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Full-grain or split leather, vegetable or mineral tanned: How to choose a leather bag?

Hobo leather travel bag
Hobo bag

Leathers used in the making of goods are classified according to the animals they come from, the part of the hide used, and the way in which they are tanned.

The terms “full-grain” or “split” leather, “vegetable or mineral tanned” can mean a big difference in terms of quality, which is why it is important to know exactly what lies behind these classifications.

Black leather laptop bag
Report bag

What are the different types of leather?

Leather has a protected certified status (PDO) and invariably comes from animals. Hides are tanned for making clothes, bags, accessories, saddle equipment, and other articles. These hides mainly come from mammals (such as cows, calves, sheep, lambs, pigs, goats, peccaries, antelopes, etc.); sometimes from reptiles (pythons, crocodiles, etc.), from birds (ostriches) or from fish (sharks, shagreens, etc.).

Overall, bovine leather is the best suited for the production of leather bags, since, unlike the leather from exotic animals, even those which are farm-raised, cowhides are taken from animals that are also used for their meat.

Full-Grain or Split Leather?

The lower layer of the hide closest to the flesh is the split leather. This part of the hide is the least valuable, of an inferior quality, and less supple. It is also the part of the hide that is the most commonly used as it is also, needless to say, the least expensive.

The outermost layer of the hide, which is the most valuable, is the full-grain leather. This leather is considered to be the highest quality, and therefore the most expensive, and the one selected for making high-end bags. It conserves its suppleness and the durability of the hide. Each and every Bleu de Chauffe leather bag is made entirely with full-grain leather.

Split leather is often used to make a leather that looks and feels like velvet by a process of sanding the outer side of the hide.

In order to obtain a higher quality leather, but with a velvety touch and shiny look, we use full-grain leather. In turn, we obtain a nubuck leather or suede leather. All of the Bleu de Chauffe leather bags that have this velvety look are made entirely from nubuck leather.  

leather women's bag
Origami bag
Musette bag for women
Musette bag

Vegetable of Mineral Tanning?

The vast majority of leathers undergo a process of mineral tanning. The imperfections are covered up with pigmentations, and artificial grains are pressed into the hides. This process allows the colours to set quickly and is  consequently less costly. Nonetheless, for this process, chromium, and other heavy metals and chemicals are used. These elements are extremely polluting and potentially toxic. Although infrequent, they can produce allergic reactions when they come in contact with the skin.

The ancient process of vegetable tanning, which is much more natural and ecologically safe, makes use of natural dyes from plants and trees (oak, acacia, chestnut, mimosa, etc.). This process takes more time and is more laborious. However, it gives the leather a more authentic appearance and allows it to develop a beautiful natural patina and an incomparable texture as it ages.

Bleu de Chauffe is a company concerned with reducing the ecological footprint of its activity at every stage of production. Naturally, we have made the choice to only use vegetable tanned leathers, as much for environmental reasons as for their superior quality, unique appearance and the natural patina they develop with age, because each and every Bleu de Chauffe leather bag is made to last.  

The Leather Bag Made in France by Bleu de Chauffe

In order to produce unique and durable leather bags, Bleu de Chauffe uses  exclusively full-grain and vegetable tanned leathers.

Nevertheless, many different types of leather are necessary for producing each one of our bags. Depending on the part of the bag, it is necessary to use leathers of varying thicknesses. For the main sections, the body of the bag, we use milled leather, which is leather that undergoes a process whereby it is softened in a rotating drum known as a hydraulic fulling mill. For the straps and handles, we use thicker and more rigid leathers such as those used in saddle making. Depending on the part of the bag, the leathers are either brushed, oiled or buffed. The vegetable dye allows them to obtain a variety of hues depending on the thickness of the leather. This gives our bags a “pull-up” effect (double tone). Our collection is comprised of  men’s, women’s and unisex leather bags.

leather backpack Arlo
Arlo backpack
Satchel leather bag for women
Eclair M bag

The iconic Bleu de Chauffe bag is the leather messenger bag. Remakes of this 20th century working man’s bag, which include the postman’s and plumber’s bags, were originally made for men; however, we now offer a range of sizes for each model,  making them ideal for women as well. These bags include the Éclair (3 sizes), the Irving (large men’s bag), the Lucien and the Louis. The Musette line (fishermen’s bags in nubuck leather that also exist in organic cotton), is a unisex line whose bags also come in two sizes.


Our collection of leather bags also includes a line of business bags (the Zeppo, the leather Report, the Folder, the Charles, the Jupiter), travel bags (the Hobo, the Bivouac), backpacks (the Arlo, the Puncho, the Éclair L and the Camp in nubuck), camera bags (the Bologne, the Arles), along with a line of women’s handbags: the Java, the Pastis, the Pastel, the Joan, the Jordi, the Origami (3 sizes), the June, and the Coline.

The quality of a leather bag varies enormously depending on the part of the hide that is used, the tanning process, but also the way a company chooses to finish the bags.

By purchasing a leather bag by Bleu de Chauffe, you have the guarantee that only the best full-grain and vegetable tanned leathers have been used. Furthermore, you can be confident that each bag is a unique hand-made article, and that, contrary to mass produced bags, each Bleu de Chauffe bag is produced in our workshop in France by a single artisan who signs every bag he or she makes. For us, It is important that each and every Bleu de Chauffe bag is exceptional, made to last, and ages beautifully with time. 

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