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Saffiano leather has been a permanent fixture in luxury shops around the world for some years now. The famous Italian textured leather is much talked about as one of the best leathers on the market. But does it really live up to its reputation?
To answer this question, we must first understand what Saffiano leather is. 🤔
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What is Saffiano leather?
Saffiano leather is a textured leather, which means that the grain is obtained by a stamping method. In simple terms, the leather is treated in a specialised stamping machine to give it its now iconic crosshatch finish. Underneath this finish is leather, well it depends on the manufacturer. Originally Saffiano leather was made from calf skin, today the leather can vary, sometimes it is calf leather, sometimes PU leather, sometimes vegetable leather etc.
It doesn't matter which skin is underneath the finish, if the product is made with the specific stamping method, the sellers will put "Saffiano" on the label. Prada invented this finish, so only that brand made Saffiano for a long time. But the patent protecting this finish has expired and now many luxury brands feature the crosshatch pattern in their collections.
Saffiano leather is not leather that is dyed. Instead, it is coated with a resin, it does not need to be dyed as the finish will hide the leather. The only way to really see the leather is for the coating to disappear. Before that happens you can wait, good Saffiano leather will last for years! 💪
As well as being durable, Saffiano is scratch resistant, water resistant and sun resistant, features that some leathers only dream of having. The coating does more than just protect the product, it gives it an unmistakable shine and allows any colour to be added. To top it all off, it also has the advantage of being easy to clean and maintain. All these qualities make it ideal for everyday use.
Unfortunately, even the best have some flaws, rest assured, Saffiano doesn't have many. I think you have already guessed the first flaw: the price. Don't expect to get good Saffiano leather for cheap, the price will depend on the brand, the products, the provenance etc. but even the cheapest products cost a certain price. The finish can also have a synthetic appearance especially if the product is not of very good quality. Finally, the coating will come off over time, but it is very durable in nature.
Despite these few shortcomings, Saffiano leather remains a great invention, and behind every great invention is a great story, in this case, the story of Prada. 👜
The History of Saffiano Leather
The history of the crosshatch pattern leather began in 1913 in Milan, Italy, when two brothers set up a small shop together. Their shop was called Fratelli Prada, which translates as Prada Brothers . Mario and Martino sold travel trunks, handbags and luxury leather accessories.
Legend has it that Mario Prada himself, the founder of Prada, invented the crosshatch patterned leather. The Saffiano, created in 1913, sold so well that only 6 years later, in 1919, Prada became the official supplier to the Italian royal family. 👑
Prada patented its leather and has since used it on many high-end products. The patent has since expired and most fashion and/or luxury brands have a Saffiano handbag or wallet in their catalogue. Today, Prada is an icon of fashion and luxury, and Saffiano leather will always be closely associated with this iconic brand.
However, Prada's reign over this type of leather is not over, as you know by now, not all crosshatch leathers are created equal, and Prada still dominates the higher end Saffiano products. These products by the way, how are they made?
How is Saffiano leather made?
The process of making Saffiano leather is complex, and there is little information about the details of the production process. Even without knowing the technical details, there are 4 steps that are known to the general public. These are leather preparation, heating, pressing, and finishing. It is important to mention that the method of production may vary a little depending on the brand, the basic materials used, the desired final product etc.
- The first step consists of "preparing" the leather, Saffiano is rarely dyed, but if it is, it is done during the preparation process. A translucent finish can be applied to add various properties to the leather, it can also be coloured. This step is optional and will depend on the intended use of the final product.
- The leather must now be heated, this step makes the hide more flexible and compatible with the materials that will be pressed in the next steps. The temperature in the machine is 70°C (165°F) 🔥
- The leather, now warm, is pressed against large metal plates with a significant pressure. They are pressed for 10 to 15 seconds to leave their shape with the crosshatch pattern permanently in the hide.
- The last step is the application of the finish, which is usually wax. For lower quality Saffiano leathers, other plastic products can be used. Finishing makes the leather scratch and water resistant, shiny and gives it the desired colour.
Now the Saffiano leather is ready, it will probably be made into a handbag, wallet or travel bag. But what else is the crosshatch pattern transformed into? And apart from Prada, who are the main sellers as far as Saffiano leather is involved?
What are the most common uses of Saffiano leather?
