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Foolproof Guide For Leather Types

February 22, 2021

Foolproof Guide For Leather Types

Whenever you’re shopping for leather goods, the term “genuine leather” will draw you in because there's nothing worse than a fake. Without prior research, any brand that puts up this sign should in good faith be selling you quality, authentic leather for the price you pay.

However, the term is misleading innocent buyers to purchase low quality split leather, more commonly known as suede. It is made from the deeper layers of cowhide and has low durability with no natural grains. It is harder, cheaper, weaker, and damages easily if not handled properly, unlike top-grain or full grain leather.

At Picket&Rail, KUKA sofas are made from premium grade top-grain leathers only. Read on to find out what leather terms mean and their characteristics to better inform your purchase decisions!

 


Split Grain (“Genuine Leather”)

Cost

3

Durability

2

Texture Quality

3

*Legend: On a scale of 1 to 5 in ascending order. 1 = worst while 5 = best.

Split leather, or “genuine leather”, is made from the remaining part of the hide once the top-grain is removed. It is harder, cheaper, weaker, and damages easily if not handled properly. It might be real leather, but it does not have all the famed characteristics of top-grain due to processing differences.

Top-grain leather looks shiny on furniture, has natural variations in colour, is smooth and soft to the touch with natural pebbled grains. Conversely, split leather is fuzzy on both the top and bottom of the hide, velvety to the touch. It has none of the qualities of top-grain or full grain leather and must go through many processes to replicate their appearance and feel. Although it is “genuine leather”, softness is lost through the process and natural variations in colour and pebbling are no longer evident as they are uniformly screened. 

 


Faux Leather (PU Leather)

Cost

1

Durability

3

Texture Quality

2

*Legend: On a scale of 1 to 5 in ascending order. 1 = worst while 5 = best.

PU leather, or polyurethane leather, is an artificial leather made of thermoplastic polymer used for furniture, shoes, handbags and more. 100% PU leather is vegan and is the more sustainable option as it uses fewer resources to make. It is ubiquitous in the market because of its low price point, strong waterproof feature, and can be made into a variety of colours and styles, making it a versatile material.

With improvements in technology over the years, the processes and materials used to make top grade PU leather can imitate authentic leather’s properties to a tee. The giveaway of vegan leather is its consistent grain.

 


Top-Grain Leather

Cost

4

Durability

4

Texture Quality

4

*Legend: On a scale of 1 to 5 in ascending order. 1 = worst while 5 = best.

Top-grain leather is considered the all-rounder. It is made from the outer layers of cowhide and is the toughest leather type, making it scratch and stain proof. The top layer is buffed to remove any imperfections and create a long lasting soft feel on leather furniture.

Top-grain is used in most mid-range to expensive sofas because it is the smoothest, supplest, most natural, and best kind of furniture leather money can buy. Each hide is of exceptional quality and unique, just like our fingerprints. Real, natural top-grain carries around 12% - 14% water content, acclimatising quickly to your body temperature. Leather is a natural product and should breathe like one.

Important: If you experience sweating on leather, it is likely a “genuine leather” product and therefore not real leather.

KUKA leather is sourced from the best tanneries in Italy for the best quality. It is semi-aniline grade, which means a protective topcoat is applied, resulting in a glossy look. The purpose is to improve the leather’s stain, spill, and waterproof traits along with colour retention for enduring use. Top-grain leathers are strongly stitched together, making it perfect for families with young children!

You might notice that the same KUKA sofa has slightly different leather grains and it is because different cowhides (of the same tier) contribute to the cover. It does not connote that the leather is of differing quality as we follow a strict quality control measure.

Get to know KUKA’s variety of top-grain leathers here. All the necessary information such as thickness and firmness is available there!

 


Full Grain

Cost

5

Durability

4

Texture Quality

5

*Legend: On a scale of 1 to 5 in ascending order. 1 = worst while 5 = best.

Full grain is the most expensive grade of leather. The term “full grain” describes leathers retaining the original imprints of the animal hide, be it cow, bull or pig.

Full grain leather is untreated leather. Once the hairs on the skin of the hide are removed, the whole hide is used for production. No polishing and finishing is done to the grain except for hair removal or natural vegetable dye. As it retains all of the original markings of the hide, the traces of the animal’s past life such as wrinkles, weins, scars, and fibre density are brought to the fore. It will also develop a patina with age. The look and feel of full grain leather on furniture is exquisite, therefore it is usually the most expensive option.

However, the drawbacks of full grain leather is its high maintenance. Since it is not coated with any protectants, it can be quite difficult to care for if you have young kids because it stains and scratches easily. This then affects its longevity in your home. It is also tougher and less flexible than top-grain leather, making it a hard material to manufacture for several products. The high price point is not accessible for many buyers too and if not for style, the functionality barely justifies the amount paid.



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