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.

The Leather

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

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 exceptionally nice, yet 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.

Article:Chèvre CrispéType:Goatskin
Origin:FranceTannery:Relma
Tannage:VegetableFinish:Semi-aniline
Temper:MediumAging:Gradual dulling of texture
L to R: Light Green, Light Gray, Bordeaux, Black, Red
L to R: Violet, Navy, Green, Orange
L to R: Natural, Tan, Light Brown, Brown, Chocolate
L to R: Cream, Yellow

Shell Cordovan

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 CordovanType:Shell Cordovan
Origin:JapanTannery:Shinki-Hikaku
Tannage:VegetableFinish:Aniline
Temper:FirmAging:Absorbs character from use, darkens
Shinki Shell Cordovan
L to R: Natural, Whiskey, Antique, Cognac, Burgundy
Shinki Shell Cordovan
L to R: Red, Camel, Olive, Navy, Black
Leder Ogawa Cordovan
Ogawa Red, Blue, Navy, Green, Violet

Museum Calf

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. Its feel is soft and silky, but thanks to mineral tanning, it is more resistant to scratches and water than its vegetable tanned counterparts.

Article:Museum CalfType:Calfskin
Origin:ItalyTannery:Ilcea
Tannage:MineralFinish:Aniline
Temper:Medium firmAging:Darkens somewhat, develops sheen
Bordeaux and Black
Dark Brown and Brown
Green and Navy

Sherpa

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 nice feel. Works great for both the interior or exterior of items and there’s plenty of colors to choose from.

Note: The grain size can vary from hide to hide as well as where on the hide it’s cut from. If you have a preference for smaller (more subtle) or larger grain, please add your request to the order notes.

Article:SherpaType:Buffalo Calf
Origin:FranceTannery:Remy Carriat
Tannage:MineralFinish:Semi-aniline
Temper:Medium softAging:Develops slight sheen
L to R: Natural, London Tan, Brown
L to R: Green, Olive
L to R: Teal, Mint
Garnet
L to R: Bone, Taupe, Gray
L to R: Blue, Terra Cotta, Turquoise
L to R: Cognac, Coffee Brown
L to R: Violet, Black
Red

Pueblo

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 and begin developing a sheen quite quickly. If you’re a patina lover, this won’t disappoint.

Article:PuebloType:Cowhide
Origin:ItalyTannery:Badalassi Carlo
Tannage:VegetableFinish:Aniline leather with sueded surface
Temper:MediumAging:Color darkens, develops sheen, absorbs character from use
L to R: Olive, Yellow, Violet
L to R: Navy, Denim, Ortensia
L to R: Cognac, Tobacco

Vono

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.

Article:VonoType:Cowhide
Origin:JapanTannery:Tochigi
Tannage:VegetableFinish:Glazed aniline
Temper:Very firmAging:Color darkens and absorbs character from use
Navy
London Tan
Black
Red
Orange
Tochigi Vono Chestnut

Exotic Leathers

Sharkskin

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.

Antique finish. L to R: brown, blue, red
Matte finish. L to R: bordeaux, navy, gray, black
Nubuck finish. L to R: mocha, green, gray, bordeaux

Python

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 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 patina (color darkening, absorb character from use, scales may fold somewhat).

L to R: brown, petrol, green, black

FAQ

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 the item 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?

Please see recommended interiors below:

Exterior ChoiceRecommended interior
Chèvre CrispéChèvre Crispé, Sherpa, Vono
SherpaSherpa, Chèvre Crispé, Vono
PuebloPueblo, Vono
VonoChèvre Crispé, Pueblo, Sherpa, Vono*
Museum CalfSherpa, Chèvre Crispé, Museum Calf*
Shell CordovanChèvre Crispé, Pueblo, Vono*, Sherpa
Sharkskin, PythonVono, 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 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 any of the 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 you saw on my social media, please just get in touch before placing your order. If you have something else in mind, please provide as much information as possible and I’ll let you know if that’s something I can use.

Can you use multiple colors or leathers in the interior?

Certainly. Just let me know in the order notes what you’d like. There’s no extra charge to do this unless using a more expensive leather.

Colorways

While there are near endless possibilities for color combinations, many of the nicest looking examples will:

  1. Use a lighter colored leather on the interior of the item.
  2. 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, it is generally best to match the thread to the exterior regardless of interior color.

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.

Suggested Colorways

Several examples of the suggested colorways follow. 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.

Green

Suggested pairings: tan, brown, gray, yellow, orange, bordeaux

Green & brown
Turqoise and dark brown.
Green & beige

Blue

Suggested pairings: orange, brown, tan, gray, yellow, green

Navy & orange
Navy & tan
Turquoise & brown
Blue Ogawa Shell Cordovan with denim Pueblo

Brown

Recommended pairings: natural, brown

Whiskey shell cordovan with natural interior.

Dark Brown

Suggested pairings: taupe, natural, orange, yellow, blue, green

Chocolate & taupe
Dark brown & orange

Chocolate Ogawa shell with a tan interior

Black

Suggested pairings: red, green, yellow, taupe, turquoise

Black & red

Black & turquoise

Black Sharkskin with a mint interior, and gray thread.

Dark Red & Purple

Suggested pairings: natural, taupe, turquoise

Burgundy Ogawa Shell Cordovan with a natural interior, and off-white thread.
Antique Shinki Shell
Burgundy Leder Ogawa shell cordovan with teal Sherpa buffalo calf. Thread matched to interior.
Violet & tan

Violet Pueblo with a natural interior.