Leather and Colorway Guide
This page is to help you choose leather type(s) and colors for your made-to-order item.
Information about the leathers offered follows, proceeded by an FAQ and Suggested Colorways.
Several leathers from some of the best known and highest regarded French, Italian, and Japanese tanneries are offered.
For general information about leather types and finishes, please see my Leather Guide.
Chèvre Crispé comes from century-old French tannery, Relma, which specializes in vegetable tanned goatskin for use in bookbinding and luxury leather goods. Chèvre Crispé has a wonderful subtle texture, vibrant colors, and is lightly finished for better color fastness, as well as providing some scratch and water resistance. It works great for both the interior and exterior of items.
Shell Cordovan is an equine leather that’s prized for its resilience, its luster, and its graceful aging.
I stock shells from renowned Japanese tannery, Shinki-Hikaku, as well as those from dyeing specialist, Leder Ogawa*. I believe these two companies produce the most refined and beautiful shells on the market today.
Shinki shells have a glossy finish thanks to undergoing a glazing process, where the leather is polished with glass. The colors have pleasant natural variation and subtle marbling.
Leder Ogawa’s shells are hand dyed and finished. Compared to Shinki’s, they are less glossy, the colors are more uniform and have fantastic depth.
Shell wears extremely well over time and, like other vegetable tanned leathers, develops a lot of character with use.
It should be one of your top contenders if you’re considering a smooth exterior for your item.
Note: While shell is an exceptionally durable material, it is not a resistant material. Its waxy surface will scratch fairly easily. However, scratches will become less apparent and blend into the character of the leather as it ages. Another bright point is that it responds to reconditioning (i.e. scratches, etc. buffed out) very well.
*Leder Ogawa is not a tannery. It performs the dyeing and finishing on Shinki-Hikaku “crusts”, or unfinished shells.
|Article:||Shell Cordovan||Type:||Shell Cordovan|
|Temper:||Firm||Aging:||Absorbs character from use, darkens|
This is one of the most recognizable leathers in the world, thanks to its extensive use in fine footwear. Museum calf is characterized by it’s mottled color. It has a pleasant soft hand, yet firm temper. Thanks to mineral tanning, it is more resistant to scratches and water than its vegetable tanned counterparts.
Softens, develops sheen
Sherpa is buffalo calfskin produced by French Tannery, Remy Carriat. Compared to other bovine leathers, it has a more varied and interesting grain. It is also an extremely tough leather–the most resistant in the lineup. Despite its toughness, it still retains very pleasant, soft feel. Works great for both the interior or exterior of items and there’s plenty of colors to choose from.
Develops slight sheen
Pueblo is classic Italian vacchetta, vegetable tanned cowhide, with a twist. Its grain has been gently sueded, which gives it that beautiful vintage look.
It will develop lots of character with use. Colors will darken and fibers will compact, as well as the development of a slight sheen. If you’re a patina lover, this won’t disappoint.
|Tannage:||Vegetable||Finish:||Aniline leather with sueded surface|
|Temper:||Medium||Aging:||Color darkens, develops sheen, absorbs character from use|
Vono is traditional pit-tanned cowhide from Japanese tannery, Tochigi. The pit-tanning is said to give extra toughness to the resulting leather and Vono does indeed feel very robust. This leather will show interesting character as it ages, but will patina slower than your typical veg tan. The dye is also beautifully done with nice depth of color.
|Temper:||Very firm||Aging:||Color darkens and absorbs character from use|
Sharkskin is characterized by deep ridges in the skin, giving it its wonderful texture. It’s regarded as one of the very toughest leathers there is, but despite that, this Japanese sharkskin has a wonderful soft and luxurious texture.
Along with crocodile and ostrich, python is one of the quintessential exotics. The texture is quite striking from the array of scales, giving it its alluring dimensional look. Unlike most snakeskins, python is actually quite durable.
