Discover The True Story Of Leather

One 4 Leather was founded with the purpose in mind to share factual information about leather. Insights on how it's made, where it comes from, and how it uses waste material and turns it into a valuable by-product. This video tells the story of the big 'why' behind our platform. If you're curious to learn more about One 4 Leather, make sure to find out more on this page.


How The leather In Your Car Seat Is Made

In Article7 Minutes

Month: March 2020

Leather is all around us. It’s in our car seats, upholstery, garments, shoes, and accessories. Not without reason, as leather has been a material we’ve used for millennia. Primitive man hunted animals for food, and the hides were turned into a useful by-product: leather, used for clothing, housing and protection. The ancient Egyptians wore leather sandals. The Greeks developed the first vegetable-based tanning methods to make leather last longer. In our modes of transport and homes, we used leather for its remarkable properties, but how is it actually made?

330,000 soccer fields of animal hides

Every year, 2,200 square km of leather is created out of over one billion hides, which the meat industry produces. That’s the equivalent of 330,000 soccer fields or an area slightly smaller than Luxembourg in Europe or Rhode Island in the US. To make leather from these hides, it goes through a process of five steps that is both deeply traditional and hi-tech. Curious? Let’s go through it step by step to see how the leather in our cars is made.

1. Slaughterhouse

There’s no reason to beat around the bush; all the hides we use for leather are a result of food consumption. No surprise then, that the tanning process of leather starts right there, with the leftover hides. These, if not used, would constitute a vast amount of waste and go to . Hides are often cooled, salted, and dried to preserve them, which makes it possible to start tanning them later. Usually, tanneries try to use fresh hides, as this limits the use of resources and the environmental footprint of the process, but this is not always possible as they need to be transported to a tannery. That’s where the real process begins.

2. The Beamhouse

When the hides arrive at the tannery, they enter the beamhouse. Historically, this was a part of the tannery where hides would be strapped over wooden beams for drying. The name just stuck. Nowadays, it’s an integral part of the tannery, where the hide is cleaned and prepared for tanning. This is often an intensive process, involving chemical treatment for dehairing, removing leftover tissue and cleaning the hide. Chemical innovations have made it possible to use more environmentally friendly technologies in this process, even going so far as using biochemistry. This is important, as 70% of water-use in the tanning process takes place in this phase. The pH value of the hide is adjusted, and the protein structure is opened up, ready for the tanning process.

The beamhouse phase is the process that uses the most water for its processes. Modern water management reduces the impact of this process.

3. Tanning

Until this point, we’ve spoken about hides. Tanning is where the protein structure of the hide is changed into a stable material: leather. By tanning the hide, it becomes protected against swelling, heat and micro-organisms, and other decaying factors. Though leather is a long-lasting material, it is still a natural material that can eventually be broken down and fully returned to nature. There are various tanning methods, and those applied are often based on more responsible chemicals, which has helped to reduce the carbon footprint significantly.

Chemical use in tanning is often described as an environmental issue. Responsible and eco-friendly chemistry, however, has changed that. 

To make leather from these hides, it goes through a process of five steps that is both deeply traditional and hi-tech. Curious?

4. Post-tanning

After tanning the hide, what you have is leather. Yet, it isn’t in the condition yet where it can be used, so it needs a lot of mechanical processing at this phase. Water is removed from the leather through sammying, which is essentially a process involving large rollers that press the water out of the material. Often hides are split at this stage, creating a grain side (the top) and a meat side, which is often used in materials like suede. Finally, the leather is shaved and trimmed to create an even, neat looking material. Often it’s also stretched and flattened out in this process before it goes on towards retanning.

5. Retanning

The leather goes back into the tanning drums for another spin, only this time it is done to give the leather it’s defining characteristics. That means fatliquoring, to improve the softness and strength, but also add waterproof qualities to the material. The leather is also colored, dyed, and treated with other chemicals to make it ready for its final use. What exactly is added depends largely on where the leather will be used. Upholstery requires highly resistant leather, where garments need to be soft and malleable. Automotive leather needs to meet exceptional standards on all fronts, as it will have to resist staining and soiling, but also many environmental factors and daily use.

6. Finishing

After leaving the drums, the leather is finished to give it a final look. Here leather is given a color and matt or gloss finish. Any grain defects or imperfections are fixed with a base coat. A topcoat gives the final touch, and after testing, the leather is good to go. In some cases, the manufacturer of the seats or car upholstery companies takes care of the final finishing of the leather. This allows them to add a specific touch to the interior or customize the looks to meet customer demand. A final treatment with aftercare solutions guarantees a long life for this material.

There you have it, that’s how the leather for your car seat is made! It’s how a from the food industry is turned into a sustainable, durable material to be enjoyed for years.