Exclusively used by Prada for decades, Saffiano leather is now used by many high-end fashion brands. Here are some of the most famous brands to sell leather with a crosshatch pattern:
- Kate Spade
- Michael Kors
- Tory Burch
- Rebecca Minkoff
- Mansur Gavriel
- Calvin Klein
- Ralph Lauren
- and of course, Prada
All of these big houses use Saffiano leather to make a variety of products. Its visual properties, but also its strength and durability make it particularly suitable for everyday use. The products most commonly associated with the crosshatch pattern are :
- Laptop bags
- Tote bags
- Wallets 👛
Saffiano leather is perfect for the manufacture of all these products thanks to its various properties but it is also very appreciated for its ease of maintenance. You'll find below a curated selection of a few saffiano bags you can find on the market at an affordable price
How do I care for Saffiano leather?
Saffiano leather is easy to care for, but you still need to adopt the right habits.
The first thing to do (whether it is Saffiano or not) is to read the label with the care instructions. These instructions will always be the guideline to follow, but if there is no label or the instructions are useless, then you can follow the instructions below :
To dust your accessory, you can use a soft, clean cloth that you humidify slightly. You can also use baby wipes or a soft brush. The brush is ideal if you have trouble removing dust from the nicks. Whichever option you choose, lightly humidify and rub gently, the dust should not remain for long. 🧹
If the leather loses its suppleness, you can apply a leather conditioner suitable for Saffiano to further extend its life and keep it in its best condition.
The frequency of maintenance will depend on the use of your product, but every two to three months should be sufficient. Don't forget to let your accessory dry thoroughly before storing or reusing it. Do not use a heat source, ideally leave it to dry in a dry place where the air circulates.
If you are going beyond simple maintenance, and want to get rid of a stain, the process is almost the same. Start by emptying your Saffiano item before cleaning it. For most stains, you can do the same as for maintenance and rub gently with a clean, soft, damp cloth or brush. I recommend testing your brush on a less visible part of your item to make sure it doesn't scratch the Saffiano, but if it's soft it's unlikely.
If the stain doesn't come out, then you might want to consider buying a Saffiano leather stain remover. As with the brush, test the stain remover on an inconspicuous part of your accessory to ensure that it does not damage the leather. 👌
If the stain still does not disappear, it may be time to contact a leather cleaning professional who will see the damage for himself and give you personalized advice. As with maintenance, allow your item to dry before storing or reusing it.
How do I repair a scratch on Saffiano leather?
To remove a scratch, simply pour acrylic paint of the same colour as your item into the scratch. You can apply the paint with a needle, toothpick or any fine point for greater precision. If it is a huge scratch, the damage may be irreversible but you can always try.
Acrylic paint is ideal as it is flexible even after it has dried. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly before using your product again.
For day-to-day storage, prioritise a dry place at room temperature. For storage you can keep your accessory in the box that was sold with your product. If you have discarded the box or if there was no box, you can use a pillowcase for example.
Also avoid direct exposure of Saffiano leather to sunlight, radiators or other heat sources for too long. Prolonged exposure to high heat can deform the leather (this advice applies to all types of leather). One last tip, this time optional, you can stuff your Saffiano bag with newspapers if you are storing it for a long period of time so that it retains its shape better.
What is the difference between Saffiano leather and other leathers?
There are many different types of leather and not all are equal. Some are tough, some are soft, some are cheaper. Is Saffiano leather really the right leather for you? To find out, it may be interesting to compare it to the most common leathers and imitation leathers.
It is important to understand that the overall quality of a leather depends on a number of factors, although the type of leather is the most important. The quality can vary depending on the hide used (bovine, sheep, cactus, etc.), the product that is going to be manufactured (backpack, sofa, shoes, etc.), the tanning method (vegetable tanning, tree bark tanning, smoke tanning, etc.) and of course the type of leather (nubuck, nappa, crazy horse, etc.)
Genuine leather is known for its incredible durability, a good quality leather properly maintained can live for decades. Durability varies a little from one type of leather to another, but there are few materials that are more durable. However, Saffiano is clearly in the discussion. In this kind of comparison, the quality of the leather will influence the durability more than the leather itself.
