"Tanning" is a chemical reaction progress that turns easily-rotten raw "animal skin" into dry, pliable and durable "leather".
The oldest material used for tanning is oak bark, which has rich "tannin" essence that is required for tanning. Later on many other natural tanning agents have been discovered, such as chestnut, quebracho...
each produce tanning solution in different shades of brown, which becomes the base color of leather, as well as a variety of natural scent that adds to the "flavor" of vegetable-tanned leather.
Vegetable-tanned leather are known for their potential to "mature": the color of leather gradually darkens with use, from tan to coffee brown or whiskey red. The grease essence between the fibers will emerge to the surface, so the leather will have a beautiful gloss the more you use it...
Using vegetable-tanned leather goods is like owning a piece of personal history, it grows with you, bearing the marks of your daily life, accompanying you for years to come.
WOTANCRAFT have always been a hardcore "vintage military" style brand since 2009, so we chose not to use smooth tan leather such as Hermann Oak or Tochigi leather.
Such leather has the most distinctive "maturing" effect, but the end result looks too "clean" for our taste, not rugged enough.
In the paste decade, WOTANCRAFT have repeatedly used the following types of leather, which you can say are WOTANCRAFT's "iconic" vegetable-tanned leather:
This type of leather has been used since WOTANCRAFT's first camera bag launched in 2010. It has the following features:
"Tough" - this type of leather is called "full-grain" leather, the average thickness is 4mm, all the fiber layers- including top grain, the strongest layer- are preserved and untrimmed. WOTANCARFT use this type of leather in areas that need to bear weight.
"Rugged" - the leather surface is untrimmed, meaning that all the skin pores and fight scars of the animal are clearly visible. Such "rugged imperfection" is perfect for WOTANCRAFT bags.
"battle-disressed" - the leather surface underwent a special "surface wax infusion" process, creating a very thin layer of stiffness that cracks like frozen lake surface. Such irregular crack marks create a battle-distressed impression, with the end result subject to the user's habits.
"Pull-up effect" - this leather related term is used to describe when color temporarily fades when leather is bent, this is because the grease essence that carries the natural dye shifts when the fibers are compressed.
Pull-up effect color shifts, leather patina development, coupled with the natural skin pores of thick full-grain leather… these remarkable features give our leather an iconic "vintage soul", which is like nothing you've seen in common chrome-tanned leather materials.
"An unevenly corrugated surface, like calm waves in the sea, contours that made the material so expressive and alive..."
This is an unique leather type from Tuscany Italy that designer Albert fell in love with, which gave birth to WOTANCRAFT's first full-leather backpack in 2014 - the PHANTOM.
The "hand-crunching" treatment take twice hand-labor than normal vegetable-tanned leather, no two pieces of leather look the same.
Furthermore, the hand-crunched leather is what the Japanese named "chashin", which translates to "tea core". The leather is only dyed at surface level, so the underlying brown/tan leather color will gradually reveal when the top color wears off. This effect is often seen on old Redwing boots or leather biker jackets.
When you bend the "hand-crunched" leather, you will also see the two tone "pull-up" color shift effect. And with the brown colored version, you will have the pleasure of seeing the leather color "mature" into darker shades.
You don't get this kind of details with painted leather, because paint is essentially a coating, it doesn't enter the fibers, so it won't have any change when leather is bent.
Do you know that 90% of pebble-grained leather bags have "fake textures"?
The common method is first trim the surface layer of the leather (which thereby removing the more sturdy, durable layer), and then use machine to "press" the skin texture on top to minick the real thing. Fake grains look more evenly distributed, with cleaner surface.
On the other hand, WOTANCRAFT pebble-grained leather preserves the durable top layer skin, the grain texture is formed by "surface shrinking" during the tanning process, the shink follows the pattern of the skin texture.
How to differentiate between "fake" and "real" pebble-grained leather?
Real skin texture is not evenly distributed, some parts squeeze closer and others loose, plus that the depth of the texture marks vary. Simply speaking, you can tell if a leather has "natural texture" by looking at the "texture distribution" and "depth variation of texture".
And of course, the best way to know the difference is first owning a leather bag made of "real" pebble-grained leather.
WOTANCRAFT first entered the business making leather watch straps. Come to think about it, we were fortunate to go down such path, because it lead us to appreciating vegetable-tanned leather, a wonderful leather material that's not as common in the market as it should be.
The material needed to make a watch strap is more demanding than that of a leather bag. It needs to fit comfortably, can't cause allergies, durable, pliable... over the years, we found that only vegetable-tanned leather can qualify.
The biggest difference between WOTANCRAFT straps and other workshops, is that we are dedicated to our own "WOTANCRAFT style". Our leather straps often require hand-aging and hand-dying aesthetic treatments, only the right type of leather to achieve the "vintage soul" effect.
We even extract vitage leather from WWII relic Swiss army ammo pouches to make leather straps, because many of these vintage ammo pouches are made with vegetable-tanned leather, and many of them have already developed beautiful pantina.
A: Most WOTANCRAFT leather are water repellant, to cope with rainy / snowy days. Different leather have different water-resistant levels:
"Hand-crunched leather" is most water-repellant, water drop will only soak into leather after 15 mins.
"Battle-distressed leather" is also water-repellant, water drop will soak in after 10 mins.
Note, the "pebble-grained leather" has no additional treatment to ensure smooth hand feel, so it is not water-repellant at all, water drop will soak in within 3 mins.
If you wish to apply water-repellant coating to leather, be sure to use "natural wax-based" products, such as boot wax by Ottor Wax, or Collonil Outdoor Biwax Spray.
Before applying wax to leather surface, be sure to brush off any dust/dirt on the leather, so that they don't get caught within the wax layer.
A: WOTANCRAFT's choice of leather are made to last, you only need to watch out for the following:
1. When leather is wet, only dry it in the shades. Do not expose it under sunlight to dry, the grease essence between the leather fibers will be lost, and the leather will become stiff and even crack.
2. If you wish to replenish the grease of leather, to make the leather more glossy and supple, first wipe the leather clean with dry cotton cloth, and the rub small amount of solid mink oil into the leather in small circular motion. Repeat the oil rubbing till every corner of the leather is covered, and then wipe the surface clean till the surface gloss begin to appear, and there are no more sticky feeling.
3. The "hand-crunched" leather has wax between the leather fibers, so when leather bag is stored for a while, a thin layer of white wax will appear. It is more like a large area of thin white veil, unlike the spotted pattern of molds. Simply wipe it off with dry cloth, the leather will return to its glossy condition.
A: Follow these steps:
1. Use dry cloth to wipe off all the mold spots. Careful, don't touch other areas of the leather with stained cloth.
2. Once you removed all the mold spots, apply a little amount of mink oil on clean cloth, and then wipe the molded areas again, to further remove mold particles.
3. Last, replenish leather fully with mink oil, increase the grease content of leather to avoid moisture taking over. Refer to point 2 of previous paragraph "Does WOTANCRAFT leather products require maintenance?"
A: The leather we use obtain color from "tanning agent (brown)", "aniline dye (various colors)", or "alcohol based leather dye (various colors)", and they all have these characteristics:
1. leather color will darken with use.
2. after exposure to sunlight / UV ray, the color will gradually develop a warm tint. This is more apparent in colder colors (eg. sky blue will shift towards denim blue, turquoise will shift toward green)
This is the "aging / maturing" process that people came to love about vegetable-tanned leather, a touch of character that is not found in chrome-tanned leather used by international luxury brands.
A: The pigment of vegetable-tanned leather is not as permanent as chrome-tanned leather, so the color can shift onto lighter shaded objects when rubbed against each other frequently.