What are the points to look out for when purchasing a quality leather handbag or accessory?

As a starting point, the product should stand proud, with composure and balance. If it looks out of shape with unsymmetrical tendencies, chances are it will fare poorly in the following assembly check points:

  1. stitching should be straight and evenly spaced.
  2. edges should be thin and straight
  3. handbags generally have wider spaced stitching than small leather goods.
  4. the handle of a handbag should feel comfortable in your palm, and be well assembled.

If the product fares well on the above assembly points, consider the material composition:

  1. quality of leather used
  2. lining used in the bag
  3. lining used in the pockets
  4. quality of metal fittings used

Generally, by comparing the above points on a few different brands, you should get a better idea of the differences in the quality of each of these points and be able to make a more informed decision of your investment.

What are the differences in the types of leather the products are made from?

The leather products we carry are classified into two categories – exotic leathers and plain leathers. Exotic leathers include ostrich and crocodile. They are characterised by being:

  1. exclusive
  2. difficult to source
  3. extremely good wearing and durable
  4. cost much more than ordinary cow and calf leather
  5. highly skilled craftsmen required to produce quality end products
  6. have a distinctive look and feel thus making them easily distinguishable.

Exotic leathers portray status and are carried with pride by people wanting to communicate their exclusivity in their daily attire.

Plain leathers are characterised most commonly by calf and cow leather, however, included in category is kangaroo and stingray leather which are not very commonly available in many countries.

Ostrich body Leather

The characteristic quill nodes (points) of ostrich leather make it easily distinguishable as one of the worlds most luxurious leathers. For the ultimate in status, a handbag made from ostrich leather should be made in FULL point. This is where both the front and back of the bag is completely covered in quill points. It is however acceptable for the gusset to only have quill in the areas which are easily visible, and for the bottom, top strips and handles to be made from the plain part of the skin, or parts where the quill is small. HALF point is the term used to describe a handbag made with the front fully covered in quill points, and the back only partially or half covered in quill points. This is an acceptable manner of covering a handbag, whilst using less of the limited quill area of skin resulting in a lower cost to the consumer.

Ostrich leather comes in a variety of different finishes, however, the most popular is full aniline saddle finish. It is supple, distinctive, strong and has a beautiful texture. All ostriches belong to the same specie namely struthio camelus. There are however differences in this group and they are identified as African Blacks (mostly from South Africa), African Blues and African Reds. Whilst Blues and Reds are larger birds and are mostly found in the wild, these birds have recently been successfully domesticated and are known to produce a skin with quills being further apart than the African Black ostrich. Not only is the leather from the African Black preferable for handbags and accessories, but also produces a far superior feather as a result of many years of domestication and breeding programs. Due to the various species of ostrich, it is important to only buy leather products made from true Black species of ostriches, which have been tanned at reputable, experienced tanneries. The African black offers a consistent skin quality and grain character which allows the tanner to manufacture a leather of distinction that enhances the natural grain, durability and suppleness of the skin.

Via La Moda uses ostrich leather tanned by SOUTH CAPE OSTRICH TANNING (SCOT). The tannery is situated in Mossel Bay South Africa. . www.scot.co.za

Crocodile leather

There are various species of crocodile from which leather is produced. The most sought after is the Australian salt water crocodile and the African Nile crocodile, both producing the much preferred small scale belly pattern. These crocodile leathers rank as the most expensive types of leather in the world. Handbags and accessories made from crocodile belly skin in either a matt of glazed finish are carried with prestige and make a statement of note. Through high crafting techniques, articles are also being produced using the horn back of crocodiles, resulting in a new line of fashionable handbags and wallets.

Ostrich Leg (shin) leather

This is a most unique and versatile leather as it has layered scales which to the novice looks like reptile skin. Available in a firmer, glazed finish, or softer matt finish, this is a strong and attractive leather best suited to the making of small to medium sized bags. Reasonably priced by comparison to crocodile, this leather is highly recommended for those who don't have the budget for a crocodile bag, yet want something very exotic and unique with lots of character.


Indigenous to Australia, the red and grey species of kangaroo produce extremely strong leather whilst being one of the lightest in weight and still having a soft texture. It requires minimal care and is extremely durable. For additional information on kangaroo's in Australia, you can click on the following link http://www.kangaroo-industry.asn.au

Sting ray

Stingray leather is characterised by being covered in hundreds of small pebble shaped beads which are extremely tough. Available in an amazing range of bright and vibrant colours, this durable leather lends itself through skilful crafting techniques, to the creation of very attractive and long lasting wallets and purses.

