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Launching your Leather Education

June 14, 2013
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Many of us interact with leather on a daily basis, but have little idea as to the variety of terms and processes associated with the classification of its types, the nature of its manufacture, etc.  Many products are branded with vague words like “bonded” (not actually leather, but a plastic-based leather composite) or “patent” leather (leather with heavy, rigid, high-gloss finish), and types like “suede” and “nubuck” are relatively well known, but perhaps confusing.  We at DCT live and breathe all things leather, so we consider it a pleasure to inaugurate our readership into the language and culture of leather.

Most of the terms you may come across in the leather business reference either where the leather comes from on the animal, or how it was processed to turn it into the end product.  Leather “grain” refers to the visible texture of the leather, and is what gives leather its character.  Each hide comes with its own unique grain that tells a story about the animal it protected – and bears the marks of scarring from other animals horns, barbed wire, or other sources of stress.  An unaltered hide is referred to as a “full-grain” hide, as opposed to the more common “corrected grain” hides that are processed to hide the imperfections in the natural grain, and give a more uniform look to the leather.

When leather is processed, it us usually split into several usable layers; the “top grain” and the “drop split”; the top-grain usually used for higher-end applications, and the drop split re-grained to get the classic leather look.  Splitting is also how we get suede and nubuck, which are both sanded or buffed to get their velvety texture.

Another term thrown around in the high-end leather world is “aniline”.  An aniline dyed leather has been dyed all the way through for color, with no pigmentation or protection applied.  Pure aniline leather isn’t produced anymore, due to health and safety risks associated with its dying process, not to mention its inferior lifespan and tendency to fade – the dyeing process has become increasingly regulated for those very reasons.  What has replaced it now, though still only in high end applications, is “semi” or “protected” aniline, in which the hide has been safely dyed for color, and then given a small amount of pigment treatment to improve consistency and durability without compromising the look of the natural imperfections of the leather.

If we’ve piqued your interest in the wide world of leather, don’t worry – there is a lot more to learn, and our glossary of terms is a good place to start.  Let the leather learning continue!

Long Live Leather

May 1, 2013
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The craft of restoration has long enchanted the human consciousness.  Whether a furniture maker hard at work in his shop, smoothing out the ageing curves of an old piece of furniture one more time, a cobbler methodically hammering and sewing a new sole onto an old leather shoe, or an auto mechanic, belly-up under the complexity of a rusty engine, there is an alluring element about the endeavor to make old things work like new; it fascinates people of all inclinations.  Consider a recent example – the existence and success of TV shows like Fast N’ Loud, or American Restoration demonstrate this very idea.  Call it reinventing the wheel, call it nostalgia – we like old things, but we want them to function like new things.  Often, the reason behind this phenomenon is our notion that old things were made to more exacting standards, made to last in a way that perhaps has declined with the age of consumerism (or maybe we’re just viewing history through rose-colored glasses, but we’ll stop waxing philosophical now).

The point is that certain things we buy and use on a regular basis, like furniture and cars, we like to keep around, and to do that we need to take the time to restore them to their former glory.  For both of these particular items, that process of restoration usually involves a bit of upholstery work.  Because of its associations with quality and longevity (think shoes, briefcases, etc), leather is most often the choice material for these upholstery jobs, and rightfully so.

At DCT, we’re proud to play our part in the process of breathing new life into old things.  Whether you find our leather in the interior of a luxury car, or on the surface of your newly re-finished desk, you know that what you just invested in is dependable, and timeless.

What’s Old is New: The Appeal of an Heirloom

February 28, 2013
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Isn’t there a soothing, inherently comforting about the thought of an heirloom? Be it jewelry, art, or furniture—our personal favorite—something that’s been passed down through generations makes its owner feel that it’s special and unique. While you can easily purchase a new chair, desk, or sofa, a piece of heirloom furniture carries with it a history and a sense of family that you’ll never find in a store or catalog.

By definition, an heirloom is an article that has been passed down for generations through family members. The word actually originates from old English, and in fact, throughout history English laws mandated the passage of these goods, and restricted their sale or inheritance to specific family members. While you may now be free to do what you wish with your heirlooms, the sentiment is still the same.

Why do we hold on to these treasures, beyond the sake of sentimentality? If a piece of furniture has lasted through decades and generations, chances are it’s exceptionally made. We all know the saying, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to,” and we know the truth in it. Additionally, many of us are getting more and more into green living, and using heirloom furniture is really another form of recycling.  Why buy a new piece, or throw away something old, when a little bit of TLC can breathe new life into that desk or chair and make it useful again?

And, if it’s outdated, just get creative! That old leather desk top or chair could be new again by choosing from our range of leather upholstery hides in 8 categories of colors with 140 shades. Want something trendy and modern? Go for the au courant color, such as Emerald Green, chosen by the Pantone Color Institute as the color of 2013 (see our last blog post for more information).  Do you have a favorite family heirloom? We’d love to hear all about it!

