Exotic skin greatly enhances the value and luxury appeal of fine goods including upholstery, wall coverings, furniture, garments, handbags, and more. So is it any wonder why demand for these skins has increased among production artists and custom designers?
So, you’re in the market for exotic materials. Maybe you’re sourcing crocodile skin, alligator, ostrich, python, or stingray hides. With each skin, there are many aspects of quality you should look for to determine the best quality material for your uses.
Here are some tips to choose the luxury-grade materials that you’ll need:
1) Cut of the Skin – Many skins can be cut in multiple fashions. Most exotic skins are cut lengthwise, along the sides of the animal, featuring either the back or the belly. The back, known as a “back cut” (or a “hornback” for alligator and crocodile skin) features the animal’s back along the center of the skin. The belly portion is along the outside edges of the hide. The “belly cut” will feature the smoother belly skin in the center with the more rigid and textured back. Both are equally impressive, with the difference typically being the look or texture that the artist wants to achieve.
2) Size of the Finished Skin – How large is the hide you need? How large are the pieces of material you’re requiring? Exotic skins are priced based mostly on the factor of grade and size. The larger the skin, it becomes increasingly more valuable, similar to Carat measurements for Diamonds. Larger skins will often carry a premium price and are typically used in pieces where the artist wants to do minimal seaming and stitching. Smaller skins are more cost efficient for furniture, veneers, upholstery, and trims, where it is likely that multiple skins are going to be used for the finished product.
3) Grading of the Hide – Grade is one of the biggest factors in pricing since grade will determine the overall quality of the tanned hide. A finished tanned hide has went through a lot – first, the life of the animal, which if wild can result in natural scarring and tears that will be in the finished product. Often these scars are a testament to the genuine qualities of exotic skins, but the less scarring on the hide will increase its grade. Grading is usually done in numerals or letters, with Grade 1 and Grade A being the best.
4) Finishing and Coloring of the Hide – Finish and coloring should have a consistent hue and form across the hide with no flaking or discolored spots. When the skins are produced, a good tanner with a keen eye will spot these issues immediately if not avoided entirely. If you’re placing an order for a large number of skins, it is critical that they are all the same hue. Ordering skins from multiple locations or multiple times can result in products that are slightly different in color. Make sure with any vendor or broker you purchase from understands your needs and provide them with the exact coloring you need for your finished product.
One final note in the leather trade is – how far up the ladder are you? Are you new to the sourcing business, or have you been dealing with tanneries, importers, and customs for very long? Importing regulated materials is a hassle if you don’t understand the ins-and-outs. If you’ve never sourced exotic leather before and want to, the best recommendation to do so is to find a reliable broker or supplier in your home country who can legally obtain what you’re looking for.