All About Leather!
Hermès has distinguished itself as the epitome of luxury through its skilled craftsmanship and attention to detail. Hermès is also renowned for for its selectiveness in using the finest leathers and its vast range of textile offerings. Each skin has its own unique qualities that affect color absorption, texture, graining, maintenance, patina, and more. Whether you prefer natural looking leathers that age gracefully, a low maintenance casual handbag, or something in-between, it can be overwhelming for even the most devoted Hermès enthusiast to recognize and differentiate the various options. Hopefully, this guide can help making that task slightly less burdensome.
Vachette Grainee des Ardennes
Also known simply as Ardennes, this male calf leather is a processed pressed leather from the Ardenne region, which spans from Northern France to Southern Belgium. Since being discontinued, it is a favorite among vintage Birkins and Kelly bags. One of Hermès’ toughest leathers, this thick grained leather holds its shape well and is water and scratch resistant. One disadvantage is that the colored dyes can fade with time. The Ardennes leather has since been succeeded by the similar Vache Liegee.
This high grade, smooth calfskin leather was originally used for Hermès saddles and equestrian line. It made its first appearance in Hermès’ handbag collections during the 1970’s, although it is rare to see in recent years. Barenia is double-tanned in chrome and vegetable dyes, and then soaked in a mix of 9 different oils over a 5-6 week process. It has a matte texture with a hint of gloss. Barenia leather’s elasticity may cause some bags to lose shape and structure. This supple leather is water resistant and while most fine scratches can be rubbed out, it is vulnerable to more heavy scratches. Its original oil content and oil absorbing quality allows it to mature with time and patina as it ages.
One of Hermès more recent leather offerings, Barenia Faubourg (named after the Hermès flagship boutique on Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris) made its debut in 2017 with many of the same qualities as the original Barenia leather. Although they share some of the same signature qualities, such as feel and ability to develop patina, Barenia Faubourg has transformed visually. At first glance, it is possible to be mistaken for Togo due to its small grains. This allows it to be more scratch resistant than the original Barenia, although it is less water resistant.
Hermès’ oldest leather to be used on their iconic handbags is an icon in its own right. Box calf, also known as Veau leather, is named after 1890s English shoe craftsman Joseph Box. This male calf leather features a trademark polish that never fades and ages exceptionally well. The smooth texture and glossy sheen shows off an exceptionally elegant visual that stands the test of time. Although it is susceptible to scratches, they can be buffed and blended over time. This leather does not do well with water and blistering is likely to develop when wet. Commonly seen in vintage Kelly bags, Box calf is most commonly used in bags that hold their shape due to its sturdy nature.
Introduced in 2013, Butler leather is a natural untreated leather that requires extra care and attention. Differentiated by its exceptionally buttery soft and luxurious feel. This fragile leather is susceptible to scratches and has been compared to Barenia and Tadelakt. Small scuffs and scratches can be buffed with a rub of the finger. Ideal for one who appreciates the uniqueness that develops over time with its patina.
Introduced in 2007, Buffalo Sindhu leather comes from the hide of water buffalo. This heavy leather is utilized in conjunction with Negonda leather for the Garden Party line considering it produces a unique coloring that cannot be replicated from other leathers. Buffalo Sindhu is moderately soft and supple with a grainy texture. It is known for being extremely durable against scratches and water which makes it perfect for the casual Garden Party tote.
Buffalo Skipper (Dalmation)
Now discontinued, this is another leather that comes from the hide of water buffalo. A special quality of buffalo leather is revealed during the dying process. Color pigments gather toward the center of the grain resulting in a spotted appearance. Hermès utilizes this attribute with a special dying process to imitate the spotted look of a Dalmation. This flexible leather is water and scratch resistant.
Leather of a male calf originating from a resort area in Mont Blanc, it is the matte counterpart to Hermès’ Veau Box leather. Chamonix is incredibly smooth but more durable to scratches than Box. Scratches are usually easily buffed out and blended with the rest of the leather. It can also be described as soft and supple, yet hardy. It is extremely vulnerable to water and must be wiped immediately to prevent staining or blistering.
