Today, the leather industry comprises around $50 billion of the approx. more than $350 billion global fashion industry. Leather apparel is manufactured all over the world with the best leather garments made in Italy and the most leather garments made in China. Leather apparel is manufactured for all levels of the market, from the designer to the budget category.
Many of the top design houses, including Ralph Lauren, Calvin Kline, Versace, Donna Karen, Gucci, Chanel, etc routinely include leather in their collections. And, although the leather cycle is said to peak every three years, leather clothing can be found in stores all year round. No matter what the price point, leather attracts consumers as no other material can.
Inexpensive skins allow the average person the opportunity to own a leather garment, although better quality leather is still the true mark of luxury. Price points for leather apparel can range from a pair of trousers in pig split at ($60) to one in plonge who would ordinarily forego a style that has ‘trickled down to the budget market, seems not to mind when it comes to leather. Leather somehow transcends the fashion caste system.
In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the once logo-crazed consumer of the 1980s and 1990s began to move away a designer logo slapped on an item no longer guaranteed a sale. Consumers became savvier when making choices and products needed to stand on their own regardless of the brand name. Designers and manufacturers now are more than ever, are focusing on quality and design. They know that today's’ educated consumer can tell the difference between inferior quality and very good materials and workmanship. Leather’s reputation as a high-quality material is a major reason why so many designers choose to work in the medium, even if they have never included leather in their collection before.
At the same time, leather tanneries are experimenting with different processes and finishes, making leather even more desirable and unique. Special treatments such as laser cutting, embroidery and unique. Special treatments such as laser cutting, embroidery, and burnishing add a decorative touch, while the metallicizing of skins have been updated with ombre effects and pattern stamping. At the other end if the decorative scale, leather can now be washed and buffed to create a soft, rugged texture. Leather garments have also become more user and wearer-friendly with the introduction of leather that can be machine washed and dried, and a special backing that enables leather garments to stretch while retaining their shape.
Where leather tanneries once strove to apply effects that made leather look more like fabric, the trend is now to make leather look more authentic, especially through the use of old-fashioned vegetable-tanning techniques. Although the more recent introduction of chrome tanning means that leather produced by the application of chemical costs half as much as vegetable-tanned leather. The exquisite hand and feel of vegetable-tanned leather add to its exclusively. Vegetable-tanned skins are tighter, less stretchy and more durable, and have an earthy smell as a result of the use of natural tannin extracts from tresses such as the Mimosa, Quebracho and Tara.
In these eco-conscious times, some designers, boycott leather altogether, while other designers favor vegetable-tanned leather instead of chrome-tanned. The result of this changing consciousness is that even the process of chrome tanning is becoming eco-friendlier, with advances in environmental acceptability of chemical dyes and the disposal of tanning waste products.