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    Measuring And Reducing The Leather Footprint

    In Article2 Minutes

    Month: March 2020

    Fromtrends.com states that in the age of information, it appears that education and promoting knowledge of materials and their properties is a necessity. As they look at the value of leather as an interior material, they find that transparency has become a challenge for natural materials versus man-made materials, as replacing the first with the second is often done for the wrong reasons.

    Certainly, we live in a time where sustainability is of great importance, but conflating the term with ‘vegan’ is wholly incorrect and a gross misrepresentation of science. Man-made materials are no new phenomenon in car interiors, and for some parts preferential over leather, yet they hardly offer an adequate alternative for most functions. Made of plastic-based polyurethane chloride (PVC) and polyurethane, they actually pose serious environmental threats. It also takes away the luxury of leather, like used in the Bentley Spur, through decontenting.

    We live in a time where sustainability is of great importance, but conflating the term with ‘vegan’ is wholly incorrect and a gross misrepresentation of science

    The answer in countering this trend of confusion is remarkable, as posed by the news platform: share the story of leather. Where does leather come from? How is it made? When is something called leather, and what makes it a cool material? That is exactly what we do at One 4 Leather.

    Answers to these questions will not only show the qualities of leather but also illustrate that as materials go, leather is one that facilitates the circular economy. Modern leather production prevents an ecological disaster of dumping hides in landfills and stops the need for artificial materials. Secondly, proper labelling is essential to make sure consumers know what they’re getting. Telling untruths about so-called ‘vegan leather’ is unacceptable. It’s time to be proud of the genuine article instead.

    Read the full article HERE.

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      The Quality Of Leather Is Determined By Its Grain

      In Article3 Minutes

      Month: March 2020

      Leather quality can be a complex matter if you’re not familiar with the terms. But in the end it’s all about the grain. Leather grain is an indicator of the natural quality of the material. The better quality the grain, the less work the material needs. Yet, there is often confusion about the different quality indicators, so we put them in order for you:

      • Full-Grain leather

        The finest quality leather you will find is full-grain, as it does not need any work on its structure to get it ready for use. Because it doesn’t require any buffing or sanding, it’s more natural-looking, and as such is found in quality leather goods.

      • Corrected Grain leather (also called top grain)

        Often mistaken as the best quality, because of it’s flawless appearance, its name actually refers to the mild sanding and buffing used to remove imperfections in the top layer of the leather. When this is entirely shaved of instead, we call it grain suede. Corrected grain leather develops protective properties against damage and corrosion, is less expensive, and more stain repelling.

      • Split leather

        Split leather is usually the bottom layer of leather that has been cut through its thickness, and can be called genuine split leather (as long as the finish is thin enough).

      • Suede

        When you split leather, you end with a grain side (the upper side of the hide) and a flesh side. The flesh side is commonly turned into suede. A different type of leather-based material.

      • Genuine leather

        All of these are genuine leather as they come from the hide or skin of an animal, and as long as the finish is less than 0.15mm thick, and the material is more-or-less intact. Leather that has been shredded and reconstituted is not genuine leather. If it has no grain, then it has to be called “genuine split leather.

      Leather grain is an indicator of the natural quality of the material

      Though we talk about quality here, it doesn’t diminish any of these leathers. Each has its own particular function and application, for which it is most suited. Each can last you with the right treatment and use and can be enhanced with the right finishing products and treatment. Find out what other applications of leather existed in the past.

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        Ruminant Agriculture Can Help Deliver Zero Emissions

        In Article2 Minutes

        Month: March 2020

        New science shows that methane from ruminant agriculture is not categorically causing global warming. Cattle and sheep do produce methane, but we are looking at the facts the wrong way. It’s not the emission itself that counts; it’s the warming impact that matters, states ffinlo Costain, Chief Executive of Farmwell in an article for the British Veterinary Association.

        It takes a decade for methane emissions to break down into carbon dioxide that gets used in photosynthesis by the same plants the cows eat. This means that without an increase of the herd size, the methane emissions from 100 cows 10 years ago, is simply replaced today by the current herd. Under the newly updated metric, CO2 and N2O levels remain the same, but methane impact on global warming in the United Kingdom is calculated as a negative emission, close to zero.

        It takes a decade for methane emissions to break down into carbon dioxide that gets used in photosynthesis by the same plants the cows eat

        However, if we want to continue having this negative methane impact, things do need to change. Why? Because the population is growing and this will prompt an increase in meat and dairy consumption. Maintaining a neutral impact requires emissions in the UK to fall by 0,3% each year. Based on this forecast, we can still eat meat and dairy. As long as we eat meat, leftover hides will be produced, which enable us to keep using leather goods, keeping them away from landfill. When it comes to our consumption, more sustainable choices are necessary.

        Read the entire article HERE.

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