Natural-finished leathers can develop incredible visual tones and appearances over time. Vachetta leather is a very popular example.
Vachetta leather is a term used to describe a high-quality, vegetable tanned leather used primarily for handbag handles, straps, and trim. It is untreated, and thus retains the natural tan/beige color of the leather hide. Louis Vuitton and Coach have helped make Vachetta leather quite popular.
Vegetable tanned leather has been available for centuries. Let’s take a look at why Vachetta leather has become so desired.
What is Vachetta Leather?
Vachetta leather is essentially a marketing term used to refer to high-quality, vegetable tanned leathers. The name is derived from the French word for calfskin, “vachette”. Calves, or young cows, typically have very soft, even-toned, supple skins. Calfskin leathers that are smooth, strong, and feel pleasant to the touch.
Vegetable tanning is a process that utilizes natural plant extracts to treat the leather hides. The result is a leather that is generally light in tone, since it shows the original skin color of the hide. It is usually light tan, beige, or sometimes almost white. For a detailed look into vegetable tanned leather, click here to read an article I wrote about it.
Vachetta leather is unique in that it is unfinished. As such, the surface of it is exposed. With normal wear and exposure to air, moisture, and oils in the skin, the leather darkens over time. This is mainly due to how it reacts with the substances it comes in contact with. The subtle contrast in tone near the areas handled the most often leads to a pleasant “patina” that is quite preferred.
Sun and water can affect the color as well. It is important to properly maintain the leather goods. This will help ensure optimal wear and longevity for years of satisfying use.
Also, since vegetable tanned leather is natural and unfinished, it is also more likely to display natural blemishes on the hide’s surface. These are usually not desirable in finished pieces. As such, most leather used in fine handbag construction needs to be thin, high-quality, have very consistent coloration, and little to no surface flaws. Premium calfskins (“vachette”) are used.
Luxury handbag makers sought to distinguish the use of fine calfskin in their products, and thus referred to it as Vachetta leather. Icons such as Louis Vuitton and Coach have made this popular over years. The benefit of Vachetta leather is that time often makes it look better and more pleasing to the eye. The original tan fades into a rich, brown tone, creating a desired appearance that can only be gained over time and with use.
What is Vachetta Leather Used For?
Vachetta leather is commonly used in the manufacture of luxury handbags, duffle bags, and luggage. It can be used for straps, handles, trim, bottoms, and accent areas. This leather can also be found in belts, shoes, sneakers, sandals, wallets, bags, and personal accessories.
Since it is natural, vegetable tanned leather, it can be crafted into most any leather good one is working on. It can also be stamped, tooled, and moulded. The calfskins used in Vachetta leather are usually soft, supple, and very easy to work with. They are also great for stitching together, either by hand or by machine.
Where is Vachetta Leather Made?
Vachetta leather is made and is available around the world. It is a vegetable tanned calfskin leather. The quality of the Vachetta leather will, like any other leather, vary based on the tannery it comes from as well as the skill of the tanners making it.
Sometimes it is referred to as Tuscan leather, or being primarily from Tuscany, Italy. While Italy does produce some of the world’s finest leathers, Vachetta leather is not exclusive to Italy. Likely, this originated as marketing copy intended to infer the luxury and quality of the material.
When luxury handbag makers used the term to help differentiate their materials, it became very popular. Generally, large handbag designers do not disclose the source of their materials, and thus the tanneries that produce their Vachetta leather are not commonly shared.
However, since it’s just a high-quality calfskin, it’s a type of leather that is readily available to the leather worker.
Does Vachetta Leather Scratch Easily?
Yes, Vachetta leather scratches easily. This is mainly due to it being a natural, untreated leather. As such, scratches or abrasions will show clearly on the material’s surface.
This isn’t all bad, however. This type of leather is also very sturdy and durable. As the color darkens over time into a brown patina, the everyday scratches and scuffs become part of the overall look. While this might sound odd, often over time, this results in a generally pleasing, aged, visual appearance.
So in general, the more a Vachetta bag used used (along with proper care and maintenance), the better it will look.