A poor quality Saffiano leather, made of faux leather underneath and with a cheap finish will not live long, whereas a Saffiano calf leather with a wax finish will live longer than most genuine leathers. Synthetic leathers such as PU leather or bonded leather are not even in the discussion, they are not made to last.
Genuine leather does have one advantage over Saffiano, and that is its patina. Patina is the process of ageing a material. While most materials degrade as they age, leather is known to develop a unique patina over the years. With time, leather will embellish and have his famous vintage style so desired.
Simply put, if you want a product that lasts over time, you'll have to pay for it.
Here the debate is more quickly settled, Saffiano is more scratch resistant than real leather. Even though leather is strong, it will never endure a scratch as well as leather with a crosshatch pattern. Also, scratches tend to be less visible on Saffiano which is a nice bonus. Imitation leathers are also quite sensitive to scratches, even more so than real leather which is often much more resistant.
Water resistance 💧
Just as with scratch resistance, Saffiano leather easily wins out over real leather. Saffiano is not completely waterproof, but you will have no problem in the rain. Genuine leather can take a little water but must be dried properly afterwards. Also, if it gets too wet, this damage can remain.
You can always waterproof your leather but this requires more rigorous maintenance and the waterproofing does not last forever. Faux leather excels in this area, unlike leather which is porous, faux leather is smooth, water is less of a problem.
As you know by now, real leather is porous, which is a disadvantage for humidity, but it's great for breathability. Breathability helps to wick away moisture and reduce the growth of bacteria and moulds that often cause bad odours. The more layers you add, the less breathable a leather is, leather wins out relatively easily over Saffiano leather and faux leathers.
Saffiano leathers made of real leather are therefore more breathable than those made of fake leather, but the coating masks a large part of the breathability.
Prada's iconic leather is very easy to care for, as is faux leather. Genuine leather is often much more tedious to maintain. In most cases, Saffiano leather only needs a wipe with a clean, damp cloth. The method of maintenance for faux leather is often the same as for Saffiano. Genuine leather often requires more equipment specific to the type of leather in question.
The comparison for price is more subtle than it seems, if we talk about raw price, leatherette is in the overwhelming majority of cases the cheapest. The raw price between real leather and Saffiano leather will depend on the manufacturer, the materials used etc. But if we talk about quality/price ratio, leatherette goes from being the big winner to the big loser. For this last point, it's up to you to see who wins, it's a matter of viewpoint.
Pros & Cons of Saffiano Leather :
- ✔ Leather with a crosshatch pattern is extremely durable, which makes the price less intimidating, you know it's going to last you a long time.
- ✔ This type of leather is perfectly suited for everyday use.
- ✔ Saffiano leather has a solid finish, so this finish is scratch resistant. In addition, the few scratches are hardly visible.
- ✔ Saffiano leather is water resistant, especially when compared to other leathers.
- ✔ This type of leather requires little maintenance and is very easy to care for. Most of the time, a clean, humid wipe is all that is required.
- ✔ You have a choice : there are vegan options, calf leather options, very expensive Saffiano of excellent quality, or more affordable Saffiano of lower quality. It's the finish that makes the leather a Saffiano or not, not the quality or products used.
- ❌ The main shortcoming of Saffiano leather is undoubtedly its price. It can vary depending on the manufacturer or the materials used but a good Saffiano leather will be very expensive. If you find this type of leather at a very low price, it is probably a scam, a counterfeit or a product made with very poor quality materials.
- ❌ Despite its scratch resistance, Saffiano is sensitive to sharp objects that can seriously damage the finish. (This is the case with nearly all materials).
- ❌ The coating can flake off over time, the time at which the first damage occurs depends on the quality of the product and its maintenance. Generally, they occur after a long time, so pay attention to the corners, which are often the first area to be affected.
- ❌ The synthetic feel of Saffiano is a problem for some. The coating masks the properties of leather, so think of it as a compromise.
- ❌ The Saffiano finish is water resistant, not waterproof! (This is not really a fault, but more of a misconception that needs to be dispelled).
To Wrap Up
To conclude, Saffiano is a noble type of leather, with a history that symbolises one of the world's greatest fashion houses. To answer the question in the introduction: does it really live up to its reputation? I think it does, the crosshatch pattern leather lives up to its fame. As for you, what is your opinion? Whether you're a lover of crosshatched leather or prefer traditional leather, tell us why in the comments! 😉
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