- Mar 11, 2015
From bags to pants, leather is a long time favorite for fashion designers – especially here at Robert Mason Company – and for good reasons. Many of them are for the same reasons that our ancestors had for using leather.
The first sign of using leather as wearable good is a leather shoe found in Armenia from 3,500 BCE. Before that, ancient civilizations were using leather for tents, carpets, and containers for foods and liquids. There is evidence that around the 13th Century the Greeks, then Egyptians, and other European societies were creating and wearing leather garments. During the Middle Ages the Chinese were using it, and Native Americans were using it long before the settlers came over to America.
From olden times to modern times, leather has some timeless qualities.
Leather Never Dies
Fashion designers and ancestors alike use leather for many reasons. While many people love the smell of new leather, or the smooth touch of it in your hands, these are just added bonuses to owning a leather item – Robert Mason Company uses leather because it is a high quality material.
If a leather shoe can last mostly intact for over 5,500 years, then obviously leather can handle some rough spots. Think about it: leather was created from years of evolution to protect the animal from outside natural forces (like rain and snow), so it is strong enough to withstand many of these elements. Shoes, bags, and other materials will keep your items safe and sound.
Speaking of lasting forever, the style is also timeless. Not only will quality leather products lasts longer than plastic, vinyl, and other fabrics, but it looks good when passed through the generations. Leather is very flexible, thus molding to fit into your lifestyle and body, but it never wrinkles. The natural wear and tear changes with you.
Since leather is a natural resource, it is less likely for anyone to be allergic to it as some synthetic items can cause skin irritations. More importantly, while some leather does get chemically treated, it is not created by chemicals (like many other materials), so it has less impact on the environment. It’s also biodegradable.
There are many different kinds of leather, and they are separated by how the hide is treated once it’s in the creation process. Hides have many layers, mostly the surface layer and a few bottom layers, and the different types of leather come from these different parts. Robert Mason Company uses most of these for a wide variety of products and features.
Every hide is unique and has its own natural imperfections. Full-grain keeps these characteristics; the hide isn’t sanded, buffed, or corrected in any way. This keeps the material strong and durable. It also helps the leather to breathe more, making it less susceptible to moisture build-up.
This leather is sanded with a finished coat so it is more stain-resistant, but doesn’t breathe as much. It’s also a bit thinner (one less layer) which makes it more flexible, so it can be easily shaped into the garment that’s desired.
Made from the bottom layers of hides, it can be either smooth or natural, but a consistent color throughout. Suede is a type of genuine leather; good for lining and tough cloth for wear and tear.
As not to be wasteful, bonded leather is the leftover organic leather pieces. Often glued together and resurfaced, it is used for its durability. You can usually find this type on the cover of books (especially the Bibles in hotel rooms), and furniture.
Once a hide is stripped to its layers, the process of turning it from skin to leather is called tanning. Unlike the human version of tanning, leather is not what happens when a hide spends too much time in the sun. In the leather-making process, tanning is used to make raw hides more flexible and durable – so the product lasts a lifetime.
When raw hides get wet they can dry out and become hardened – and even rot if they get wet again. Tanned hides are flexible and can be re-wetted many times. Basically through different chemicals, the pH is balanced correctly so that there’s more stability and temperature resistance.
Vegetable tanning uses natural ingredients found in vegetable matter; bark, leaves, fruits, and roots. These tannins, along with the color of the skin, create a brown coloring. It’s the best form of leather for any kind of carving or stamping, as it becomes more flexible and water-resistant.
Oil tanning is similar to vegetable tanning. Once the skins are unhaired, degreased, soaked, and laid dried, all kinds of oils (depending on the company, the chemicals will be different) are rubbed on to make the leather more durable and flexible.
Leather Say Leather
Robert Mason is just one of the fashion designers who use leather because it’s one of the highest quality materials. We draw from the long-established practices to make products that will be as timeless as the inspiring designs we create.