When I started this brand, it was really important to me to try and create affordable leather goods. It should be a sin to carry around a $30 "leather" bag that you've lost countless coins and pens to the bottom of. (Yeah, you know the one.) The problem here is that.. well.. good leather ain't cheap! Creating a quality item with a moderate price tag is harder than you might think. Hopefully with some introductory knowledge, you'll be well on your way to understanding just what causes that price tag to go from $ to $$$!
THE REAL QUALITY FACTOR
Just like our skin - leather is made up of layers and each layer is made up of fibers. At the bottom layer, the fibers are parallel to each other and have minimal intertwining. At the very top layer, the fibers are extremely dense and twist all directions. Once your hide makes it to the tannery it typically becomes one of three things:
FULL GRAIN. TOP GRAIN. GENUINE LEATHER/SUEDE.
Full grain leather has all of the fibers and therefore is extremely durable. This type of leather is A++ and will show any and all markings on the hide - from vein lines to branding and bites. Every hide is as original as a fingerprint. Top grain leather is a close second but has had the topmost layer sanded off. Because of this, the durability factor has dropped but the hide will gain some uniformity and lose surface scarring and imperfections. Genuine leather and suede are below that. The leather at this level is more geared towards appearance than performance and will not patina well if at all. I love that term "genuine leather" because it just sounds so fancy, doesn't it? How tricky! Believe it or not, there's actually an even lower grade... but we won't waste our time with that today.
Leather is split down into different thicknesses. It is measured, typically, in ounces. The higher the number the thicker the leather. The lowest weight you're likely to see is a 2oz piece, which is 1/32 of an inch. Straps and handles are often made with 9-10oz weight - which is closer to 5/32. Really, this should just help you if you're looking at purchasing an item you can't see and test out in person. Of course, with thickness comes extra weight. Keep that in mind if you're mulling over a satchel that will be 15lbs when empty.
& OF COURSE, THE EXTRAS
Patina is the term for your leather when it has experienced exposure to the sun, elements, and most often the oils in your own fingers. It's that awesome mark of a piece that's well-traveled and damn near impossible to duplicate.
Pebble grain is simply a cosmetic characteristic given to a hide and doesn't imply the quality of a piece just because it's present.
Embossed leather is cowhide that has been stamped, and potentially colored, to look like something else. For example, gator or python. Cowhide is more affordable, obtainable and is more square footage - allowing for larger pieces without being patch-worked together.
Pull up is the term for leather that shows lighter coloring in the areas where it is bent or stretched.
Lastly, the terms Veg-tanned (vegetable tanned), or Chrome-tanned leather. Both of these terms refer to the method used to tan a hide. Vegetable tanned leather is an organic method of tanning, whereas Chrome-tanned leather is through use of chemicals and salts. The method used is completely personal preference. Veg tanned leather often carries more of a distinctive leather smell, is available in more deep earthy colors, shows markings and will patina by getting darker and softer with use. It's important to know that this leather is not water resistant and needs to be cared for. Chrome-tanned leather is available in a much wider range of colors but has less visible markings. It's more tolerant to the elements, but will not patina as veg-tan will and the color will remain fairly consistent over it's lifetime. This leather, too, needs care and is not to be assumed as waterproof. It's always advised to take good care of your leather goods and they will out live you. (That means clean and care for them as you would your dog, not that goldfish you got from the carnival that you let die in the bag on the way home.)