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Saffiano Leather – The Surface-Treated Leather With Style

As a bag maker, there is no better way to elevate a project than using textured leather. Recently, I have been exploring my options and came across Saffiano leather. A unique crosshatch pattern that is raised to provide texture. This leather is quickly becoming one of my favorites for adding a luxury touch to projects.

Saffiano leather is a textured embossing pattern invented by the Prada fashion house. The raised, crosshatched pattern is added to chromium and vegetable tanned leathers. Saffiano leather is highly scratch-resistant due to a wax coating. This leather costs $7–$20 per square foot.

Let’s look further at Saffiano leather and its qualities and uncover what makes this stylish leather so unique. 

What Is Saffiano Leather?

Saffiano leather is a raised crosshatched embossing pattern invented by the Prada fashion house. The pattern can be printed on any leather type and quality. The Saffiano pattern is often used on chromium tanned leathers, as it is a popular choice for fashion goods.

Saffiano leather is firm, durable, and scratch-resistant, largely due to an artificial wax coating applied as a finishing layer for the leather. While Saffiano leather can be used for any leather project, it is most often chosen for fashion goods. The highly stylized look adds flair to these products, helping manufacturers stand out.

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • History of Saffiano Leather
  • Saffiano Leather Characteristics Quick Reference Table
  • In-depth Characteristics of Saffiano Leather
  • Pros of Saffiano Leather
  • Cons of Saffiano Leather
  • How Saffiano Leather is Made
  • Production Stats for Saffiano Leather
  • Cost of Saffiano Leather
  • When You Might Leathercraft With Saffiano Leather
  • Tips for Leathercrafting With Saffiano Leather
  • Examples of Goods Made from Saffiano Leather
  • My Personal Research on Saffiano Leather
  • Saffiano Leather Care & Maintenance
  • Helpful Insights on Saffiano Leather
  • Key Takeaways
Saffiano Leather Handbag - International Leather Club
Saffiano Leather Handbag

Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

With Saffiano leather quickly becoming a favorite in the fashion industry, there has been a rush to capitalize on its success. This has resulted in many lower-quality Saffiano prints, building a negative connotation around the leather itself. 

However, this is a misconception, as the embossing does not affect the quality of the leather. The Saffiano print can be, and has been, used on higher-quality leathers. When the leather was first invented, it was added to vegetable tanned leathers and produced in high-quality Italian tanneries.  

Many companies still continue to produce high-quality goods with the Saffiano embossing pattern. The key when searching for these quality products is to research the type of leather being used. Having enough information can help you avoid many cheap cash-grab products and discover why the leather became so beloved in the first place. 

History of Saffiano Leather

Saffiano leather was created in 1913 by Mario Prada, the founder and original designer of the high fashion brand Prada. Prada created this leather for their upcoming handbag line and wanted to create a unique, durable, and scratch-resistant look.

This specific method for creating leather was quickly patented, lasting until 1933. Once the patent on Saffiano leather ended, it was quickly reproduced by other manufacturers. Today Saffiano leather is a popular pattern for various leather goods made by many companies.

No longer is the material locked behind luxury goods, and it can be found at a much more affordable price. This change, however, has led to the quality of Saffiano leather being dependent on the manufacturer, leading to low-quality hides and giving the material a poor reputation. 

Saffiano Leather Characteristics Quick Reference Table

CharacteristicRating
Natural or SyntheticNatural
Surface TextureRaised crosshatched pattern
Available Thickness (oz/mm)3–6 ounces (1.2mm– 1.4mm)
Largest Workable Size24 square feet
Flexibility (1–10)4
Softness (1–10)2
Sewability (1–10)6
Durability (1–10)8
Ease of Maintenance (1–10)10
How Long it Lasts (Daily Use)Decade
Available ColorsAny
Waterproofness (1–10)8
Cost per Square Foot ($)$7–$20 per square foot
Ease of Crafting (1–10)7
Rarity (Common or Exotic)Common
Annual Production VolumeAn estimated 200 million square feet
Biggest Exporting CountryIndia
Biggest Importing CountryVietnam 
Saffiano Leather Characteristics

In-depth Characteristics of Saffiano Leather

Natural or Synthetic

Although some Saffiano leathers may feel artificial due to the print and firmness of the surface, they are still natural. While the pattern added to the leather is manufactured, the hide itself is real animal leather. The hard, plastic feeling comes from a protective coating added to the leather to make it wear and scratch-resistant.  

Surface Texture

The standout characteristic of Saffiano leather is its raised surface texture pattern. Hides becoming Saffiano leather will be embossed, heat stamping crosshatched lines over the entire surface. This gives the leather plenty of visual interest but also helps keep the material firm, wear-resistant, and scratch-resistant. 