Chèvre de Coromandel
Chèvre de Coromandel is a male mountain goat leather that is soft, lightweight, and scratch resistant. It is known to be a tough, long lasting leather that is unique for its grain texture and sheen finish that bring out luminescent colors that seem to transform in different angles or lighting. Its luxurious appearance combined with practicality makes it a popular option Hermès enthusiasts.
Introduced to the Birkin line in 2002, Chèvre Mysore is a refined version of Chèvre de Coromandel. They are similar in that both are lightweight, scratch resistant, and iridescent, while Chèvre Mysore has smaller, more visible grains. Chèvre Mysore produces a luxurious finish that is soft yet holds its shape quite well. Due to its rarity, this male mountain goat leather is mainly used in smaller items such as the Birkin/Kelly 25 or wallets and other accessories.
This extremely popular leather made from baby bull, also known as Veau Taurillon Clemence, was first used by Hermès in the 1980’s. Its soft and heavy characteristics contribute to its slouchiness. It is resistant to scratches and tarnishing although vulnerable to water. Clemence has a large yet shallow grain with a matte finish that lends to a casual look.
A male calf leather that has been glass processed and press processed. It is known for its thin press and luster. Courchevel is an embossed and lightweight leather that is scratch and water resistant and easy to clean. This leather has been discontinued and eventually replaced by Veau Graine Lisse then Epsom leather. These two leathers share very similar qualities with the difference being that Courchevel tends to be darker toward the pigment on the top grain, creating a more lustrous appearance.
Predecessor to Veau Graine Lisse, Graine leather is a male calf leather known for its thin press and matte finish. It is an embossed leather that is rigid and lightweight. Veau Graine was produced in only two colors, white and natural. It is water and scratch resistant and easy to clean.
Veau Graine Lisse
Also known as VGL, this leather was the successor to Graine Courchevel. It is a male calf leather that has been glass processed and press processed and known for its thin press and luster. VGL is a stiff leather which helps bags keep its shape with almost no slouching. It was discontinued in 2003 and replaced with Veau Epsom as they share many qualities. Graine Lisse is an embossed, lightweight leather with a glossy appearance. It is water and scratch resistant and easy to clean.
An incredibly soft, short trim suede from male calf rawhide. As with all suede, it should be kept away from moisture while some scratches can be buffed. This is not a common leather but is appreciated for its smooth velvet finish and texture.
Vache Naturelle is an untreated, smooth cowhide that is thick and stiff. This allows for a product that retains a structured, rigid shape virtually forever. This skin is soft and delicate due to its natural, unprocessed state. Vache leather will be very pale when new and slowly ages to a honey patina that is usually lighter than Barenia leather.
Vache Liegee first made its appearance in 2004 as a replacement for the discontinued Ardennes leather. Being Hermès’ thickest leather, it was developed mainly for bags because of its ability to hold its shape very well. It is a stiff, structured, and durable cowhide with a natural grain and a touch of sheen. Available in limited colors.
Released in 2009, Vache Trekking is a processed male cowhide known for its fine press. It is a rare leather that is mainly used to construct bags in limited colors. Its sturdiness is similar to Vache Liegee with slightly less sheen.
Introduced in 2012, Country leather is a processed female calf leather known for its fair firmness. It is mainly used for the Garden Party line thanks to its large grains and durability.
Grain d’H Calfskin
Also making an appearance in 2012, Grain d’H Calfskin leather is arguably Hermès most unique creation. Grain d’H is a processed male calf leather known for its finely structured, signature H monogram press. Its soft texture with small grains that is able to hide some blemishing.
One of Hermès’ most popular leathers, Epsom is the successor to the now retired Courchevel leather. Introduced in 2003, it has quickly gained popularity for its practicality. Epsom is a processed male calfskin known for its fine press. It is embossed into a natural looking pattern boasting fine grain and a lovely sheen. The process creates a rigid leather that allows products to hold its shape over time. Epsom is definitely not a soft leather, rather a lightweight, durable one that is easy to care for and resistant to water and scratches. A simple swipe using a damp cloth is usually sufficient for a quick clean.