Color Swatches: Should You Think Outside the Box?

January 17, 2013
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Sometimes the color of a piece of furniture or decorative item can go unnoticed, blending into the room and not particularly grabbing a single person’s attention. And, sometimes, that’s the aim; to create a functional and simple space. There are certainly practical considerations of choosing colors, but colors can also elicit emotional response and recall distinct memories.

Recently, the Pantone Color Institute declared Emerald Green to be the color of the year for 2013. The analysis of this choice reveals the complexity in interpreting colors, including physiological, psychological, and economic connotations:

“Green is the most abundant hue in nature — the human eye sees more green than any other color in the spectrum. It’s also the color of growth, renewal and prosperity — no other color conveys regeneration more than green. For centuries, many countries have chosen green to represent healing and unity.”  Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute

So, what does all this complexity mean for choosing the color of your upholstery?

  • The process can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like,
  • There are practical considerations to consider and current trends to look at or ignore,
  • But there’s ALWAYS room for creativity – and having fun

Understanding the emotion and dimension attached to color, DCT Leathers carries leather upholstery hides in 8 different categories of colors with 140 shades. The expansive choice allows the process to be personal. While there are common associations with colors that may be difficult to ignore, e.g. “red hot” or “ocean blue,” we’ve seen great customer satisfaction from choosing a color based on its personal meaning. Or from choosing to be unique – like a leading athletic fashion company choosing a unique hue of a bright color to upholster leather ottomans for shoppers to try on shoes.

Our wide color selection can make bold statements, be geared toward practical considerations, and make memorable first impressions. Do you have a color story to share? We’d love to hear from you.

Winter Leather Trends

December 10, 2012
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Each winter season, we all see leather as a staple material across men’s and women’s clothing and accessories. Whether chosen for its warmth, its look, or its durability, leather products abound this time of year. If you so choose, you can now even get specialized Leather Touchscreen Gloves to ensure your hands can be warm while texting! From leather, heated car seats to leather jackets, we associate leather with keeping us warm and stylish during the colder months. It’s no wonder then that leather is on the minds of consumers when they’re looking to improve or purchase furniture.

While leather is a hot topic year round at DCT Leathers, we certainly do get an increased number of clients asking us about reupholstering their furniture with one our 140 genuine, handcrafted colors in the winter months. The hesitation or question is rarely about the choice of material; instead, clients want to be assured that it’s the right decision to re-upholster versus buy new. Even though there’s not a clear cut answer or formula to decide, in our experience, today’s new just isn’t going to be comparable to the old.

So if you’re thinking about replacing that old couch, think about its age. If it’s been around for 40 years, yes it might need some new leather material and cosmetic updates, but there’s also a reason it’s been around that long! The materials, processes, and structures have changed. Depending on the age, original manufacturer, and components your tired couch might be the perfect candidate for our leather upholstery hides. Check out our past blogs for more discussion of antique restoration and quality and durability! And, if in doubt, your upholster will give the thumbs up to go for it or not, and you might just end up with an heirloom to be enjoyed for the next 40 years!

Why Write on Leather?

October 23, 2012
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While we certainly believe in the value of writing on leather at DCT Leathers (with our popular and extensive line of leather desktops for home, office, or restoration projects), we understand that its use as a writing surface is not the most widespread. Sometimes, we do get the question: why do people prefer to write on leather?

To get a general sense of why leather desktops gained esteem in the past and are still cherished by many, it is interesting to look at their history. Nowadays, many leather-topped desks are inspired by the “President’s Desk”, officially known as the Resolute Desk. Still an iconic piece of the Oval Office, its presidential history dates back to 1880 when it was given to President Rutherford Hayes by the Queen of England. An American vessel had found an abandoned ship and returned it to the Queen. She subsequently had wood from the ship, the HMS Resolute, crafted into a desk to give as a gift to the U.S. Most of the Presidents, with only a few exceptions, in American history have chosen to use the desk, either in the Office or in residence.

The prestigious history in part helps explain why replicas of the Resolute Desk abound and why many people, from Presidents of the United States to bestselling authors, choose to write on leather.  Ultimately the choice to write on leather is one of preference, much like writing by hand versus typing, or keeping a physical appointment book versus the calendar in your email. What are some of your preferences? Do you prefer the look? The feel? Or, strength of the leather? We’d like to hear from you!

DCT Trivia: Have you spotted the Green Chair?

October 12, 2012
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If you’ve engaged in the baseball season this fall in Toronto – either in watching televised games or getting the full experience at the stadium – you may have spotted the green chairs; they are the seemingly comfortable and inviting green leather arm chairs that are the focal point of the Comfort Zone at Rogers Centre.

