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Everlasting Garments are the Most Sustainable A Guide to Leather Care

As a fundamental material that binds man to nature, leather has a special place in the avant-garde dressing philosophy. Its versatile and durable organic texture means that it can be molded to give a supple or coarse touch, all while retaining its flexibility and resistance to wear.

They say that leather gets better with age, but that’s only true when you treat it with care. When you look after it, a leather jacket will reveal its timeless character over the course of many years. It can even become a heritage item, passed down for generations.

If you want to prolong and enhance the life of your leather garments, read on and find out how to care for your leather products, what reasons there are to opt for genuine leather, and what sustainability questions are important to consider.


What Are the Advantages of Genuine Leather?

There are several reasons why leather has been championed by style and musical icons over the years, and this has as much to do with fashion as with the physical qualities of leather.

As we’ve already looked at the cultural influence of leather in a previous article, let us now consider some of the key practical arguments that make leather one of the most prized textiles in the world.



Like many other natural fibers and materials, leather responds well to daily wear and tear. It’s one of the most durable materials available, which means that you can wear the same item of leather clothing for years, if not decades.

Leather clothes are investment pieces, which is why it’s better to look for timeless design lines and neutral colors, rather than buying something very on-trend that will look dated in the future.

If you’re thinking whether to choose natural or man-made leather, consider that, compared to faux leather (also called pleather or vegan leather), the useful life of a genuine leather garment can be twice or even three times as long.



Unlike other materials such as suede or canvas, which can only be worn under certain weather conditions, leather footwear and outerwear are versatile and lend themselves to many styles and occasions. You can wear leather shoes in sun or rain, on formal or casual occasions.

From perforated designs that are best for summer, to shearling-lined bombers and coats, you can find leather jacket designs fit for every season. Sometimes, a single piece can take you from spring to the start of winter, which is why most people never need more than one leather jacket in their closet.

Animal hides are used to make a huge variety of quality goods that we use every day, such as leather bags, belts, and wallets. When you consider its various applications in automotive and home furniture, you can see that versatility is, in fact, a mark of the material’s quality.



When you want to come across as powerful, aloof or even seductive, leather is the way to go. Thanks to its oft dubbed ‘masculine’ appeal, leather holds a special place among fashion garments and it is often chosen by wearers with a strong sense of personal style.

From the zipped leather pants worn by music icons to luxe leather dresses, deconstructed leather jackets, or Matrix-style leather coats, there’s a plethora of avant-garde clothing items made from leather. These items lend their against-the-current character to the wearer and help to create a personal power look.


Time and Wear

The distinctive look of aged leather is another aspect that makes it so full of personality. Every scratch and every mark of the time’s passing leaves a tactile story on the organic surface and imbues it with your personal history.

How leather ages is entirely dependent on how it’s treated, but when you look after it with care, its aspect will get better with age. While there’s a lot of things you can do to maintain the natural aspect of the garment, there are also some natural processes that are unavoidable.

Not only does some leather darken with age, but it can also lighten under certain conditions, like being in the sun or under bright lights for a long time. In general, dyed leather is prone to losing some of its color, becoming lighter over the years. On the other hand, natural or vegetable tanned leather will darken from contact with exterior factors (such as skin oils, dirt, UV exposure, etc) and gain a precious patina.


Leather Article 3 


Genuine (Natural) vs Vegan (Artificial) Leather

The benefits of using animal hides were first recognized over 3000 years ago when man started using early forms of leather to make clothing and improve his shelter.

In today’s world, leather doesn’t have the same role in ensuring our survival, and yet it remains one of the most sought-after materials, thanks to its aesthetic qualities, good insulating capacity, and resistance to wear.

Other man-made materials that imitate leather have more become common in recent years, especially because they are cheaper to make. But most of these artificial materials don’t have the same durability as real leather and are discarded more quickly, contributing to the accumulation of textile waste.


What Does ‘Vegan Leather’ Mean and What Is It Made Of?

If you’ve ever wondered how can leather be vegan, here’s a quick and simple answer for you: vegan leather, faux leather and pleather (plastic leather) are generally used interchangeably to talk about man-made leather that contains no animal products.