Available Thickness

While Saffiano leather can be made in any size, it is most commonly seen on leathers 3–6 ounces (1.2mm to 2.4mm) in thickness. This is largely due to how the leather is used, focusing on small or fashion goods. In addition, many Saffiano hides will have been created from the split side of the leather, limiting its potential thickness. 

Largest Workable Size 

Although the Saffiano print can be added to any size and type of hide, it is mostly seen used for calves and cows. The largest Saffiano hides will be around 24 square feet on cow leather. Although hides 18 square feet and under will be more common, utilizing the smaller calf hides when producing the leather.

Flexibility

The leather is not very flexible at all. Adding the pattern and protective coating to Saffiano leather creates its rigidity. While the leather can bend slightly, there is always a risk of causing a crack when bending it. Saffiano leather works best with leather goods that are not pliable. 

Softness

Saffiano leather is not soft to the touch. The leather has a distinct crosshatch texture that can be felt throughout. In addition, a hard protective coating is applied to these hides, making them feel much more like plastic than leather. This type of leather aims to create a more wear-resistant product rather than one built for a soft feel.

Sewability

Sewing Saffiano leather is fairly easy. The hard surface prevents the holes from closing over time, allowing needles and thread to pass through the leather much more easily than others. The surface texture, however, may present a challenge as it may offset the sewing line. The scratch-resistant surface may also make it hard to create easily visible marks before punching sewing holes.

Durability

A great benefit of the protective coating added to Saffiano leather is its durability. The leather was designed to be wear and scratch-resistant and performs exceptionally well in both areas. The leather surface is not easily marked, and spills will often slide off without causing any stains. 

Ease of Maintenance

Saffiano leather is fairly easy to maintain due to the protective finish added to the leather. Many marks and scratches are not seen on the leather or may be easily buffed.

In addition, unlike most leathers, the coating may be cleaned using water to remove dust, debris, and stains quickly. However, the coating makes it more difficult to condition the leather, preventing the leather conditioner from penetrating the surface as quickly. 

Lifespan With Daily Use

Saffiano leather can easily last up to a decade when properly taken care of. While this is shorter than other leathers, the look of the leather will remain nearly flawless through its entire lifespan. The protective coating prevents much potential damage that other leathers might see. However, this coating can crack and peel over time, leading to the leather’s failure. 

Available Colors

With Saffiano leather being a chromium tanned fashion material, the choices of color are endless. While many tanneries choose to create black leather, plenty of others provide a full spectrum of colors. A gradient or other color patterns may be added to the Saffiano leather, expanding the choices available. 

Saffiano Leather Samples - International Leather Club
Saffiano Leather Samples

Waterproofness

The protective layer added to Saffiano leather makes it quite water-resistant. Although not waterproof, any liquids spilled on the surface of Saffiano leather will slide off the surface. However, if the liquid is left to soak into it, it can penetrate the leather, potentially damaging it. 

Cost

Saffiano leather has a wide price range depending on the leather’s quality. At the lowest end, it can be found for $7 per square foot. This typically uses low-quality split leather that is then coated with the waxed print. While this may still offer the same look as Saffiano leather, it is more likely to fail sooner due to the lower-quality hide used.

Higher-quality Saffiano leather may cost more than $20 per square foot. At this price point, the leather is often top grain calfskin, which produces a higher-quality product. This type of Saffiano leather will be more durable and have unique added qualities such as the ability to patina or better flexibility. 

Ease of Crafting

Crafting with Saffiano leather may be more difficult than others. This is largely due to the protective coating and the leather’s raised texture on its surface. Marking, cutting, and punching holes in the leather are all problems caused by this texture.

The uneven, scratch-resistant surface requires precision, as tools may slide around when used. To combat this, the leather can be worked on from the flesh side, making the process less difficult.

Rarity (Common or Exotic)

Saffiano leather is popular in fashion-based products and is fairly common. Many companies offer Saffiano leather for their products. Finding retailers who sell Saffiano hides is also pretty reliable, as both international and domestic tanneries produce the leather. Therefore, a wide variety of options are available when purchasing the Saffiano leather. 

Pros of Saffiano Leather

The goal of Saffiano leather is to create a wear-resistant leather. The protective coating added achieves this and provides unintentional benefits, including:

  1. Highly wear and scratch-resistant
  2. Water and stain-resistant 
  3. Easy to maintain
  4. Enough rigidity for most items without any additional stiffeners

A. Gulbinienė, V. Jankauskaitė, and R. Arcišauskaitė, from Kaunas University of Technology in Kaunas, Lithuania, discussed the effects of embossed leather on water vapor transfer. They found that leather that has been embossed, such as Saffiano leather, will have much better resistance to water vapor transfer and create a more water-resistant product overall. 