Evercalf is a male calf leather that has a smooth and velvety finish with no visible grain. It may seem very similar to Box Calf leather at first appearance. However, its texture is much smoother and softer, with a matte finish and slight sheen. Small scuffs and scratches can be buffed out more easily than Box Calf due to its matte finish.
Evergrain is a male calf leather that was introduced in 2013. It is known for its fair firmness and matte finish. Evergrain is the embossed version of Evercalf. Evergrain has a very soft and luxurious texture that makes it vulnerable to scratches and scuffs. Small scuffs can be easily rubbed out, however, it is vulnerable to more severe scratching.
The color version of Evergrain calfskin first made its appearance in 2012. This leather has a similar suppleness and comes in a wide palette of "forever" colors. It features printed small grains that are more visible than that of the Evergrain and provide for a satin appearance. This leather is supple and soft to the touch and only becomes softer and shinier over time.
Derma leather first made its appearance in 2004. This male calf leather is known for being thin and smooth. Derma is an extremely soft leather that does not hold its shape well. These characteristics make it perfect for Hermès’ Caravan Tote line.
One of Hermès’ most unique leather choices that is crafted from male calf. Troika is best distinguished by its smooth and beautiful calf fur coating that glows under lighting. It is usually used in combination with other smooth leathers such as Chamonix or Evercalf. Troika is extremely rare and hard to find.
Also known as Nubuck, it is produced from male calf rawhide. The coat on the surface of this suede leather is trimmed to create a velvet finish.
This male calf leather is known for its soft and matte texture that provides an elegant and classy appearance. It features a flat, wide grain similar to Togo and Clemence leathers, though it is heavier and more durable. Fjord is scratch resistant and waterproof and is able to tolerate various weather conditions, making it ideal for casual handbags like the Garden Party.
This male calf leather first made its appearance in 2007 and is mainly utilized in the Garden Party handbag. Negonda leather is soft and supple, featuring large grains with a matte finish. It is durable and water resistant and able to endure the wear and tear that comes with frequent use, making them perfect for totes like the Garden Party line.
Derived from bull calf leather, Sikkim leather is smooth and fine grained, similar to Swift. However, it is thinner and lighter which lends to not being able to hold its shape well. Sikkim is also known to be extremely soft and buttery. These characteristics contribute to a slouchy or relaxed look. It is a delicate skin that is susceptible to scratches and requires proper care.
Introduced in 2011, Veau Sombrero is a soft and smooth male calf leather that is treated to a beautiful, powdery matte finish. Sombrero leather is sturdy leather that holds its shape well, thus used in rigid handbags and accessories. It is sensitive to water damage and can be susceptible to scratches due to its delicate finish.
This male calf leather was formerly went by the name, Gulliver, until it was discontinued in 1999. Reintroduced in 2006 as Swift, this leather has a soft and smooth texture. It features a fine grain that absorbs bright dyes exquisitely, while boasting a beautiful, light sheen. It can be susceptible to scratches, although light scratches can be rubbed out.
One of Hermès’ most popular leathers, this male calf leather was introduced in 1997. Togo leather has gained popularity thanks to its convenience and well balanced characteristics. It is known for its fair softness and grain size. Togo is similar to Clemence, but is lighter and less supple, thus better maintains its shape. It boasts a soft, pebbled grain that hides small scratches well. It is relatively easy to maintain and lightweight, making it practical for daily use.
Often confused with Box Calf leather, Tadelakt is also derived from male calfskin. Tadelakt skin is smoother than Box, with no visible grains. It has a semi-glossy finish that is slightly more matte than Box. It is also rigid enough to maintain its structure. Tadelakt must be kept away from water since blistering can occur. As with almost all smooth leathers, it is prone to scratches, although light scuffs usually blend with time. It can also be refurbished by Hermès to revive its like-new condition.