 According to eco-luxury fashion publication Eluxe, the vast majority of faux leather has been around before we even started calling it ‘vegan’ and it’s made from petroleum-based materials such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride), PU (polyurethane) and textile-polymer composite microfibres.

 Suede leather, bonded leather, and patent leather are not vegan leathers by definition, but it is possible to find faux leather alternatives with a suede or patent finish.


Is Vegan Leather Safe?

Although vegan leather has a positive impact on animal welfare, it can still be dangerous to humans - not only because of how it’s made, but also because it is a source of non-biodegradable plastic-based waste. Newer cork- and kelp-based materials are less damaging for the environment, but these are a lot less widespread in the fashion industry.

Vegan leather is not as durable as its natural counterpart and, generally speaking, the quality of artificial leathers does not compare with that of genuine leather. On the other hand, as vegan leather is made with a plastic coating, it is waterproof. Since genuine leather absorbs water, putting a droplet of water on a particular type of leather can help you determine whether it’s real or fake.


How Can You Tell If Something Is Made from Genuine Leather?

Because leather is such a distinctive material, knowing certain characteristics of this time-honored material will help you identify it quickly and make informed decisions when you shop.

While ‘leather’ can generally denote any kind of leather-like material, whether natural or man-made, the meaning of the term ‘genuine leather’ serves to distinguish leather of animal origin from all other types. You can generally find this inscribed on garment labels, or on the underside of belts, watch bands, wallets etc, and this is the quickest way to tell if your leather is real or fake.

Other indicators that can help distinguish between a real and a faux leather are:


  • The surface - leather has a porous look and fine lines, while artificial leather is much more glossy and had no visible pores;

  • The smell - real leather has a distinctive organic odor, while fake leather or PVC leather smells of vinyl and chemical agents;

  • The backside - genuine leather has a rugged suede-like underside; faux leather is treated and looks plain, sometimes with visible seams.


Leather Article 4 


Leather Garments Production and Sustainability

Vegan leather is the obvious choice when it comes down to animal welfare, but its impact on the environment is said to be greater than that of natural leather.

Unlike artificial, petroleum-based leathers which can turn into toxic waste, genuine leather garments do not pose an environmental problem at the end of their useful life. What’s more, the leather’s durability means that can be used for a longer time, which can decrease consumption and encourage a more conscious approach.

Nevertheless, leather manufacturing is not without its faults. Perhaps the biggest environmental issue associated with leather has to do with the tanning process - the process through which the hide is softened and protected against decomposition.

Because it’s the cheapest and most efficient option, most tanneries use chromium in this process, a chemical which is toxic to the environment. However, as consumers awareness grows, so does the demand for a more ethical product.

As a response to this growing demand, many companies are turning to traditional methods of leather production, such as vegetable tanning. Innovation is also coming from chemical industry companies, who are developing new enzymes, water-based pigments and ingredients that can remove the need for surfactants, reduce the necessary amount of water, and generally contribute to a more sustainable leather manufacturing process.


What Kind of Leather Is Sustainable?

Sustainability issues must be addressed starting with the leather supply chain in order to achieve an ethical product. As such, the traceability of hides plays an important role in improving the leather industry’s impact on the environment. Only leather that comes from animals that are raised ethically and which is strictly a byproduct of the meat industry can be considered sustainable.

Many parties are involved in the creation of a sustainable leather jacket, which is why at Barbara I Gongini, we strive to work only with suppliers that respect local and EU legislation standards with regard to chemical use.

We recognize our obligation to ensure that all our suppliers operate ethically and we visit our suppliers at least once a year to make sure we can work together to achieve a sustainable product.

We also aim to reduce waste throughout the production process, which means that all leather scraps are upcycled and given new life. Leather is a precious resource that has to be used consciously and we take it upon ourselves to make sure it is not wasted.

Click here to learn more about sustainability at Barbara I Gongini.



