The leather industry has to be considered to be one of the oldest industries known to man with the use of leather dating back to as early as the Palaeolithic ages with evidence of cave paintings depicting man in leather clothing. Leather can be made from any animal skin. In order for the skins to be suitable for purpose, the animal skins goes through a process called tanning. Skins were originally primitively tanned with the use of anything from animal fats, wood smoke and tannin - containing barks, and leaves.
Nowadays, a lot of the processes are highly scientific with a large number of leathers being tanned using the chrome tanning process (a combination of chemicals, acids and salts), which is a quick process that makes leathers soft and supple, so perhaps more suitable for modern day living.
As well as using leathers that have been tanned using the chrome tanning process, at Pickett we also still use a lot of British leathers that have been hand-finished using traditional vegetable tanning methods (a combination of natural ingredients such tree bark), which can take up to 40 days to complete (unlike chrome tanning which can take only a day). The leather is then tallow waxed to produce a strong, smooth and hard wearing leather suitable for items such as our briefcases and belts, where we use the full depth of this iconic leather for maximum durability and strength and which will go on to develop a rich patina over the years.
The majority of the leather we use is cowhide, goatskin or lambskin, which are all directly sourced as by-products of the meat industry.
Dating back years, leather is a wonderfully durable and natural material with a huge range of uses. Nothing compares to its unique look and feel making it a highly desirable material to work with.
We use a top grade hand finished British Bridle hide to make a wide range of our larger products. It is a very traditional, British cowhide leather that has been used over the centuries in the leather goods industry and is a naturally vegetable tanned leather with a waxed finish, which develops a rich patina and natural sheen with use. This natural tanning process also ensures a hard-wearing leather that improves with age, which makes it very suitable for products that are used on a day to day basis such as briefcases and belts.
Natural markings on the surface of the leather
You may well notice small irregularities and marks in the surface of this leather, which are all natural scars that the animal has incurred during its lifetime. These marks do not in any way compromise the strength or quality of the leather and actually confirm that this is the uppermost surface of the hide, which is the strongest and tightest grained part of the leather. Some bridle hide leathers are from the lower part of the leather and have a plated finish, so although they don’t have the natural scars, the leather is not nearly as strong.
We are proud to say that our bridle hide is of a quality that there is no need to use any re-enforcements in our products and it is nearly as smooth on the reverse of the leather as it is on the front. It is for this reason that we don’t use lining fabric on many of our bridle hide products, ensuring that the full quality of the leather is appreciated.
Due to the thickness and heavier nature of this particular leather it is not suitable for small items as reducing the thickness of the leather can compromise its natural strength.
Bridle hide products include Bridle Hide Attache case, Traditional Bridle hide Briefcase, Jstyle Single Pocket Briefcase, C11 Bridle hide Belt, Book Cover.
Box Calf is a smooth, finest quality soft calf hide with a subtle sheen on its surface. Calf is a classic leather and hardwearing, but it can be vulnerable to surface marks with initial use. Any minor marks on the leather should eventually fade over time. We usually use this leather for men’s wallets and some small leather goods, as the skins are relatively small, and so not suitable for larger items. We generally do not use this leather for products that need more resilience to the day-to-day wear and tear, such as ladies purses, as these items are more prone to getting marked in handbags etc.
Our Calfskin products include classic wallets such as our Calfskin Short Wallet, Calfskin Compact Wallet with Lizard Lining and our Classic Tall Wallet.
Crocodile & Alligator
Crocodile and Alligator are the most expensive of the exotic skins and have a very soft, smooth scaled surface. The skins are finished with either a highly polished gloss finish or with a natural unpolished matt finish. The skins are strong and pliable and very durable with each skin having a unique scale formation. The skins make up into very fine and beautifully luxurious products that are all unique due to the individuality of each skin.
Crocodile Skins Explained
The skins have 3 main areas:
1) Centre cut: this is the unique formal formation of scales that have a sense of mirror image, either side of the central and commands the highest price.
2) Flank or side cut: these are the larger and more irregular scales
3) Tail: these have longer and thinner oblong scales, graduating in size as you move further down the tail and it is used mostly for smaller leather goods due to its size.
The price of individual products made from these different areas of the skins can vary enormously depending on where they have been cut from. The skins can often be reasonably small, so we usually only make smaller products such as Wallets, Card Cases and Handbags using these skins.
Whilst we generally use alligator for our products, we do also use crocodile too, as they are very similar and so easily interchangeable. Crocodiles and Alligators belong to the same family of crocodilian species and the terminology of these skins tends to be based on where you live. For this reason it is quite usual in Europe to refer to all of these products as ‘Crocodile’ whilst in America the products are usually referred to as ‘Alligator’ irrelevant as to what they are actually made of. The main difference is that crocodile skins have very small dots towards the outside edge of the scales, which are very small hair follicles or sensory pores, which an alligator doesn’t have.
As with the lizard skins, it is illegal to trade in both skins without a full CITES licence, so there is a strict monitoring system in place for these luxury skins.
