What Kind of Leather does FFF Use?


The ‘Where’ and the ‘How’:

Everything we make is hand stitched; which means a maker using a needle and thread in their hands to stitch together the final product. This results in a stitch that is more durable long-term than a sewing machine can produce, though it is more time consuming.

Sometimes I wish we used a sewing machine--we have one in the shop but it serves the same purpose as that treadmill in your bedroom; an expensive catch-all to hold things that haven't made it to their proper homes yet. A few things would be easier to make, and certainly faster, but they wouldn't be AS durable, and I'd have to alter how I design things if we start using one...so, no thanks.

Wanna Really Geek Out About Our Leather? Sure!!

All of our leather goods are made using Horween leather. Horween is a tannery in Chicago, Illinois that has been in business since 1905. There are excellent tanneries around the world, and others based in the US, but we've chosen to use only Horween as we just love their product and their history of commitment to excellence.

You can find more information about the leathers themselves all over the web, and particularly straight from the source at Horween, but here are some notes focusing mainly how we use their various tannages in our products (obviously color is a key factor for us when choosing a leather to make a product, but perhaps more important is how the leather 'works', as some work excellently in one product but not in another...and not every color is available in every tannage, so a part of the FFF design process is choosing which leathers will be used to make a product and accounting for its particular characteristics while designing). If you've seen terms like 'full grain,' 'top grain,' 'corrected grain,' and 'genuine leather,' and are confused, here's a great primer from Horween's retail arm, Tannery Row: See the "Understanding Leather Grains" article on their "Leather 101" page. In short: ALMOST all of their leather is top grain; the more inferior 'split' is mostly sent elsewhere, and becomes cheaper leather goods; the split doesn't have the grain and structure and longevity of the top grain portion of the hide, but it is where suedes come from, so by definition the limited amount of suedes that we offer are from Horween's selection of splits that they turn into suedes. Depending on whether the top grain leather has been smoothed out some (almost like sanding wood) by Horween for a more polished finish (corrected grain, as in their Chromexcel lines) or is left as full grain (where you can see the hair follicles and it's therefore less smooth), the majority of what we use is either top grain or corrected grain. Again, by definition the limited amount of suedes we use are from the split.

Is top grain, full grain, or corrected grain best?

These labels do not mean one is better than the other, but rather it is question about which aesthetic you prefer. When a leather is designed, the grain is one of the tools used to achieve a final look.

You'll see a lot of people say "full grain is the best leather." That's not ENTIRELY true...or it's true enough as a general rule, but there are premium corrected grains and even suedes that are excellent also. Chromexcel, a corrected grain, is widely considered one of the top leathers produced for a variety of uses, while other corrected grains from a different tannery might just be mediocre.  What matters more is the quality of the production, rather than the technical label of the type of leather from the tannery.  Which is EXACTLY why we only use Horween for our leathers--I know whatever I get from them is going to be excellent leather that I and my customers can rely on.