Leather Article 2


How to Look After Leather

Make your leather clothing look great for as long as possible by simply following a few essential care principles. To find out how to best care for your leather jacket, make sure you pay attention to the washing instructions that are found on your garment’s label.


Leather Care Principles

Keep your leather items in the best shape by cleaning them regularly and hydrating them to prevent cracking. Although some (pleather) garments may be suitable for machine washing, it’s better to use a special leather soap and clean leather clothes by hand, especially if an item is dyed or has delicate embellishments.

Just like any natural skin, leather reacts to the chemical cleaning agents in soap. Unless you are dealing with a tough stain, mild cleaners are ideal for everyday cleaning. The best leather care products are pH balanced or pH matched.


The Best Way to Store Leather

Because leather is an organic material, it needs to breathe in order to prevent rotting. Store your leather items in breathable dust bags (avoid plastic) and maintain a constant level of humidity. Since it is a porous material, leather will absorb excess moisture, which can damage it.

If your leather pants or shoes get wet, air them for at least a day before storing and dry leather clothes in a flat position. Never force the drying process and keep garments away from heat sources to prevent excessive drying of the inner oils and premature aging. Use padded hangers to store dry leather jackets, as they will help maintain the natural shape of the shoulder line.

To avoid discoloration, keep leather away from direct light sources when storing. Although leather color can fade naturally, sunlight speeds up this process and can also cause drying and even cracking.


Leather Cleaning Care

The best way to look after leather is to clean it with a damp cloth after each use so that you remove dust and other dirt particles. For grain leather use a soft brush for the best results.

While leather is best cared for manually, some people really want to know: can you wash leather jackets? Because there are a lot of contradictory views about this, we advise that you find out exactly how to wash your own leather jacket by readingthe instruction care label. We think it’s best not to machine wash any leather clothes, shoes, or accessories.

What happens when you wash a leather jacket is that it can come out battered, cracked, or even frayed. Some people recommend using the gentle cycle, but this is not a foolproof method. If this is an investment piece, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Clean it manually with a leather soap and moisturize with balsam or, even better, take it to a specialist cleaner who can handle the situation. 


Maintenance: Conditioning Your Leather

Besides cleaning, there are other ways to rejuvenate a leather garment. The natural oils found in leather give it a special kind of shine, which may sometimes fade after a long period of storage. What leather conditioners do is to restore this attractive finish and refresh the look of a garment.

If there’s one thing you should remember about how to treat a leather jacket, it is that using a leather conditioner once a month can effectively lengthen a garment’s useful life, preventing it from deteriorating and becoming stiff.


DIY Leather Care Tips

If you want to alter the look of your leather items, there are some simple things you can do at home. Have a look at these tips about how to wear out leather and boost its good looks.


How to Patina Leather

Just like wood, waxed canvas or metal, leather develops a beautiful patina as you use it. Raw or vegetable-tanned leather is the type of leather that changes most radically with use. Conversely, the look of dyed leather will be less affected by the passing of time, because it has been treated and protected against external factors. 

To get a patina on your shoes, jacket, wallet or other leather products, all you have to do is wear it. If you want to speed up your garments’ aging process, you could leave your garments in the sun, splash them with water occasionally and touch them as often as possible. Another way is to rub in a leather conditioner or oil that will darken it immediately.


How to Distress Leather

The distressed leather look can be very appealing, but you want to achieve this without damaging the garment. To do this, make sure you avoid the rough methods - such as using sandpaper, wire brushes, or drying it by the fire.

If you want to alter the look of your leather jacket, we recommend that you soak it in water, squeeze it in those parts that should have a more textured look and dry it slowly, at moderate temperatures.

As an alternative, you can use rubbing alcohol and work it gently into the leather before you knead it to achieve the wrinkled texture you are after. Always do a patch test first, since different leathers will react differently.


 A primordial material by nature, the durability and timeless appeal of leather make it ideal for the conscious wearer. Whether you’re looking for a jacket to cherish for years to come or a pair of pants to construct a power look, choosing leather over imitation will guarantee their longevity and elevate the quality of the design.


Give your clothes the gift of time.

Shop the Barbara I Gongini leather collection now.