Why 'Genuine Leather' is not what you think it is.

It’s a confusing world when it comes to leather. Some products are referred to as premium genuine leather, genuine leather, top grain leather or full grain leather. Stamped on a variety of items from jackets, belts and bags, what exactly do all those terms mean?

Leathers as we know them originate from cow hide, and since a hide can be incredibly thick, the layers are often cut or sectioned to create different grades and make different products.


What is genuine leather?

Despite the term, there is a lot of confusion around genuine leather. Unfortunately it doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is made exclusively of real leather. As referred to by Business Insider, genuine leather should be read as: “at least it’s genuine leather”, and the term refers to the lowest quality grade of real leather.

Genuine leather is a loose term as it simply means that leather is present in the product, and it may be mixed with leather scraps, artificial materials, paint and bonding agents. Genuine leather is made from what's left over when the other higher grades are split or used for pricier items.

While this grade of leather will appear acceptable on first impression, it may not be as durable and long lasting as better, higher grade leather products. If it’s an item destined for everyday use, such as a wallet, phone case or passport holder, then unfortunately it may deteriorate rapidly. The misleading name of this leather grade can also mean that it’s easy to think that it’s a better leather.

 full grain leather bag

Full-grain leather

When we’re talking about full-grain leathers, it’s a term that refers to the entire grain of the hide, and is technically the area of the hide just below the hair. The grain pattern here is incredibly tight and full-grain leather is the strongest and most durable, in addition to being one of the best in quality. Full-grain leather also carries all the natural imperfections of the material, including scars, scrapes and scratches.

Over time, this full-grain leather changes in colour as it is handled, and will develop a patina where the natural oils of the skin cause the surface to darken and become glossier with age. As it is an incredibly durable and thick leather, it’s often used for heavy duty items such as belts, work boots, briefcases and weapon holsters. Full-grain leather is recognised for it’s excellent quality and durability over time. If taken care of, it can last a lifetime.

Full-grain leathers however can be difficult to manipulate and work with from a manufacturing standpoint due to their stiffness.


Top-grain leather

Known for it’s quality, top-grain leather is similar to full grain leather, and is used in many designer bags and accessories and fine leather goods. The key difference between top grain and full grain leather is the finishing of the top layer. Here, imperfections such as scars are removed with light buffing of the leather to create a more uniform grain that allows for product consistency. At MASION de SABRÉ, top-grain leather is utilised across the entire product range. 

Top-grain leather is the second highest quality of leather available, following full grain leather. The finish of top-grain leather is much softer to the touch, feels more supple and is more resistant to stains than full-grain leather. The finishing process also makes the leather more workable for craftsmen, while maintaining strength and durability. 

 Top grain leather

Why do we use top-grain leather at MAISON de SABRÉ?

Quality is paramount at MAISON de SABRÉ and top grain leathers have been sourced from North America selected for their iconic premium feel, smell, weight and durability.

As one of the highest grades of leather, our tanneries undertake minimal alterations to the natural hide to assist only in removing any blemishes, scars and scrapes. Consistency and reproducibility are crucial to our production processes, ensuring all items produced have the same distinctive look and feel that’s come to be expected with each MAISON de SABRÉ product. 

With improved workability in top-grain leathers, it allows our design team greater flexibility in pushing the boundaries of conventional materials, and in creating unique, one of a kind pieces.