The majority of the leathers being used today from car seats to footwear are chrome-tanned leathers. These leathers can be tanned in almost any color, with a spectrum of finishes. They are also quite tolerant to higher temperatures, water and other elements seen in a factory.
Even though chrome leathers are predominately used in the footwear industry today, there are still select tanneries around the world producing vegetable-tanned hides using calf and cow. In contrast to most chrome leathers, veg-tan leather can be quite difficult in a factory setting. The leather can change throughout the process and can be tough to work with due to it's sensitivity to heat. The lighter, earthy colors are difficult to control and the article seems to absorb just about anything it encounters.
What are the advantages of veg-tan leather? Well, the leather is going to smell like the natural tannins it was impregnated with, not only for the first few weeks, but for years. The lighter colors can have a very rich look, almost a transparent attribute which creates depth. Veg leathers are strong which is why they are commonly used for belts, saddles or outsoles. If taken care of, the leather can do its job for decades. Lastly, the leather will age naturally over time, usually darkening with wear creating a unique product.
The article we are currently sampling is from an Italian tannery who has specialized in vegetable tanning for over 40 years. After speaking with the owner, it is apparent they genuinely love what they do and take pride in the vegetable tanning craft. This is a niche market not only due to the cost of the leather but the inevitable variations. In today's world of cookie cutter volume manufacturing, most inconsistencies are unwelcome.
This particular article comes in at a thicker 1.8mm to 2mm and seems to have a very strong, dense fiber structure. The articles do not have a whole lot of stretch and has the saddle leather squeak when rubbed or pushed together. The Cognac color has a classic, burnt tan hue.
So far we are very happy with the finished product and how it reacts to the everyday wear. Below are some before and after photos.
The picture above is before wear. The below photos are after a couple months of frequent wear.