There is no doubt that exotic leathers have been made into stunning fashion statements year after year. Leather’s popularity in apparel and accessories remains a staple in the fashion industry.
The versatility of exotic leathers and their uses are beyond counting, but choosing the best exotic leather for your handbag designs can be a tricky task.
Knowing which exotic leather would be most appropriate for the desired result can help a designer use their resources wisely, saving them from frivolous waste.
What to Ask Yourself before Designing with Exotic Leather
"What price point am I trying to hit?" "What size are my panels?" "Am I designing a soft or structured bag?" "What aesthetic am I going for?"
What is my price point?
American alligator is by far the most expensive leather and is an all-purpose classic luxury leather staple for those in the fashion industry. If you’re looking for more of a price point within the upper middle tier scale (within the world of exotic ultra-luxury), then you may prefer caiman or ostrich skin. If you want a more entry-level exotic leather, then lizard, python or stingray skin would be best.
Is it a structured or a soft bag?
If the bag is to be more structured, then using a caiman or stingray leather would be ideal. Caiman skin has a bonier skin, making it an ideal leather for a firmer, more structured handbag. Likewise, stingray skin is durable and ideal for a structured bag because of its naturally tougher properties that help avoid moisture damage, puncturing, and scuffing. In addition, any exotic skin in a high gloss finish will also provide a rigidity ideal for a structured bag.
For a soft handbag, alligator, python and ostrich in a soft matte or any natural finish is ideal; high gloss finishes make the skins too firm for a slouchy design. It just depends on your aesthetic preferences.
What size handbag am I designing?
Like handbag designs, exotic leathers have a vast array of sizes. Most exotic leathers are a good fit for clutches or smaller accessories; however, designing a medium or a large-size handbag requires more planning.
Caiman, python and stingray skins are fairly narrow in relation to other leathers. When using these leathers on larger bags, it requires joining multiple leather pannels which affect the bag’s aesthetics and the craftsman’s process; both designers and manufacturers should be consulted on this.
Since alligator skins come in a wider range of sizes, they can be used comfortably for larger bags, as long as you buy your skins according to the size you need. Ostrich skins are quite large so they aren’t typically limited to a specific bag size.
What are my aesthetic preferences?
When taking into account the aesthetic preferences of an exotic leather handbag design, there are two main things to think about: scaling patterns and distinct qualities.
All reptiles have unique scaling patterns. Crocodiles, snakes and lizards all have very different scaling patterns. There are even subtle differences across the different species of each reptile. For example, the scales on an American alligator skin are typically smaller than those on a Nile crocodile; the center scales on a Burmese python are substantially narrower than those of the other species of pythons, etc. You can read more about the different crocodile leathers here, and you can read more about the different python leathers here.
Some of these species also have distinct aesthetic qualities:
Python skin can offer wide center scales and/or geometric natural markings;
Ostrich skin has a unique pattern of bumps, known as quills;
Stingray skin, as stated before has naturally durable protective properties, but it also has a distinct aesthetic quality which is a pear-shaped bead pattern and crown on its sleek surface.
Which Exotic Leather Will You Choose?
There are many exotic leathers to choose from to establish a level of distinction and quality. The previously mentioned are just some of the most common exotic leathers that designers use for their handbag lines. With a plethora of distinctive designs and textures, being educated on which exotic leather is best suited for your handbag is essential for being both aesthetically, functionally and cost effective.