So, you’re in the market for a new leather bag and your head’s swirling with terms you’ve heard like ‘genuine’, ‘vegan’, ‘faux’ and ‘bonded’. No wonder you’re confused, it’s a minefield out there!
Let me break it down so you can make an informed decision.
Leather essentially falls into 2 categories:
- Real Leather
- Faux Leather
Real Leather comes from an animal and faux leather is an alternative to leather in the same way that almond milk is an alternative to cow's milk. But of course, it’s not that simple...
There are 5 grades of Real Leather:
- Full Grain Leather
- Top Grain Leather
- Genuine Leather (Corrected Leather)
- Split Grain Leather
- Bonded Leather
Full Grain and Top Grain Leather
These leathers are the highest quality. The least amount of interference has been used in their manufacturing, hence making them the strongest and most durable, and also the most natural in appearance (showcasing natural markings).
Genuine and Split Grain Leather
These leathers have been ‘corrected’ using sanding, buffing or shaving, and additional colour or pattern treatments are used to make them look completely uniform.
Researching for this blog has actually made me realise I’m selling Workbelt leathers short...I’ve been calling my bags and aprons Genuine Leather when in fact it is only the Classic Black that falls into this grade...Workbelt’s Italian Malt, Vintage Tan and Midnight Blue are all Full Grain and the highest quality leather available.
This leather is made of the scraps left over...think of it as the lips and arseholes that go into making your Maccas chicken nuggies. It technically qualifies as real leather but it is bonded together using artificial materials so it’s really closer to faux leather. Something positive that can be said for bonded leather is it reduces the waste of scraps and can incorporate recycled hides.
Faux leather is an umbrella term for alternatives to leather and is also referred to as fake leather and vegan leather. The majority of faux leathers are artificial and made from plastic based materials.
There are some natural faux leathers that are emerging but we still have a long way to go in this field and they are not available in the mainstream. Hopefully, we’ll see future development of natural alternatives including cork, mushroom, kelp, cactus, and even pineapple leaves. And when this happens, Workbelt will definitely be on board!
When you’re choosing a leather bag, you will most likely be influenced by:
- Durability; and
If you’re influenced by price alone, chances are you’ll choose a faux leather bag that is made offshore and you’ll replace it next season. But…it may be worth considering that buying several cheap bags over a few years may not work out cheaper than investing in one good one.
The better quality the leather, the more natural your bag will look, proudly displaying scars, wrinkles and other marks that pay homage to the life of the animal. Lower quality leathers and artificial faux leathers have a few tricks up their sleeves and when brand new, will appear far more uniform. If you like a more uniform look but you would rather a natural product, Genuine Leather is a happy medium.
The biggest flaw of faux leather and the lower grades of real leather lies in durability. Synthetic materials wear and tear rapidly, and are left to reveal bare, unbreathable fabric and patches of plastic. This is where high quality real leather far surparses cheap alternatives.
Full Grain, Top Grain and Genuine Leather are the most durable. Leather has incredible lasting properties, breathability and strength. It is, however, very important to treat your leather beauty with the respect it deserves...avoiding water and direct sunlight, and using a good leather conditioner. Check out my 100% Natural Leather Conditioner.
The trend towards Slow Fashion recognises the impact the fashion industry has on the planet.
Some people opt for faux leather because it is not an animal product. I can appreciate this. The problem is the most common faux leathers are PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and PU (polyurethane). They are plastics. Even these names indicate that they’re not exactly ‘natural’ so it’s a bit cheeky that marketers are promoting these as vegan and eco friendly. Plastic is made from finite natural resources like crude oil and natural gas, which rules them out as being sustainable. Worse still, synthetic leathers don’t fully biodegrade and they release harmful chemicals that affect humans, animals and the environment.
Leather is natural; it’s recyclable; it’s durable; and it reduces waste. It is a by-product of the meat industry and while the world continues to eat meat, I know I’d rather see those precious hides turned into leather than being disposed of. It is, however, important to source leather from reputable farmers and manufacturers.
How does this translate to Workbelt leathers?
Here at Workbelt, I have worked hard to source the highest quality leather from a reputable family-owned Australian business who comply with strict environmental and ethical codes. All Workbelt leathers are real leather from the hide of cows. The Italian Malt, Vintage Tan and Midnight Blue are Full Grain (best quality) and The Classic Black is Genuine.
Here are my tips:
- If you are choosing faux leather, make sure you choose a natural product
- Always choose Slow Fashion over Fast Fashion; and
- If you’re into sustainability, choose real leather (full grain, top grain or genuine leather) as it is natural, reduces waste and will far out live faux leather products.