And, even if you’re not an avid Blue Jays fan, or baseball fan at all for that matter, you still might have seen these chairs in one of TD Canada’s commercials from the “Banking can be this comfortable” campaign. Like this commercial for instance:

 

The reason we’re excited to share with you this bit of trivia, is that this chair is actually upholstered with leather distributed by DCT Leathers! With the durability and rich color of this Scottish leather, this shade (one of over 140 colors in our stock) was the perfect choice for these statement chairs. So next time you visit the stadium or see an ad, you’ll know that they’re not only the “TD green chairs,” you’ll recognize that they’re the chairs made of Andrew Muirhead leather in Leaf Green, distributed by DCT Leathers in Toronto.

Quality = Durability, Not Simply Look

October 8, 2012
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As we discussed in our last blog, the “value” of a restored or refurbished antique is in the eye of the beholder. At DCT Leathers, we’re excited to see that more and more people are placing a higher value on recycling furniture. Since to “reclaim, reuse, and/or refurbish” is on an upward trend in home remodeling, we thought it was a good opportunity to touch on the manifold nature of “quality”. In the case of quality “used” items, there’s the durability issue; whether they can withstand “upcycling”.  Whether you’re choosing to purchase used items based on nostalgia, environmental responsibility, or style, there is a lot to be said for choosing your items based on this criterion.

Green Leather Desk

As a distributor of full-grain European leathers, we get to see our customers create their preferred look on vintage furniture or even automobiles without sacrificing highest quality. Whether it’s one of our customers refurbishing antique cars, or a NY Times best-selling author purchasing his preferred leather desktop, we provide people with the opportunity to update the things they cherish while implementing their preferences and preserving the integrity of the original item. While the value is often apparent in the style, materials, workmanship, etc., the durability that comes with a high-quality item allows you to keep the core structure and modify any corresponding elements, thus creating a piece you take pride in. Check out the beautiful green leather desk on the right that we worked to restore.

While reasons for reusing abound, one thing is clear: the reuse trend is not based solely on cost savings. We see it – and so does the market – as embracing quality and durability and having an appreciation for your belongings. Needless to say, it is satisfying for us to be a part of this process.

 

Advice and Thoughts on Antique Restoration

October 4, 2012
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If you’re part of the growing number of consumers who would prefer to purchase a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture rather than from a standard-issue box store, you may have already been faced with the question: to refinish or not to refinish? As consignment stores boom, DIY trends grow, and Pinterest provides thousands of ideas for “reclaiming” your used items, it becomes more and more tempting and feasible to “stamp” your own style on your pieces.

If you find yourself asking this question, we have a few thoughts on the matter. While many antique road shows and dealers will appraise a piece of furniture based on finish, there is more than one way we suggest you look at “value”. There is always the option of refinishing, or even improving an antique. The re-sale value many not be as high, but you’ll have to consider the other benefits and the actual enjoyment you’ll derive from updating and using your antique.

We suggest that you ask yourself:

  • What is the function? Does it have a use?
  • Do you want to enjoy it or to admire it? Are you going to look at it or are you going to sit on it?
  • Do you want to add value? Is your plan to sell it down the road?

Considering each of these questions will give you your answer (and maybe even assuage any guilt you may have in refinishing a piece). Truth be told, there are reasons why you should improve an antique beyond monetary value. In our experience at DCT Leathers, the pride you take in using the item and the enjoyment you have can outweigh the sheer dollars and cents.  (Here’s a photo of an antique wagon that has given us immeasurable pleasure in using over the years)

Andrew Muirhead: Probably the “Greenest” Tannery on Earth

September 5, 2012
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At DCT Leathers, we proudly represent Andrew Muirhead & Son since 1989 on account of its exceptional standards, its broad color palette and its visibly high quality, among other attributes. But one of the reasons we are most proud to be affiliated with the Muirhead tannery is on account of its commitment to the environment and its related technological advancements. Andrew Muirhead Fine Scottish Leather, together with 3 other manufacturing subsidiaries and a technology company, form the Scottish Leather Group, Ltd. This group is the largest leather manufacturer in the UK, having over 490 years of experience collectively in the field – and has exceeded all expectations in setting its vision for a green tannery.

The group produces low carbon leather with ZERO waste. This is huge, because leather production is typically VERY wasteful; the majority of the raw hide gets wasted, often around 80%. But Andrew Muirhead & Son and his colleagues have created a self-sustaining tannery that reuses materials which would otherwise go to waste. The project was underway in 2010, is now fully functioning and is expected to be complete in 2015.

By establishing a thermal energy plant to power their operation, they have created a “closed loop” of producing leather, converting solid and liquid leftovers into usable resources for keeping the plant functioning, and for re-fueling the leather-making process. It is somewhat mind-blowing that this self-funded, innovative venture uses local resources, converts liquid waste into clean water, and takes solid waste into electric energy: it’s the most revolutionary tannery of its kind in the world.

See for yourself. Check out this video to see how 100% of waste is recycled: 

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