Cons of Saffiano Leather

While the surface of Saffiano leather allows it to stand out from others, it also changes some of its qualities. Many downsides of Saffiano leather are a direct result of the protective coating used during manufacturing. 

  1. Artificially stiff feel to the surface
  2. Lack of flexibility
  3. Slightly more difficult to craft with
  4. Shorter lifespan due to peeling or cracking

How Saffiano Leather is Made

Saffiano leather can either start as a new animal hide or as a split leather taken from a different hide. Typically, Saffiano leather made from fresh animal hide will result in higher quality leather, as the split side lacks the same density found on the surface of the hides. Regardless of the hide type, the skin is placed into a vat to be tanned. 

Tanneries have their unique combinations of chemicals, often using chromium or natural tannins. Once the leather has been tanned, preserving the hide by preventing rot, it is moved to a new vat containing dye used to color the leather. 

After the color is added to the leather, the signature print must be stamped onto the surface. To do so the leather is placed on a hot press where a metal stamp will emboss the entire surface. Traditionally, Saffiano leather is then coated with a heavy wax finish, but some manufacturers have opted for a lighter finish to allow for a more natural feel to the material.

This video provided by Honggang Machine Manufacturing Co. Ltd shows how embossing patterns are stamped onto finished leather. On a larger scale, Saffiano leather undergoes the same process to achieve the iconic crosshatched finish. 

Production Statistics of Saffiano Leather

  1. Volume per year – Estimated 200 million square feet
  1. Key countries where it is produced – India, China, Italy
  1. Biggest exporting country – India
  1. Biggest importing country – Vietnam

Cost of Saffiano Leather

  1. Square foot – $7–$20 per square foot
  1. ½ Hide – $60–$110
  1. Full Hide – $120–$240

When You Might Leathercraft With Saffiano Leather

The most common place to find Saffiano leather is in the fashion industry. The texture adds interesting detail to items, and the coating makes them more wear-resistant, creating products that look best when flawless.

  1. When looking for textured leather to add visual interest to projects
  2. When needing a wear and scratch-resistant leather
  3. When looking for an easy-to-maintain leather 

The pattern can be printed on any leather type and quality. The Saffiano pattern is often used on chromium tanned leathers, as it is a popular choice for fashion goods.

Tips for Leathercrafting With Saffiano Leather

Saffiano leather can be more challenging to work with than other leathers. Its hard surface prevents guiding marks, and the texture throughout can misalign tools. Therefore, working with Saffiano leather requires care and different techniques.

  1. Work on the backside of the leather when possible to avoid the texture 
  2. Use an awl instead of chisels to keep the sewing line straight 
  3. Avoid bending the leather when possible to limit potential cracking 

Some Examples of Items Made From Saffiano Leather

Saffiano leather was created for the fashion industry, offering a highly durable and scratch-resistant leather that does not show wear easily. This allows companies to create leather products that look as good as new for years. Some common items made from Saffiano leather include:

  1. Bags
  2. Wallets
  3. Watch straps
  4. Key chains

My Personal Research on Saffiano Leather

With Saffiano leather being a popular choice for many, there is a lot of varying information regarding the quality. Some companies produce low-quality products using Saffiano leather, which may scare many away from the leather. For my research, I decided to look at the differences between low and high-quality Saffiano hides, focusing on the leather’s texture, flexibility, and durability. 

Texture

Both hides I looked at were made from cow leather. The first was a split-grain Saffiano hide; the other was a top grain. Throughout this research, I will refer to the split grain Saffiano leather as the low-quality leather and the top grain hide as the high-quality leather. The low-quality Saffiano leather felt rough and hard.

Running my hand across the surface, I felt imperfect areas that would lightly scratch my skin, similar to hard plastic. The high-quality Saffiano leather was still hard, but there was a big difference in how smooth the surface was.

Despite the ridges of the pattern, my hand could pass across the top without being lightly scratched. The difference was similar to touching different grits of sandpaper. The higher-quality leather also felt less like plastic. Despite the protective coating, the hide had a distinct softness to it.

Flexibility

A common area that highlights the limitations of Saffiano leather is the material’s rigidity. When bending the hides, I was looking for cracking, creasing, and any other signs of wear that would indicate the leather was failing. The low-quality Saffiano leather did not handle bending well. It immediately began to crease.

As I worked the leather in multiple directions, the middle of the bend started to pull away from the leather, opening up a small crack where I could see the surface separating from the hide. The flexibility of the higher-quality hide was much better.

Immediately, I could create deeper bends with less effort. What stood out, however, was how the leather handled it. While there was some slight creasing when intensely bending the leather, there was no cracking. For most ways this leather would be used, it would never have to bend as intensely. Therefore, it should stay pristine during actual use. 

