What Makes Leather Unique?
I honesty regret that it took me starting this brand and being forced into the world of leather, to fully appreciate it as a material. I wish I had done this sooner because leather is frankly, an amazing thing. After researching for countless months, I had come to realize that, even with the most advanced technology, "synthetic materials", are still unable to replicate the unique combination of durability, feel, and beauty of real leather. That begs the question then, why is leather so different?
Creating leather from an organic material such as an animal hide is a long and arduous process that has been honed by leather makers for centuries. The knowledge and skills needed have been passed down from one generation to the next and refined by individuals from all over the world. Because every leather maker has their own technique, the different animals leather can come from, the different tanning processes and different options for coating; leather is a versatile material with countless variations that would take a life time to make all of them.
Synthetic materials don't get better with age...in fact, they don't age at all. Leather on the other hand, is unique in the sense that the more it ages, the more character it has. You can find plenty of well-worn vintage leather jackets, but you won't find a decades old vinyl jacket. Unlike any synthetic or other organic materials, if you get a scratch or scrap on a real leather jacket, you can buff it out. To put it another way, leather seems to be the only material that you get genuine pride from when taking care of it since it only gets better, the more you do.
It was important to me to make a good first impression and pick the best leather for our line of jackets. After working closely with our manufacturer for over a year and going through many samples, we finally settled on a leather type, with a couple of different finishes, that I was proud of. First the leather. All our jackets are made from full-grain sheep leather. We ended up using sheep skin as our leather of choice for three reasons:
- It gave us a type of leather that wasn’t as stiff and was able to stretch out over time. This means that each jacket would be able to conform to an individuals body type and make it unique to them.
- The layer of wool that sheep have allow the skin below to be virtually flawless, greatly minimizing the appearance of healed scars, bug bites or other range marks. This allows all our jackets to have a clean, minimalist look to them.
- The term full-grain seems to be thrown a lot out there these days. For us, it means that we keep the feel and quality of our leather as close to the original hide as possible. Sheep skin is naturally soft and supple. It gave the jackets that luxury feel I was looking for if I wanted to call these jackets "high end".
When it came to finishes, we use an Aniline finish for the Icarus and Semi-Aniline for the Ares and Achilles. Aniline means that the leather is as close to its natural state without any surface coating. Semi-Aniline, thus, has a bit of coating. The reason for these different finishes has to do with the styles. For example, the leather for a Flight Jacket, like the Icarus, had to look a certain way in my mind, to have the colour and texture just right as it aged. That could only be done with no surface coating.
The Environment and the Workers
The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter in the world. I want to make sure are not contributing to that statistic. All our leather comes from hides that were a by-product of the food industry. Instead of being thrown in landfills and thus, producing more waste and harm to the environment, our manufacturer takes them and turns them into something valuable. Securing the hides in a way that helps the environment was just the first part. We wanted to take an extra step to ensure our jackets were made with the environment as well as the workers in mind. The leather for all our jackets go through a Vegetable Tanning process (Veg Tan) whereby we use environmentally, and people friendly chemicals imported from countries such as Holland and Germany, which have high safety standards. This ensures that the environment and the workers, that are creating our leather, are safe and healthy.
In life, there are trade offs for everything. Our jackets are no exception. Since our jackets are kept naturally soft and supple; we use very little to none polymer coating. In other words, a little rain is fine. If your jacket does get wet, let it dry naturally. A lot of rain on the other hand, could be a problem. Below are some general rules on how to take care of your jacket.
- If you are planning to wear your ToA in heavy rain or snow, I highly recommend you apply some beeswax or mink oil to your jacket first.
- If you do, apply the beeswax/mink oil to an inner portion of the jacket first to see how it might affect your jacket. More specifically, applying beeswax or mink oil generally darkens the colour of the jacket.
- Do not machine wash or hand wash these jackets.
- If you need the jacket to be cleaned, please take it to a local leather specialist.
- I recommend using wooden hangers when hanging you jacket as to help keep its shape.
- Store your jacket in a dry and cool area whenever possible.
- Do not store your jacket in plastic as it will dry out the leather.