Which tanned leather is the best for handbags?

Written by José Max Lin
Last updated
July 19, 2022

When it comes to genuine leather, there are a few different tanning methods that can be used in order to produce leather goods, such as handbags, purses, belts, pouches, dopp kits, shoes, and more. Vegetable tanning is one of the oldest and most traditional methods of doing so, but it's not the only way that leather can be tanned. In recent years, other methods such as chrome tanning and oil tanning have become more popular. So, what's the difference between vegetable-tanned leather and other types of leather?

Podcast: Which tanned leather is the best for handbags?

Leather in handbags

Leather handbags have been around for centuries, with the first known examples dating back to the 14th century. These early bags were made of tanned hide and were used for carrying various items, from hunting supplies to personal belongings. Over time, leather handbags became increasingly popular, particularly among European noblewomen. By the 17th century, they were an essential accessory for fashionable ladies.

Today, leather handbags are still a popular choice for many women. While there are now many different handbags available, vegetable tanning remains one of the most popular materials used.

woman manufacturing leather goods handmade handbag

Leathers and leathers characteristics

There are many different types of leather, qualities and origins, each with its own unique characteristics. The leather used in a handbag can have a big impact on the look, feel, and durability of the bag.

man cutting genuine leather make purse

Types of leather

The typical leathers come from animals like cows, pigs, and goats. leather is the hide or skin of the animal that has been treated to preserve it and make it usable. This treatment process is what gives leather its distinct appearance and properties.

Leather can be divided into two main categories: natural leather and synthetic leather. Natural leather is made from the skin of an animal that has been treated to preserve it. Synthetic leather, on the other hand, is made from a variety of materials that mimic the appearance and feel of leather without using any animal products.

colorful samples leather

Leather qualities

Leather is often described as top grain leather, which is subdivided into full grain leather and corrected grain leather. You also talk about aniline and semi-aniline dyed, as well as pigment dyed, and nubuck and suede leather as well as split leather. You can also have different finishes such as printed leather, embossed leather, or patent leather.

On top of that, the tanning process can be different. Leather can be chrome tanned, vegetable tanned, or oil tanned.

sewing machine red leather

Country of origin

The country of origin is important as it is often used to imply the quality of the leather. Leather from Europe, specifically Italy and Spain, is often considered to be of higher quality than leather from other parts of the world.

flags different countries origin

What is leather tanning?

Leather tanning is the process of treating raw animal hide to preserve it and make it suitable for use in a variety of different products. Tanning leather helps to prevent it from decomposing, as well as making it more durable and less susceptible to damage from water, sunlight, and other elements.

There are some different methods that can be used to tan leather. The most common methods are vegetable tanning, chrome tanning, and oil tanning.

leather tannery

What is vegetable tanned leather?

Vegetable tanned leather is one of the oldest and most traditional methods of tanning leather. The vegetable tanning process uses tannins, which are naturally-occurring compounds found in tree barks, leaves and other plants. Tannins have been used for tanning leather for centuries, and the vegetable tanning process is still used today.

Vegetable tanned leather raw material texture

Benefits of vegetable tanning:

  • Veg-tanned leather is a more environmentally-friendly option than other methods of leather tanning without using any harmful chemicals.
  • It produces more durable and higher-quality leather goods.
  • Products last longer as the leather does not dry out or crack
  • Vegetable tanned leather is less likely to fade in sunlight, making it a good choice for products exposed to the sun.
  • It gives the leather a unique appearance that can be customized
  • It has a natural tone and smell

Drawbacks of vegetable tanning:

  • The vegetable tanning process is lengthy, often taking weeks or even months to complete.
  • It is also a more expensive process than other methods of leather tanning.
  • Vegetable tanned leather can be difficult to work with, as it is stiffer and less pliable than other types of leather.

What is chrome tanned leather?

Chrome-tanned leather, also known as mineral-tanned leather, is a modern method of tanning leather that uses chromium salts. This method was developed in the late 19th century and has become increasingly popular in recent years. Chrome tanning is faster and less expensive than vegetable tanning, producing leather that is more pliable and easier to work with.

Modern chrome tanned leather

Benefits of chrome tanning

  • Chrome tanning is faster and less expensive than vegetable tanning.
  • It is more pliable and easier to work with by automating and achieving in one day.
  • The finished leather is very consistent in color and texture.
  • It is less likely to shrink or stretch.
  • It is thinner and softer than vegetable-tanned leather.

Drawbacks of chrome tanning

  • Chrome tanning is less durable than vegetable-tanned leather. It can crack after a short time of use.
  • It is not eco-friendly as toxic wastewater is created in the process.
  • It is not as supple and unique.
  • Product appearance is not really natural, often with a chemical smell.

What is oil tanned leather?

Oil tanned leather is a method of tanning leather that uses oils rather than tannins. This method was developed in the early 20th century and is typically used for softer, more pliable leathers.

Soft pliable oil tanned leather

Benefits of oil tanning:

  • Oil tanning is the fastest and least expensive tanning method.
  • It produces soft and pliable leather, making it more comfortable to wear.
  • Easy to care for and waterproof, minimizing break-in time.
  • Oil tanned leather does not require the use of any harmful chemicals.
  • It has a more natural look and feel, making it more rustic.
  • It is less likely to stain, making it ideal for products used in messy or dirty environments.

Drawbacks of oil tanning:

  • It is less durable than vegetable-tanned leather.
  • Oil tanned leather can be more difficult to work with
  • It does not produce durable leather.
  • More susceptible to discoloration.

What is the best tanning for leather bags?

The best leather for bags is vegetable-tanned leather. This type of leather is more durable and of higher quality, meaning that your handbag will last longer. Additionally, veg-tan leather has a unique appearance that can be customized, giving your leather bag a one-of-a-kind look. Finally, vegetable tanning is less likely to fade in sunlight, making it a good choice for handbags exposed to the sun.

HANDBAGIO product specialist
José Max Lin
I am product specialist and content marketing specialist for Handbagio. If you want to wholesale vegan handbags or vegan related products, feel free to ask me any questions.
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Which tanned leather is the best for handbags?
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