How to recognize a real leather product

Real leather, eco leather, faux leather and much more: the leather goods sector is extremely expansive, and many customers have chosen to move away from real leather for ethical reasons. We don't want to talk about personal ethical choices, bearing in mind that consumerism and fast fashion generally cause more damage to the environment than original leather goods, but we do want to discuss how to make informed choices and recognize real leather.

All real leather bags are obviously of animal origin: the most common options include bovine leather, but there are also snakeskin and crocodile skin versions available on the market. The skins are tanned and then treated with chemicals to prevent the material from decomposing, allowing it to be used to make bags, shoes, accessories and furniture.

How to recognize real leather using your senses

The term "eco-leather", which is increasingly prevalent, does not actually refer to synthetic leather, but rather animal skins that have been treated using green techniques to ensure a low environmental impact. To recognize real leather from faux leather and other materials that try to replicate the style, you have to rely on your senses.

First, use your sense of smell: real leather has a unique and extremely recognisable odour that cannot be confused with any other material, even by a non-expert nose. The second sense you can rely on is touch; real leather products are soft, and as soon as you feel them you will notice their supple texture.

If you are buying online, always pay close attentions to the photos. Real leather has a natural and irregular appearance, and authentic leather bags are often accompanied by a label that explains why each accessory is unique.

A few more tips to recognize real leather

Real leather also undergoes a distinctive ageing process: authentic leather shows only slight signs of wear and age, with some discolouration, while faux leather tears and falls apart.

Another way to make sure you're buying a leather product is to try the "fire test": hold a lighter near the surface of the material for about twenty seconds, and if you start to smell burnt plastic or see bubbles forming then you know you have a faux leather product. Real leather, on the other hand, may produce a burning odour but will never smell like plastic, and it will only ever wrinkle.

Alternatively, uniformity can be an important tell: real leather bags can never be mass-produced to create identical products. In spite of the colour treatments, there will be always be differences in the leather, which make the bags even more valuable. Finally, don't overlook the labels: a product with a "Vera Pelle" label should meets all the required quality standards.