Most of the deerskin we use is from New Zealand, where they specialise in producing a particularly fine and luxurious quality of this leather. The tannery we use, tan this leather using 30 different processes by skilled tanners to ensure that the finished product has the premium feel, quality and unique ‘handle’ of this beautifully soft and naturally grained leather. Due to its softness and its ability to take colour extremely well it is ideally suited for handbags, and small leather goods such as our Deerskin Short Wallet or our Men’s Deerskin Gloves.
Lizard skins feature beautifully intricate, small but completely flat scales with a high sheen finish. It is a soft, fine, and beautifully polished skin, resulting in ‘jewel like’ colours. Lizard skins make a very fine, yet hardwearing product. The skins are generally quite small, so it is best suited for making our small to medium handbags such as our Classic Lizard Clutchbag, purses, wallets such as our Compact Short Wallet with Lizard Lining and smaller leather goods.
Where do the Lizard skins come from?
Our Lizard skins are usually from the Nile Monitor Lizard (Varanus niloticus). These lizards live in Africa where they are used for food and the skins are then a by-product. Whilst there are no conservation measures in place for these lizards, it is still illegal to trade these skins without a full CITES licence to ensure that there is a comprehensive monitoring system in place for the trade these luxury skins.
Lowick is a naturally grained, goatskin leather that is beautifully fine, yet very durable and takes colour extremely well, resulting in a gentle two-tone effect. Goatskin is similar to pigskin but with a finer grain, so it is very hard-wearing and resistant to marks, resulting in a very neat and fine quality to all the products in this leather.
Lowick leather tends to be used for smaller leather goods due to the size of the skins such as stud boxes, credit card cases, purses, jewellery boxes, and iPad covers, but it is equally useful for any larger items (where skin size makes it possible) such as our games selection and homeware range.
Ostrich leather is one of the most distinctive looking leathers and is easily recognised by the unusual raised ‘spots’ (each ‘spot’ being where the quill feathers used to be). The raised spots are predominantly across the central section of the leather (called the ‘crown’).
The ‘crown’ only constitutes approximately 1/3rd of the whole skin, so whilst we use the ‘crown’ area of this leather for the main part of the products we make, such as a handbag, we do also use the rest of the leather for other parts. The rest of the leather is fairly plain in appearance or has much smaller spots and this is used to make up areas of the product such as sides, back and the base so as not to waste too much of the skin.
Ostrich leather is a very versatile and takes colour extremely well, so we are able to use this leather to make a very wide range of our products, from handbags down to all of our smaller leather goods, which we produce in a beautiful selection of vibrant and also traditional colours. It is extremely hard-wearing and very durable and is one of the few leathers that improves with age, developing a beautifully rich patina and smooth softness with use.
Embossing Ostrich leather
One thing to bear in mind is that ostrich can be more difficult to emboss due to the 'spots', but any of the plainer areas of the skin take embossing very well.
Shadow hide is a naturally tanned cow hide leather and is similar to bridle hide but is tanned using an oil rather than wax in the tanning process, giving it a soft flexible finish, which develops a rich patina and natural sheen with use, which also improves with age.
We use this leather for most of our small products and box work as the oil in the tanning process makes this leather supple yet strong, so is very suitable for smaller work but it is generally too light to use for our large products. As with Bridle hide there may be small natural marks in the surface of the leather but again, this doesn’t in anyway compromise the quality or strength of the leather.
Our Shadow hide products include Cufflink boxes such as our classic Small Cufflink Box and Sixteen Section Cufflink Box, as well as Watch Boxes, Tidy Trays and Mens Wallets.
Stingray / Shagreen
Stingray skin is also known as Shagreen. These skins have been used in the leather industry, dating back many years. It is a very unusual leather with each skin having a unique soft and shiny ‘pebble like’ texture and featuring an individual and unique ‘pearl like cluster’ of natural markings in the centre of the skin where the dorsal fin would have been.
Each skin can take colour differently depending on its size, so items made from this leather are all slightly different. This leather is highly durable being resistant to water, heat, and surface damage but even though it is a soft and malleable skin, the surface is as hard as shell, so it is difficult to stitch, which can make it restrictive for use in a number of products.
Stingrays are not in any way an endangered species and are found in abundance throughout the Pacific where they are fished commercially as a food source with the skins being a by-product of this industry.
Shagreen is used for our small evening bags and accessories.
Yamai Soft Grained Leather
Yamai is a soft-grained cowhide leather. The grained, soft finish to the leather is created during the tanning process whereby the leather is tumbled in a large drum creating the soft grain texture of the leather. This process creates a product that is soft to touch yet highly durable, remarkably lightweight, easy to work with and resilient to most day to day / wear and tear marks making it an ideal leather for most products ranging from luggage, handbags, briefcases and purses.
Examples of Yamai leather products include Luggage such as our Classic Weekend Holdall, our Full leather Travel Bag and our Full Leather Garment Cover and Tote bags such as our Full leather tote bag and our popular Melton Tote Bag.