In the world of furniture manufacturing, there are many terms thrown around by commissioned salesmen that have confused consumers for some time! Most of us think of, “Leather Furniture” as one that sets it apart from inferior product. Over the years, the best of the best was upholstered using supple, beautiful, colorful leather.
There are many terms to describe the inferior or substitute material used in cheap, imitation covered furniture. Bonded Leather, Bi-Cast Leather, Leather Splits, Vinyl Matched, Pleather, Faux Leather, etc., etc., etc.!! None of which are anywhere near the quality, comfort or longevity of real, Top Grain Leather!
The latest technology that has crept into the market is Bonded Leather that I will cover here.
Bonded Leather is being used most often in, bookbindings and various fashion accessories. Other common products that are constructed with different varieties of bonded leather include; book/Bible covers, cases and covers for personal electronics, shoe components, textile and accessory linings, portfolios and briefcases, handbags, belts, and most deceptively on cheap furniture!
Sometimes called, “reconstituted leather” or “vinyl,” it is not the whole skin/hide of the animal, but left-over pieces or scraps of hides, shredded and blended together and mixed with bonding materials, epoxies or plastics.
Next, it is extruded onto a fiber cloth, or paper backing. Once applied on the surface of the backer, the surface is usually embossed/pressed with a leather-like texture or grain. Cowhide, lizard, Ostridge or any other desired look. Color and patterning, if any, are a surface treatment that does not penetrate this imitation hide like a dyeing or tanning process would on real leather and are paint based. The imperfections are puttied with a bonding agent. The natural leather fiber content of bonded leather varies. The supple quality and characteristic of real leather is non-existent on this man-made product and will becomes brittle with age. Real Leather will become soft and supple with age.
Evidence of flaking of the surface material, in as little as a few years, will appear as the adhesives harden and break down! Because the composition of bonded leathers and related products varies considerably and many are now manufactured in China, it may be difficult to predict how each product will perform over the course of time. There are some better-quality bonded leathers and when used in less traffic environments, than furniture must deal with, may be just fine for a lower cost product… But not Furniture!
There is NO substitute for Genuine Leather! Made from entire pieces of an animal hide and costs much more than items made with the bonded material, will deliver a lifetime of comfort and quality. It’s hard to tell the difference between the two. When new, once an item is made with bonded leather, the appearance and smell are nearly identical. Easy to fool the uneducated buyer not ready to ask the hard questions.
If you’re able to be patient and save the necessary funds for genuine leather furniture, do so, especially if leather is what your heart truly desires. So, what’s the moral of this story? “Nobody was ever sorry for Buying the BEST!”
Just because the tag in the furniture store has the word “leather” on it does not mean its upholstery is a quality, all-natural leather. There are 100% real leather furniture items that are not all created equal. The world market supplies the furniture industry with “leather.” China, South America and Korea produce/harvest leather hides. The finest are still European from craftsmen/artisans who have produced the finest hides since the beginning of time. American, because of the toxicity of tanning, does not tan leather anymore (EPA restrictions)! What is under that cover (mechanisms, foams, frames and craftsmanship) is another subject we need to discuss and will in another Blog!
Top-Grain leather means leather that has been made from the top or outermost layer of the cowhide. Full-grain leather is a top-grain leather that shows all its natural grain and is the most natural and beautiful. If labeled as “top-grain” but not, “full-grain,” the leather may be sanded or buffed out to reduce blemishes. It is not as processed as some other forms of leather, however. Top-grain leather is soft and shows natural character. This is the only leather we use at PremiereHTS. https://www.premierehts.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Care-and-Maintenance-1-New-Logo.pdf
A slightly lower quality top-grain leather is called “corrected leather,” which may be chemically treated or textured for a more uniform appearance. Corrected leather is durable but not as soft as standard top-grain leather.
Top-grain comes in two different grades: aniline and semi-aniline. Aniline is the most natural and has no protective coatings or treatments that alter its natural feel. Because of this, it’s the softest but also susceptible to stains, while semi-aniline may be coated with a protective topcoat.
The comment you hear people say about real leather is, “It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter.” I will bet you it is not top grain leather, but a processed product that has destroyed the ability of that hide to breath! A natural hides pours will be intact and allow for heat to dissipate away from your body when hot and the hide will warm up in the cold.
There are other types of inferior, imitation products that I will discuss in future Blogs. Watch for terms like, Bicast Leather, Splits, Leather Matched and remember… “Buyer Beware!”
To see how real, top grain leather is produced, protected and beautified watch this and see why PremiereHTS only uses the Best! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ts_1VZJOV4o&t=1s
Michael Laurino President & CEO of PremiereHTS Home Theater Seating; https://www.premierehts.com/our-products/#leather