Durability

To test the durability of the leather, I attempted to scratch and peel the surface of the leather once a hole was made. When testing the low-quality Saffiano leather, it performed very well. The leather did not scratch easily and took a lot of wear before creating a hole. However, at this point, the leather began to fail.

The loose fibers of the split grain made it fairly easy to tug apart the surface from the leather. The more I took off, the easier it became. When testing the high-quality Saffiano leather I was surprised at the difference in performance. The high-quality leather scratched and wore much more easily.

The more natural surface limited the protection provided to the leather. The high-quality hide held up well when attempting to peel at the surface. Although I could rip areas out, it took much more effort. More importantly, this did not cause a chain reaction. When an area was removed, it did little to disturb the surrounding fibers, making the leather more difficult to peel.

Conclusion

The difference between low- and high-quality Saffiano leather is quite high. The low-quality leather tries to make up for the looser grain by having a thicker protective layer. While this does make the leather more wear-resistant, it becomes artificial feeling and loses flexibility. On the other hand, while the higher quality Saffiano leather looks and feels more natural, it loses protection by having a less aggressive protective coating.

Blue Saffiano Leather Bag - International Leather Club
Blue Saffiano Leather Bag

Saffiano Leather Care and Maintenance

How To Clean Saffiano Leather

Although the raised texture of Saffiano leather can trap dirt, the material is fairly easy to clean. A horsehair brush can be used to remove dirt from hard-to-reach places. Since many Saffiano leathers have a heavily waxed finish, leather soap with water will have no trouble cleaning the leather. However, testing all products before using them on the leather is important to prevent unwanted reactions. 

How To Condition Saffiano Leather

Saffiano leather should be conditioned using a tested leather conditioner. For best results, the leather should be cared for periodically. When applying the leather conditioner with a clean cloth, it may need more time to work into the leather.

The waxy coating prevents the leather from accepting liquids, so the conditioner must saturate the material. Once the leather has dried, it should be wiped down with a new, clean cloth to remove excess and buff the surface. 

How To Store Saffiano Leather

When storing Saffiano leather, it should be kept in a temperature-controlled environment, away from heat, sunlight, and any moisture. While Saffiano leather is highly durable, prolonged exposure to any of these may cause damage to the leather, ranging from discoloration to cracking caused by dryness.

When possible, Saffiano leather should be kept in a dust bag. Not only protecting it from dirt and debris but also keeping as much light away as possible. 

Helpful Insights on Saffiano Leather

Is Saffiano leather real leather?

Yes, although Saffiano leather may feel artificial due to its hard surface, it uses real animal leather. Saffiano is often made of cow or calf hides, adding a stiff protective layer to help keep it looking flawless.

What kind of leather is Saffiano?

Saffiano leather is often cow or calf hides, specifically the top or split of the leather. These are chosen for a lack of blemishes, which allows for a clean embossing with little to no blemishes. 

What is Saffiano leather made out of?

Saffiano leather is made of various animal hides, the most common being cow and calf hides. The texture seen on the leather is an embossing to add a visual flair. Hides used are heat stamped with the print, creating the raised cross-hatched texture the leather is known for.

Is Saffiano leather luxury?

While Saffiano leather was first created as a luxury material, the current quality of the leather may vary. Manufacturers decide what quality and type of leather to use. Potentially greatly impacting the final outcome. As a result, there are countless examples of low-quality Saffiano leather utilizing split hides instead of a denser grain. 

Does Louis Vuitton use Saffiano leather?

No, Louis Vuitton does not use Saffiano leather. The company has a similar textured leather known as Epi. However, the pattern added to the material is different. Epi leather has single-direction wavy lines flowing across the hide instead of a cross-hatching pattern. 

What are the cons of Saffiano leather?

The coating added to Saffiano leather to protect it, also causes the downsides for the leather. Saffiano leather is rigid and a little more difficult to work with. The coating makes the leather feel like plastic, losing the natural appeal of leather. Finally, the coating is prone to cracking, causing unnecessary damage to the leather over time. 

Does Michael Kors use Saffiano leather?

Yes, Michael Kors uses two different Saffiano types of leather for their products: faux and real leather. The faux Saffiano is often chosen for their outlet products as the artificial leather allows for a lower price point. Their mainline items use real leather for their Saffiano items.

Key Takeaways

  1. Saffiano leather is easy to maintain.
  2. The quality of Saffiano leather ranges greatly and can impact the longevity of an item.
  3. Saffiano leather is highly wear, and scratch-resistant.

In Closing

Saffiano leather explores a different way of creating leather. The leather creates a hard-wearing material intended not to age. To accomplish this, the leather uses an artificial surface and a heavy finishing coat. For those looking for wear-resistant leather that looks as good as new for years, Saffiano leather is a great choice.  

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