The Art Of The Hide
Creating luxury footwear is much like cooking fine cuisine, it all begins with the ingredients, only the finest ingredients will do! One must choose the right hide, for the right application, depending on what type of shoe is being made. Once you source the finest full-grain leathers, only then can you utilise the true artistic skills of the master shoemaker, for a master shoemaker cannot create a masterpiece with poor quality leather, same as fine leather cannot become a masterpiece without the expert hands of the master shoemaker. It is a harmony that L'bardi has made into an art.
The L'bardi Leather
L'bardi only uses the finest full-grain leathers, that are sourced from the finest 'Concerie' or Tanneries within Italy, France and Germany. We typically use calf leather, it is soft, yet durable, breathable and has a beautiful natural grain.
Full-grain leather refers to hides that have not been sanded or buffed to remove imperfections on the surface of the hide. The natural grain remains, retaining the fiber strength and ensuring durability. Since full-grain leather retains the natural grain with all the imperfections of the leather, only the best hides can be used with minimal defects. Hides that have too many imperfections will become corrected-grain, also known as top-grain leathers, in which the grain is heavily sanded to remove the imperfections, it is then stamped with a false grain. This process reduces the thickness of the leather and the overall strength and quality. For this reason, L'bardi only uses full-grain leather. Of the full-grain leathers we source, we use the following types - Full aniline dyed leather, semi aniline dyed leather and crust leather:
L'bardi has recently started using crust leather for our new sneaker collection and our Limited Edition collection, it is something we will use more and more in all our collections, due to its many fine characteristics. Crust leather is of a neutral beige colour, it is leather that has been treated at tanneries, but not finished with colour/dye. This allows us to hand dye our shoes and create a unique, inimitable patina and depth of colour on each pair of shoes. This technique is known as 'Anticatura' (sometimes referred to as 'Velatura'), it is an italian artform practiced and expertly done by a handful of Italian Calzolai (Shoemakers) and a few French Bottiers (Bootmakers). The handpainted colour gives the shoes an extra volume and a three-dimensional effect created by the contrasting light and shadow of the grain, you can read more about the Anticatura technique here. At L'bardi, we use a combination of hand dyeing the leather before the assembly process, as well as applying the dyes to the finished shoe. Crust leather is notoriously difficult to use, in that only the finest hides in the world can be chosen. With traditional aniline dyed leather the flaws of the leather can be seen immediately, because the colour has already been applied at the tannery, whereas crust leather has to be hand coloured in our workshop, where if there are any flaws, will only be revealed once the hand colouring process begins. For this reason, L'bardi only uses the finest crust leathers in the world, made from the finest full-grain calf leather.
L'bardi utilises suede for the majority of our iconic driving shoes. Suede is a reverse aniline leather made from the flesh side (reverse side) of leather, during the tanning process it is buffed to a soft nap, which is the raised surface that allows it to be brushed back and forth. Suede is generally made up of leather hides that are considered too scarred to be used for full-grain leather footwear in which the scars would be visible. Rather than buff away the scars which reduces the overall quality and durability of the leather, the reverse side is used. Suede is typically used for more casual occasions, which is why it is perfect for the smart, yet casual driving shoe that we specialise in. Due to the casual nature of suede, it lends itself to an array of colours, often vibrant. The nap of the flesh side that suede is renowned for conforms well to these bright colours more so than traditional leather.
L'bardi utilises calf hair leather for some of our women's driving shoes and ballet flats. Calf hair is often referred to as 'Pony Hair' by the fashion industry, however it is always made from the hides of cows and calves whose hair has not been shaved off during the tanning process. Initially, the natural colour of the calf hair is removed to allow for the dyeing process, it is then aniline dyed, during which, almost any pattern or motif can be printed on the hair.
L'bardi currently only uses nubuck in one product, our men's navy suede and azzurro nubuck trainers, but it is something we will be using more and more, due to its fine qualities. Nubuck is an aniline dyed full-grain leather that has been lightly buffed and sanded on the grain side. Nubuck is similar to suede in that it has a nap, however it is buffed on the grain side of the leather, rather than the flesh (reverse) side. Nubuck can be made from top grain leather, which is inferior in quality to full-grain leathers, due to the leather being thinned in the tanning process. L'bardi only uses full grain nubuck leather as it still retains all the strengths of traditional full-grain leather.
L'bardi has used kangaroo leather for the first time in our men's 'Limited Edition' collection. We have chosen Kangaroo leather for its extraordinary qualities and to celebrate the Australian heritage of our owner. Kangaroo leather is a unique lightweight leather that has superior qualities to almost all other leather types, but with a slightly casual appearance. Kangaroo leather is one of the strongest leathers available, it is lighter and stronger than the hide of a cow or goat, with 10 times the tensile strength of calf leather and is 50% stronger than goatskin. The unique structure of kangaroo leather allows it to be cut down to very thin substance (thickness of the leather) but still retain strength. When split to 20% of original thickness kangaroo retains between 30 and 60% of the tensile strength of the unsplit hide, calf on the other hand split to 20% of original thickness retains only 1-4% of original strength. Kangaroo does not contain sweat glands or erector pili muscles and elastin is evenly distributed throughout the skin thickness. This structural uniformity explains both the greater tensile strength of the whole leather and the greater retention of strength in split hides.