Most consumers are not aware that there is any difference between the leather of their shoes, sofa, or car seats. Leather is leather (unless it isn’t), but closer inspection reveals that there’s a big difference between the materials used in fashion or upholstery and the ones used in your car. Automotive leathers are an entirely different product, highly engineered and designed to meet the most stringent performance, aesthetic and environmental requirements, and customer demands
Quality and performance
Leather is a natural product, which means there’s a certain level of variety. Normally it’s the grain that tells us something about the quality. Yet, like with every product, you need to find the right balance between quality, performance and application. Some examples in different kinds of leathers are: An upholstery leather will need to be softer and more malleable than shoe upper. Fatliquors are used to make the hide fibres soft. Belts, bridlery and saddles have a focus on appearance but are working items that need more firmness and may have less softness. Chamois leather used to dry your car uses fish oils.
Why are all these leathers produced with different properties and not just treated to have the best on all fronts? Different ways of making leather result in performance tailored for the purpose. Unlike the leather for your jacket or shoes, automotive leather would be too firm. Compare it to fabrics: the material that would be beautiful for a wedding gown is a horrible choice for hiking gear. Another example is denim shirts, which are a much softer, thinner denim than is used for your jeans. More and different performance qualities than needed would simply be wasted and use more resources than needed. Car leather is a peculiar case in that regard, as it is one of the leathers that needs to do a lot. Its property is not singularly focused on either hardness, flexibility, resistance, or touch. It’s all of these properties. Let’s have a closer look.