Types of Leathers and Fabrics

Types of Leathers and Fabrics

Types of Leathers and Fabrics

There are several different types of leathers and fabrics that are used in making handbags. Knowing what type yours is made of will help you determine how to clean and care for it. Here’s a list of some of the most common leathers and fabrics by handbag designers and directions on how to safely and effectively clean and condition them.

Types of Leathers

Types of Leathers:

Cowhide Leather:

Leather from full-grown cows that is used for certain types of bags, as well as for shoes, boots and jackets. Tough and durable, it can have a smooth or rough finish. Cowhide leather is the most commonly used type of leather.

Full Grain Leather:

Full grain leathers are strong natural hides that consist of both the top grain and split hide layers. The hides haven’t been sanded to remove imperfections. The grain remains in its natural state, which preserves fiber strength and results in exceptional durability and breath-ability. Rather than wearing out, the natural full-grain surface will develop a mild natural “patina” and grow more beautiful over time. Full grain leathers can mainly be bought as two finish types: aniline and semi-aniline.

Vachetta Leather:

leather untreated and commonly used in the trimmings of luggage and handbags, popularized by designer Louis Vuitton. Since this leather is untreated, it’s therefore susceptible to water and stains. It’s highly problematic to maintain. Sunlight will cause the natural leather to darken in shade, called a “patina.” This effect is a beautiful development that makes vachetta leather such a unique and desirable material.

Buckskin Leather:

Buckskin leather is a hide that comes from male deer, elk or moose. The tanning process uses animal brains or other natural fatty elements to alter the leather. The resulting supple, suede-like hide is usually smoked heavily to prevent it from rotting. It’s tough, durable and cannot be mass produced.

Nappa Leather:

This leather generally comes from calfskin and chrome-tanned with a gentle and supple texture. It’s the softest of the cowhide leathers. Nappa Leather commonly found in purses, wallets and gloves.


This is a top-grain cattle hide that sand or buffed on the grain side, or outside; to give it a slight nap of short protein fibers, producing a velvet-like surface. Sometimes confused with suede, they both similar in appearance, but there are some distinct differences.


A treatment applied to the interior split layer of cowhide, its buffed and brushed to produce a napped, velvet-like finish. Genuine suede had a wonderful drape. suede more fragile than its counterpart nubuck, that made from the more durable top grain layer. as it comes from the thinner split layer of the cowhide,

Embossed Leather:

Embossed leather isn’t leather at all. It’s a type of finish. Embossing means to imprint patterns onto the leather using pressure. It either stamped into the leather, or pressed out of it for a raised imprint.

Patent Leather:

Patent leather is another type of finish. Typically, it’s slightly stiffer and thicker than most leathers, with a high-gloss shine. Shine achieved by adding multiple coats or varnishes, oils, and synthetic resins.

Glazed Leather:

Glazed leather has a polished finish but not quite as high gloss as patent leather. This glossy finish is a strong protectant against natural elements and abrasive cleaning chemicals.

Calfskin Leather:

Calfskin leather made from the hide of baby cattle, generally no older than 3-4 weeks. It has a soft, smooth texture which makes it desirable for making fine handbags. Calfskin’s leather is considerably more expensive than cowhide leather.

Lambskin Leather:

This is light, creamy, soft leather made from the hide of baby sheep. It’s also delicate and fragile, which makes it difficult to maintain. Traditionally used for the making of fine gloves, recently, lambskin is becoming more popular in high-end designer handbags.


Canvas – A durable, somewhat water resistant material is available in a wide variety of finishes. Originally popularized in the handbag industry by Louis Vuitton’s Monogram line. Canvas usually coated with a protective layer.

Silk – Used for elegant evening bags and wedding accessories, and sometimes incorporated with beading designs.

Velvet – Velvet a rich, lustrous fabric used primarily for clutches and evening bags.

Straw – Hand woven willow or rattan used to make summer bags, beach bags and picnic baskets. It’s highly absorbent and susceptible to water damage.

Peau de Soie – a dull type of satin used to make evening bags, but most commonly used for lining the purse.

Satin – Not actually a fabric. It’s a weave consisting of a combination of silk, polyester and acetate.  A very elegant material used for lining top quality handbags.

There are some important standard operating procedures that you should keep in mind when considering handbag care:

  • Follow the care instructions on your purse before attempting to treat it on the fly.
  • Read the instructions tab on your cleaners, conditioners and protectants. Confirm that it’s appropriate for the type of material you’ll be applying it to.
  • Test any chemical on a small, inconspicuous area and watch for discoloration and dye transfer.
  • When in doubt, take your handbag to a professional. If you’re unsure about how to proceed with a thousand dollar purse, we definitely recommend you take it to certified, experienced professional leather cleaner.
  • When not in use, be sure to store your handbags in a box or cotton dust bag. It needs to breathe. Avoid putting your purses into plastic bags.
  • Don’t fold or stress the purse in any way. Allow it to rest naturally, with plenty of space and nothing sitting on top of it, pressing it under its weight.