Frequently Asked Questions

Fabric and Leather

All Topics

Is aniline leather protected?

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Broadly speaking, no. Aniline leather is often finished with a layer of wax that provides some degree of protection against moisture and spills, but it cannot be considered a "protected" or "performance" leather.

There are a handful of aniline leathers with Crypton stain protection, like our Florence line. Some aniline leathers will also be more resistant to showing wear, like our Caprieze line. And aniline leathers are still a tough-wearing product, with many lines having the added benefit of being cleanable and conditionable should you see scratches or fading occur.

What is pull-up leather?

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Pull-up leather is a dumb name. Why? Because it describes a leather characteristic rather than a leather type. Let's start with what pull-up means, and then dig into which kind of leather can be found with it.

Pull-up is a performance characteristic found on certain leathers. It refers to the "bursting" of color when the leather is stretched. Typically, a leather with a darker overall color will show lighter, more vibrant color when stretched.

Why does this matter? Leather gets stretched during the upholstery process, so these colors will come into view when the leather for your sofa is pulled tight, tufted, and folded. This creates a more sophisticated, distinctive appearance on a sofa.

So, which types of leather will exhibit pull-up? Aniline leathers that are finished with oil emulsions and natural waxes. This is the most traditional form of upholstery-grade leather and typically shows a good amount of sheen in an assortment of rich colors.

Oh, and just an FYI: If you see a product described as "P/U leather" and think, not unreasonably, that this is an abbreviation of "pull-up", think again. "P/U leather" refers to polyurethane faux leather.

Is full grain leather better than top grain leather?

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I have some incredibly annoying news for you: Almost everyone talks about leather incorrectly. There's so much misinformation out there that, after having talked to dozens of people and read who knows how many articles, I still get confused.

But full grain is a type of top grain.

I know, I know. But I'm serious.

First off, the "top" in top grain does not mean "quality." It simply refers to the top, or outside layer, of the cowhide.

Top grain leather utilizes the outer layer, with some of the thick inner hide being shaved away to make a thinner leather hide that is easier for upholsterers to work with. (The inner hide that is shaved away? That is used to make suede.) Full grain leather still sees some of this shaving happen, but to a lesser extent. This is why full grain leather is often (though not always) thicker than top grain.

So then what's the difference between top and full? Well, full grain typically (though again, and annoyingly, not always) sees less correction done to the outside of the hide.

What does that mean? Cowhides are natural products, and each one will show a variety of unique characteristics and flaws. Think of scars, fat wrinkles, healed bug bits, and so forth. Full grain leather receives no (or, more likely, less) correction to those natural characteristics. If you look closely at full grain leather, you will see these character traits, with the end result being a more, well, natural-looking product.

Products marketed as "top grain" will have undergone a more aggressive corrective process. That means the top surface will have been sanded down to remove imperfections. It may mean that a texture — pebbling or similar — has been embossed into the leather using big weighted rollers.

You'll note that I haven't said that one of these leather types is better than another. Because...well, there are different types of leather for different applications. What I will say is that, because full grain leather typically requires a higher quality hide to begin with, it is often more expensive.

But keep in mind that, with leather, "more expensive" does not mean better, or softer, or prettier, or more durable. It's just more expensive, and its appropriateness for your home or business will depend on your needs as well as the specific leather line you're considering.

What is performance or protected leather?

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First of all, performance leather is real leather.

It is not polyurethane, faux leather, bonded leather, or any of that other junk.

Performance leather is semi-aniline leather. Like all semi-aniline leathers, its color is achieved using an opaque pigment to provide color uniformity and durability. Many performance leathers receive additional layers of coloring — using either opaque pigments or translucent dyes — that are typically applied by hand to create depth and character. Finally, a protective top coat is added to seal the leather against moisture and provide enhanced longevity.

Performance leather will not patina or age like aniline leathers. For this reason, a number of performance lines are available with vintage looks and feels. More modern styles are also available. Performance products are available with a variety of sheens, from glossy to flat.

Performance leather will offer protection against stains, fading, and scratching. Note that different leather lines may vary in the degree of protection they offer. Performance leather generally requires minimal maintenance beyond occasional dusting. Most spills can be cleaned with a damp cloth, although stronger cleaning products can often be used depending on manufacturer recommendations.

Can aniline leather be performance?

Not in this sense. Aniline leather can be very durable and can often be conditioned to keep it looking great for years, but it does not come with the built-in protections against stains, fading, and scratching that performance leather offers. This does not mean that there are no aniline leathers that don't do well against some or all of these types of wear, but none will match the durability of the performance lines.

Does semi-aniline or performance leather peel?

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Uhm, no.

Like...very much no.

What you're probably thinking of is "bonded leather," which is the garbage-tier product that your local disposable furniture company was pushing in the 1990s. Bonded leather isn't really leather at all, but a paste of ground-up leather scrap mixed with plasticizers, spread on a backing fabric. We don't sell that, so don't worry.

Back to the topic at hand: No, semi-aniline and performance leathers do not peel. They're real leather all the way through. The only substantial differences between these leathers and "full-aniline" or "natural" leathers are:

  • Whether the top surface of the leather has been smoothed at all.
  • The way the leather has been colored.
  • And, in the case of performance leathers, whether it receives a protective coating.

None of these would increase the chance that the leather would peel or degrade; in fact, much of these differences mean that these sorts of leathers are less likely to show peeling, rub off, etc, than other leathers.

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