The Veau Madame is one of Hermès' more recent offerings that is mainly available in small leather goods, such as the Bastia change purse and Calvi card holder. This calfskin's appearance is similar to Epsom although the embossed grain is finer and less pronounced while being softer to the touch.
This leather derives its name from a bit of history. "Monsieur" was the title given to the king's younger brother under the Ancien Regime. One of Hermès' more recent offerings, the Monsieur calfskin first made an appearance in 2018. It is considered to be very similar to "the king of leathers", Box calfskin, hence the name. It features a smooth grain with an understated satiny finish, which over time becomes slightly exaggerated in areas that are most often handled. The leather is fairly rigid, holds its shape well, and displays an extraordinary rich appearance that only gets better with age.
Introduced in 2015, Novillo leather comes from bull calf. It is appreciated for soft and smooth qualities and magnificent color absorption ability. The texture boasts light graining that is fine and flat with a light sheen. It is known to be smoother and more lightweight than Togo, while maintaining excellent scratch resistant quality. Novillo is slowly becoming more prevalent as its product offerings are continually expanded.
This smooth fine grained calf leather was first introduced in 2018. It has a close resemblance to Swift leather in appearance. They both display an elegant sheen and are soft and buttery to the touch. However, Jonathon feels more stiff and sturdy providing a bit more structure to handbags, similar to Box leather. It's also been noted that Jonathon leather is a bit more resistant to water and scratches. All these factors make this leather a up and coming favorite among collectors.
Niloticus Crocodile (Matte)
Niloticus Crocodile is a freshwater crocodile sourced from Africa’s Nile River in the Zimbabwe region. The matte finish is created by utilizing wool felt and polishing with machinery. Also known simply as Nilo, the scales differ in size being larger than the Porous Crocodile’s scales. They are rigid and hold its shape well. Any crocodile leather should be kept away from water as they are prone to blistering/spots when wet and can cause permanent damage. Niloticus crocodile leather is differentiated with an an umlaut symbol ( ¨ ) adjacent to the “Hermes” brand heat stamping.
Niloticus Crocodile Lisse (Shiny)
Niloticus Crocodile is a freshwater crocodile sourced from Africa’s Nile River in the Zimbabwe region. The Lisse finish is created by a rigorous polishing process using agate stone. Also known simply as Nilo, the scales differ in size being larger than the Porous Crocodile’s scales. They are rigid and hold its shape well. Any crocodile leather should be kept away from water as they are prone to blistering/spots when wet and can cause permanent damage. Niloticus crocodile leather is differentiated with an umlaut symbol ( ¨ ) adjacent to the “Hermes” brand heat stamping.
Porosus Crocodile (Matte)
Porosus Crocodile is a saltwater crocodile originating from the Indo-Pacific region. The leather is sourced from Hermès’ crocodile farm in Australia. Porosus crocodile is characterized by the tiny pores on each scale. The matte finish is created by utilizing wool felt and polishing with machinery. Porosus skin is known to have more uniform and smaller scales compared to the Niloticus. They are rigid and hold its shape well. Any crocodile leather should be kept away from water as they are prone to blistering/spots when wet and can cause permanent damage. Porosus crocodile leather is differentiated with an an umlaut symbol (^) adjacent to the “Hermes” brand heat stamping and is the most expensive of Hermès exotic offerings.
Porosus Crocodile Lisse (Shiny)
Porosus Crocodile is a saltwater crocodile originating from the Indo-Pacific region. The leather is sourced from Hermès’ crocodile farm in Australia. Porosus crocodile is characterized by the tiny pores on each scale. The Lisse finish is created by a rigorous polishing process using agate stone. Porosus skin is known to have more uniform and smaller scales compared to the Niloticus. They are rigid and hold its shape well. Any crocodile leather should be kept away from water as they are prone to blistering/spots when wet and can cause permanent damage. Porosus crocodile leather is differentiated with an an umlaut symbol (^) adjacent to the “Hermes” brand heat stamping. It is the most expensive of Hermès’ exotic offerings.
