grain leather because of the fact that it is so thick and limited on which skins can be processed this way. 

Top-grain leather is also highly desirable and intricate. This leather is named “top-grain” because the very top layer of the hide is sanded, buffed, and shaved all the way down. All of the fur and scarring from the animal is removed, which gives the finished look a refined and pristine appearance. Tanneries use this technique to strip the top surface for a variety of finishes to be applied. While this one looks more pristine with beautiful finishes, the durability is compromised just a little bit by affecting the top most layer of the skin. Because of this, the longevity of the leather can be affected due to the thickness being shaved down.

So, why does leather become split? Consortium’s do this because some hides are too difficult or too thick to handle. Therefore, tanneries will split the leather laterally into thinner and more workable layers. Another reason is to start with a fresh and new top surface – free from any marks or scars that the animal encountered when once alive. 

 Consumers have different tastes; some enjoy and appreciate the natural imperfections of leather, and some prefer a more smoother and sanded finish. While both are advantageous, full-grain leather is considerably the most expensive because of the fact that artisans must be able to handle such heavy, thick leather. Compared to “genuine leather,” full-grain and top-grain leather is much more fancied due to what the process and care entails.

Genuine Leather

None of our products are made with genuine leather, but it’s still important to know what it is and that it too has a process of its own. Genuine leather is commonly misconstrued as the best leather on the market due to its name, “Genuine Leather.” As much as that makes sense to think that, it is not true. Genuine leather is definitely the most popular, but it isn’t the most desired and luxurious type of leather.  

Genuine leather doesn’t last as long or look as nice as vegetable leather, chrome-based leather, top-grain, or full-grain leather. This is because only specific portions of the hide are used to make genuine leather; not the whole skin. The definition of “genuine” leather has changed so much over the years, to the point that it has become so broad. Initially, leather was defined as cow hide until over the years other hides such as goat, pig, and even leftover scraps became included. Nowadays, nobody knows what is really in genuine leather anymore because genuine leather isn’t 100% guaranteed to be authentic. 

The reason genuine leather is so popular is because it’s easily accessible and easier to work with since it’s weak and thin. However, it is not nearly as desired and prestigious compared to the other types of leather on the market. If you want to get your hands on a piece that has been articulated from start to finish, we don’t suggest genuine leather. Especially with the risk of it not being truly real or authentic.


Suede is a type of leather that comes from the underside of the animal, giving it a soft surface. To make suede, the underside of the animal’s hide is separated from the top. There are many different animals that can produce suede, including cow hide, sheep hide, and pig hide. Suede doesn’t take long to make either. The underbelly is taken to be sanded and buffed all the way to the base of the leather, leaving that very soft, comfortable, and smooth finish that everyone loves. 

Sheep hide is the softest and most delicate because the nap starts out super smooth before sanding anything down. It is also super lightweight and breathable to begin with. Cowhide is the roughest form of suede. It’s important to keep in mind that the older the animal, the tougher the nap of the suede will come out. Then there is also pig suede. This one isn’t usually as common, but it is tougher and thicker than regular suede.

Picture from: Tandy Leather

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