The Legend of Leather: Real or Really Unreal?

For many people leather must always look the same. One demand that unfortunately does not reflect true quality. This is because the leather industry simply laminates its leather with a plastic film and in this artificial process creates that typical, even leather look. It might sound absurd, but even this plastic laminated material may be called “genuine leather“. By leather one expects skins and hides whose fibrous structure has not been altered. By using a splitting technique one is able to obtain many layers of leather from one single hide. The deepest layer is known as split leather which is used mainly for belts. The layer above this is known as upper leather or full-grain cowhide. Because of it’s durability and smoothness it is often used in the clothing, furniture and automobile industries. We use exclusively full-grain cowhide that has been purely vegetable tanned. Split leather has no place at Pack & Smooch.

How Do I Know if it is Really Genuine Leather?

laminated leather of mass production the myth of leather
laminated leather of mass production

When one examines industrially manufactured leather very closely, on the edge of theleather for example, it is possible to see a cross section of the different layers which the leather is made up of. Usually one can see a backing layer (in the best case this is made of split leather). In the clothing industry, such areas are usually covered with a plastic layer and concealed. By the way, insect bites or small scars that come from an injury or a scuffle are not quality defects, but rather an expression of the individuality of leather – a real piece of nature.

The Leather Industry Often uses Poisonous Chromium Salts in the Tanning Process

Our leather is one of the best materials available on the international market. The particularly gentle vegetable tanning process it undergoes makes it so distinctive. This particular treatment of leather takes much longer than conventional, industrial tanning methods where mostly chromium III salts are used. They create a permanent bond with the proteins (collagen) found naturally in skin. Thereby transforming the raw, perishable skin into a new, preserved and tough fibre – leather. The leather industry can, more quickly and more efficiently, tan leather. However, this is often at the expense of the environment and health – in the producing and in the wearing. Because, under certain conditions chromium (III) can transform into the very dangerous chromium (VI). If this salt penetrates the skin (for example through a wound) it can cause a contact allergy. In addition, it is also classed as carcinogenic. Furthermore, chromium (VI) can also be present as an impurity in already used tanning salts. Approximately 85% of the world’s production processes for shoes, upholstered furniture and clothing use leather that has been chrome tanned. A legal limit of chromate in everyday clothing does not yet exist. There is only an EU standard for leather work gloves. This standard stipulates that the levels of chromate in leather may not exceed the detection level of 3 mg/kg.

We recommend the following link to a ZDF documentary: ZDF-Reportage (availabe only in German)

Unfortunately, the labelling of genuine leather is not explicit enough. Often in Germany the following phrases are used (in their German equivalents) next to the leather symbol on a hide: „genuine“, „real“ or „pure leather“. The search to find independent quality marks is often futile. Furthermore, they don’t really serve to guide the consumer as a continuous check of whether the production guidelines are being followed is practically impossible. In China for example, one of the most significant international exporters of leather, countless small tanneries supply one big manufacturer. This then assembles shoes or gloves from the different pieces of leather. Our products are without a doubt more expensive than those which are conventionally and industrially manufactured . This is due to the excellence of our raw materials and workmanship. This pays off! Because at the end of the day it is only quality that counts.

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