The python used is sourced from Japan and has a soft matte finish. You can expect it to see it patina. The color will darken and, it will absorb character from use. Scales are securely attached, although they may fold somewhat with use.
What leather should I choose for the exterior of my item?
If you prefer the most natural looking and feeling leathers, you’d do well to choose Pueblo, Vono, or Shell Cordovan. Thanks to vegetable tanning, these leathers will all show considerable patina over time. Unique character will develop as the item is used and colors will darken as it ages.If you, instead, prefer your item to look newer for longer, opt for Sherpa, Museum Calf, Chèvre Crispé, or Sharkskin. These leathers will resist scratches and water much better and generally won’t see significant change of color.Unsure of your preference? Not to worry. They are all excellent leathers. Let your eye be your guide.
How about interior leather choice?
Recommended Interiors are as follows:
Exterior Choice Recommended interior Chèvre Crispé Chèvre Crispé, Sherpa, Vono Sherpa Sherpa, Chèvre Crispé, Vono Pueblo Pueblo, Vono Vono Chèvre Crispé, Pueblo, Sherpa, Vono* Museum Calf Sherpa, Chèvre Crispé, Museum Calf* Shell Cordovan Chèvre Crispé, Pueblo, Vono*, Sherpa Sharkskin, Python Vono, Sherpa, Chèvre Crispé, Pueblo
*Pockets only for vertical and minimalist bifolds. Item is best lined with Chèvre Crispé or Sherpa. Appropriate lining will be chosen by maker. Any preferences, can be added to the order notes.
What’s the most durable leather?
There are no fragile leathers in the lineup. All are robust enough to endure years of typical use.
That said, shell cordovan and sharkskin have the reputation of being two of the most resilient there are.
For leathers suitable for an item’s interior, Sherpa and Vono would be the toughest.
Note that durability and resistance are not the same thing. While shell cordovan is exceptionally durable, it can scratch quite easily. On the other hand, leathers like sharkskin or buffalo are quite good at resisting wear.
Are the leathers full grain?
Yes, all the leathers offered are full grain except, of course, shell cordovan which is not made from the outer layer of the skin, as well as leathers with nubuck finishes.
What leather is the easiest to care for?
None of the main leathers require much maintenance. For leather that’s easiest to clean and keep clean, opt for Sherpa, Chèvre Crispé, and Museum Calf, roughly in that order.
Can you use a different leather than what’s offered?
Sure. If it’s a leather not under the main offerings, please first check if it’s offered under “Other Leathers” on the product pages. If not, please just get in touch before placing your order and I can let you know if it’s something I can use.
Can you use multiple colors or leathers in the interior?
Certainly. Please add accent pockets under “additional options”. If you wish for different colors than the choices provided there, please just describe it in the order notes. There’s no extra charge to do this unless substituting exotics or shell cordovan.
While there are near endless possibilities for color combinations, many of the nicest looking examples will:
- Use a lighter colored leather on the interior of the item.
- Use thread that is either the same color or lighter than both leathers.
There are, naturally, many exceptions. In the case of exotic leathers, for example, subtle contrasts work best (especially as threading is concerned) as to not detract attention from the leather itself.
Note: The method of hand sewing I employ, saddle stitching, doesn’t allow for different color exterior and interior thread, as the needle passes through both sides of the perimeter.
Several examples of the suggested colorways follow, categorized by exterior color. Please choose the exterior and interior leather types based on the suggestions provided above. If you have further questions or would like to request input on your chosen colorway, please add an order note or contact me.
Suggested pairings: tan, brown, gray, yellow, orange, bordeaux
Suggested pairings: orange, brown, tan, gray, yellow, green
Suggested pairings: natural, brown, olive, blue
Suggested pairings: taupe, natural, orange, yellow, blue, green
Suggested pairings: red, green, yellow, taupe, turquoise
Dark Red & Purple
Suggested pairings: natural, taupe, turquoise, green