Is Vachetta Leather Durable?
Yes, Vachetta leather is very durable. Vegetable tanned leather, which is what Vachetta leather is made from, is natural and minimally processed. This allows it to retain much of the original characteristics of the calf hide, which includes being smooth, supple, and durable.
Vegetable tanned leather is used in many leather goods that see hard use, including bags, belts, shoes, boots, and saddlery. When used in a comparatively light way, on luxury handbags, the Vachetta leather should prove to be a soft, comfortable leather that looks great and lasts for a very long time.
Vachetta Leather Care & Maintenance
It is important to properly clean and maintain all leather goods. Since they are natural fibers, keeping the surfaces clean and restoring/conditioning them with oils will help them stay strong and looking great.
One thing to keep in mind: for any step in leather care, generally test on a small area to ensure the cleaner or finish that you are applying will not react poorly with the material. Once you know it’s safe, clean away 🙂
Vegetable tanned leather is especially sensitive to cleaners. Even large drops of water can darken the material.
How to Clean Vachetta Leather
Vachetta leather can be cleaned generally by rubbing a moist, lint-free cloth over the surface. It’s a tricky balance between having the cloth too wet and staining the leather, vs. too dry that it won’t penetrate and remove dirt, dust, and grime.
Some of the moisture will air-dry from the surface, so while it might sound like any water equals instant stain, it usually takes more than a damp cloth to leave any visible traces.
If the dirt is deeper, it has difficult stains, or you want to thoroughly clean the leather, a dedicated leather cleaner might be a helpful choice. Saddle soap is a popular choice. It is intended for saddlery and similar leathers that are vegetable tanned.
Lexol is another leather cleaner that is formulated to be very gentle on leather while removing dirt and grime.
How to Condition Vachetta Leather
Since vegetable tanned leather has no surface finishes applied, the leather fibers dry out more quickly than on other types of leather. Thus, it is important to more frequently condition Vachetta leather.
Generally, this involves applying a wax, oil, or cream onto the surface and letting the leather absorb it in. When conditioned, the leather is more supple, flexible, resistant to scratches, and feels better in the hand.
Once the surface has been thoroughly cleaned, the conditioner can be applied using an applicator or soft cloth. Conditioner is generally applied in small circles, allowed to soak in, then the excess wiped off with a clean, lint-free cloth.
A protective finish can be applied at this stage, if preferred. The benefit is it will help the leather be a bit more water and scratch resistant. The potential downside is that it will introduce a layer on the leather surface that hides some of the desirable look and feel of natural leather. Protective finishes are usually natural waxes or synthetic waxes/acrylics.
Usually, a well-cleaned and conditioned Vachetta leather piece is best, without a finish applied.
How to Store Vachetta Leather
Vachetta leather should be stored in a cool, dry, dust-free location. Generally, leather products benefit from low-average humidity environments. Air flow is also beneficial, as it allows the natural fibers of the leather to “breathe”.
If kept in a sealed environment, the humidity might rise and the leather start to deteriorate, and mold. In an environment with too-low humidity, the leather can start to dry and that could lead to cracking and weakening of the fibers.
A good place to store Vachetta leather is a dressing room or closet that have an average livable temperature, humidity level, and frequent airflow. Some leather goods come with storage bags. They’re usually a breathable fabric that helps keep cut off. Storing it in one of these can be a great choice if available.
A fine leather good can be treasured and enjoyed for years. Items made with Vachetta leather represent some of the nicest and most visually pleasing pieces. They feel great when used, and get better with time.
What is Vachetta leather made of?
Vachetta leather is made of calfskin. It is generally produced using a vegetable tanning process, resulting in a leather that is naturally tan, without any dyes or finishes applied. Calfskin is usually very smooth, durable, and wears well over time.
Is Vachetta leather real leather?
Yes, Vachetta leather is real leather. It is made from vegetable tanned calfskin. This type of leather is usually light tan in color, and darkens over time into a light brown “patina” from everyday use. It is often used for luxury handbags and trim.