Himalayan Crocodile (Matte)
Originally, this precious crocodile leather was only offered in the iconic Birkin and Kelly handbag line. It has since been used, although scarcely, for the Constance bag, Plume, and select accessories. Extremely rare and widely considered the epitome of luxury and holy grail among handbag enthusiasts, the Himalayan is created from Niloticus crocodile skin. The painstaking process needed to create this skin may be the reason for its extremely limited production. To create a seamless color gradation from the smoky grey to snowy white first requires the selection of the finest, naturally light colored crocodile skin. A time consuming process to strip away the natural pigments followed by a special dyeing process is necessary to achieve the look that resembles the snow capped Himalayan mountains (hence the name). The Himalayan is produced in extremely limited quantities, especially in the Birkin and Kelly lines, and almost impossible to procure. The combination of its beauty and rarity have contributed to record breaking prices in auctions and other secondary markets.
Alligator Mississippiensis (Matte)
This skin is natively found in America’s Mississippi River, although Hermès acquires them from their farm located in Louisiana and Texas. The matte finish is created by utilizing wool felt and polishing with machinery. The scales of this alligator leather are larger than Porosus crocodile and similar to the Niloticus, although they can vary from skin to skin. They are also known to feel thicker and tougher than crocodile skins, making them more durable against scratching and scuffing. Due to alligators being smaller in size, it is more common to see this skin on smaller bags and wallets. As with crocodile leather, it should be kept away from water and wet conditions. Alligator leather is differentiated with a square symbol (□) adjacent to the “Hermes” brand heat stamping.
Alligator Mississippiensis Lisse (Shiny)
This skin is natively found in America’s Mississippi River, although Hermès acquires them from their farms located in Louisiana and Texas. The Lisse finish is created by a rigorous polishing process using agate stone. The scales of this alligator leather are larger than Porosus crocodile and similar to the Niloticus, although they can vary from skin to skin. They are also known to feel thicker and tougher than crocodile skins, making them more durable against scratching and scuffing. Due to alligators being smaller in size, it is more common to see this skin on smaller bags and wallets. As with crocodile leather, it should be kept away from water and wet conditions. Alligator leather is differentiated with a square symbol (□) adjacent to the “Hermes” brand heat stamping.
Varanus Niloticus (Lizard)
This exotic hide originates from the African species known as Nile Monitors. The small scales are uniform throughout, presenting a luxurious glossy shine. It is a delicate leather that is prone drying out. Lizard skin is a high maintenance leather that requires regular conditioning to sustain its luxurious appearance. It is usually found in smaller handbags or accessories due to the size of the species. Lizard goods are marked with a single hyphen symbol (—) adjacent to the “Hermes” brand heat stamping.
Varanus Salvator (Natural Lizard)
Also more commonly known as Ombre, this skin was introduced in 2007. The Varanus Salvator, or Asian water monitor, is native to the coasts of South and Southeast Asia. It is easily recognizable by its natural ring-like patterns and small circular scales. This unique pattern exudes an exotic look that makes it one of Hermès most popular skins, not to mention its extreme rarity. Ombre Lizard skin is a high maintenance leather that requires regular conditioning. It is known to slightly darken or yellow over time. Ombre Lizard leather are only utilized in small accessories and handbags, such as the Birkin/Kelly 25 or Constance Mini. They are marked with a double hyphen symbol (=) adjacent to the “Hermes” brand heat stamping.
Easily recognizable from its dotted pattern formed by the bird’s quill marks, this exotic leather originates from South Africa and Australia. Ostrich leather is truly durable, water resistant, soft and flexible. It adapts perfectly to any form of handbag, whether soft or rigid. It is also predisposed to dyeing and can assume many shades of color. This is discernible by the unique colors available exclusively in Ostrich leather. In addition, ostrich skin is durable over time due to its natural oils that keep it from drying out and hold its shape over time. It can darken with prolonged skin contact and lighten when exposed to light.