Should I be concerned if my new leather handbag or accessory has small lines or blemishes on the surface?

Markings such as scars, insect bites, and wrinkles, are natural characteristics of genuine leather. This is an indication of the authenticity of the leather, and should not be considered a defect. Actually, it should be considered a "mark" of true, high quality leather.

Why can the price of an ostrich leather handbag vary so much?

The highest cost component in the making of an ostrich leather bag is the leather. The better the quality and grade of leather used, the higher the cost of the final product. The main determining factor with regards the leather is how it has been finished. Full aniline is the most sought after and costly, with semi aniline next, and then pigmented finished thereafter. Also, with ostrich leather, depending on whether the item is made in full point or half point, it will have a great impact on the overall status of the bag, and consequently, its price. More leather is used to make a full point handbag, hence, it costs more than a half point bag.

There are many other factors that affect pricing including: size, design, metal fittings used, lining used and overall complexity in making of the product. Via La Moda spends a great deal of effort to make sure your handbag conforms to all the points required to make a great handbag.

Why is full aniline finished ostrich leather so superior to other finishes of ostrich leather?

The main quality sought when purchasing any leather item is how the product feels when touched. Leather that feels good to the touch turns on our senses as human beings, possibly because we have required leather since the beginning of time, and will continue to require it for the rest of our existence.

Full aniline leather enhances the natural grain pattern of leather and in particular in the case of ostrich leather with its distinctive grain. The unique combination of the ostrich leather grain and full aniline finish is normally referred to as saddle finish reminiscent of a well used saddle. This accounts for the most natural and "live” feel of the leather. Aniline finish also allows all the natural characteristics of the leather to come through, such as shading differences and even slight colour variations within a skin.

Other finishes applied to ostrich leather consists of spraying a synthetic layer of pigmentation to cover any natural marks or blemishes to even out any colour variations. The result of this being that most of the natural marks, colour variations and characteristics of the leather are covered, however, the all important natural feel of the leather is then compromised.

What do the leather terms mean?

Split: Most leather hides have to be split because they are too thick to use in any type of manufacturing. The hide goes into a machine where a blade "filets" the hide into two hides. The bottom hide is known as split leather. This hide can be sanded down (corrected) and embossed with a consistent graining pattern to be used on certain products to achieve certain price points. A split leather is still 100% leather, and has all the same finishing treatments as the top grain portion.

Top Grain: In the above process the top grain portion is the top portion of the hide. It is generally used in the areas that receive more wear since the fiber of top grain is more compact than that of split grain.

Full Grain: Is top grain leather that uses the grain of the hide. No correction is made to the grain.

Corrected Grain: Top grain leather that has been sanded down to reduce some of the visual and natural characteristics. Of the various types of corrections, the most common is to sand down, and completely remove the natural grain and then emboss a consistent graining pattern. Another type of correction is to lightly buff the hide to remove the peaks and valleys of the grain.

Embossed Grain: From above, using rollers a consistent graining pattern is "pressed" into the leather. It can be as subtle a small natural looking graining pattern, or as different as a crocodile pattern.

Patent: leather with a hard glossy surface.

Grades of Leather: nothing more than a price point. Leather is graded into different categories ie: grades 1,2,3 and 4.The different grades are an indication of the cutting yield of a particular skin. A 1st grade skin will have a better cutting yield than 2nd grade skin as it will have less defects which the craftsman must cut around.

How can I care for my leather handbag or small leather item?

Contrary to popular belief, leather actually requires very little care or cleaning. Should the need arise to clean your handbag or small, we recommend wiping it with a dry, soft white cloth, free of detergent. We don't recommend any type of conditioner, or chemicals. Oil stains should be sprinkled immediately with talcum powder. Allow to stand and brush off excess once dry.

Simply protecting from dust, and cleaning up spots when they occur should help keep your handbag looking good for its expected life. Remember that leather is a natural material that can change its appearance as it ages. Take care to store your bags in the cloth bags provided and keep them away from light, both natural and artificial as well as direct heat and dust. Ink will permanently mark the leather.

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