Leather, a product crafted by nature
Leather is a natural product. This also means that no two pieces of leather are the same. And that is precisely what leather aficionados love about leather: the vibrant grain and colour nuances which are unique to every piece of leather. Even natural properties such as folds, small scars, open rough pores, dung stains, insect bites, stretch marks, etc. are visible; they contribute to the depth and natural, warm and vibrant beauty of the leather. To give more insight into leather, allow us to describe the tanning process which creates this beautiful natural product.
It’s all a question of selection. For starters, Durlet works with the most highly regarded tanneries in Europe. Using a specialist process, they make an amalgam of various leather varieties from selected animal hides, and only a selection of these are eligible for processing by Durlet.
The tanning process starts with the hair removal and degreasing of the hides. They are then divided up into full grain and split grain. Durlet only uses superior quality full-grain hides. The full-grain layer is the upper skin that makes the leather strong and elastic. The visible structure of the grain, the pores, the skin folds and the different colours in this top grain give the leather its natural character. The split layer is of inferior quality. After tanning, the split leather is flattened, embossed and sprayed with a pigment. The hides are tanned in a special chemical solution and put through a strict selection procedure. Only the best will do for Durlet.
Next step in the tanning process is that the hides are totally immersed in a vat of dye. Historically, this was done with aniline dyes, which is where the term ‘aniline leather’ comes from. During a long impregnation in vats, the pigments penetrate the fibres transversely, which completely colours the leather. The composition of the pigment is based on Durlet’s own preparation method. Each chair or set of chairs is made up using hides from the same colour vat to ensure even colour. The hides are then dried. At that point they become hard and stiff. They become supple again after the next step, the milling stage. They are also spun in drums until soft again. In combination with the thickness of the leather, it is also decided here to what extent the grain structure will be more or less pronounced.
Processing stops here for some leather – apart from drying and milling, a process that softens the leather after drying. This leather is called pure aniline leather.
It is totally natural and exceptionally high quality. You will recognise it by its warm, soft feel, its intact grain, open pores and natural hues. It is also more delicate compared to treated leathers. Therefore the Durlet aniline leathers Elite, Velluto, Nubo and Gaucho are protected by materials used in the tanning process itself to prevent fading and to avoid scratches and marks. In contrast, semi-aniline leather is treated. A layer of pigment is applied to protect the leather, but in such a way that the natural properties remain visible. Durlet semi-aniline leather is sold under the names Premium or Basis, Scala, Chamo and Polo.
Semi-aniline leather can also be lightly embossed using a relief plate which duplicates the grain structure and makes marks and flaws less visible. Embossing reduces the natural look, but does not damage the full grain. The leather retains its strength and natural appearance. That’s why these leather varieties meet Durlet’s quality requirements. Embossed semi-aniline leather in the Durlet collection: Leather Royal and Leather Nappa.
There is also a wide range of leather varieties which do not meet Durlet’s quality requirements, including for example highly rectified or buffed leather, pigmented leather, or even split leather. The quality problems which arise over time with these kinds of leather varieties are usually (but not only) the so-called ‘crackle’, a phenomenon whereby the top colour layer separates from the hide, revealing cracks and splits. This is direct confirmation of why the most expensive but most delicate leather is also the one which ages most beautifully. There is no artificial extra layer on the hide, so nothing can come loose. In other words, the less the top layer of the leather is processed, or rather the more natural the leather is left, the more beautifully it will age.