Leather is probably the most expensive material to use for creating different fashion articles such as shoes and bags. Leather bags are considered luxury items because the hours of labour in creating handmade leather products are also factored in the price of the finished product.
So if you are planning to purchase a handmade leather bag, you should at least know how to distinguish genuine leather from faux leather so that you will not squander your money on cheap, low-quality items. Here are the steps to take first before purchasing a leather bag.
Look for the Leather Grading
Newly harvested leather or rawhides are very thick and must undergo a splitting process to produce materials of a specific thickness suitable for the different end products. When leather is split, the top part of the leather is graded high while the bottom part of the leather may be split further and graded accordingly. Leather grades may be as follows:
- Full-grain leather. This leather grade means that the leather did not undergo splitting and is considered the most durable of the grades.
- Top-grain leather. This grade would refer to the topmost portion of the leather after the splitting process. This grade is the most sought after since it contains the distinctive features of the source animal.
- Split-grain leather. After removing the top-grain leather from the rawhide, the bottom portion of the leather may be further split according to the desired thickness. This grade of leather does not feature the distinct grains of the source animal but is still considered as leather. Examples of handmade leather products that fall under split-grain leather grade are suede bags and shoes.
If you can afford to do so, look for leather bags that have either full-grain or top-grain grades because they are more durable and water-proof.
Ask for the Leather’s Origin
Be aware that there are countries that do not have regulations when it comes to harvesting leather. You should be socially, ecologically, and environmentally responsible and ask where the leather came from and be prepared to refuse the purchase if the leather came from unscrupulous origins.
Smell the Product
You will know if you are purchasing real handmade leather products if they smell like leather. Leather has a gamey, pungent, and musky smell even if they have undergone numerous tanning, curing and colouring processes. You can easily distinguish real leather from faux or imitation leather that smells more of plastic and chemicals.
Feel the product
Feel the product to determine if it is real leather or not. If it feels like plastic but has a leathery smell, then the material might be split-grain leather that is covered with a synthetic coating to mimic the look of top-grain leather. You may choose to purchase this, but you should not pay as much as top-grain leather. If you can do so, try to bend or fold a part of the bag as much as you can since high-quality leather does not produce cracks when you bend it.
Check the Stitching
Since your main goal is to buy one of the handmade leather products, you should check to see if the stitching is handmade. Handmade stitching is far more durable than machine stitching since you can be sure that the artisan took time to ensure quality on every stitch.
You can determine if a leather bag is hand-stitched because the stitching will be visible for you to inspect while machine-sewn stitches will barely be visible in the final product. One way to check if the bag is hand-stitched is to feel the thread if it is still waxy. Artisans coat the strands with wax during the stitching process to prevent damages to the leather grain.
Knowing to differentiate between quality handmade leather products leather from cheap or faux leather will spare you from unnecessary expenses. It will reward you with a bag that you can use for generations to come.