Leather is the end product of tanning the rawhide of an animal to make it durable and flexible. Most leather is made from cattle hide. Leather can be made from almost all type of animal skins (mammals, amphibians, reptiles).
Rawhide is made by removing fur, meat and fat from the skin. Tanning is the process that alters the chemical fibre structure in the rawhide. Processing skins to leather requires the use of chemicals which are mainly problematic for health and the environment. In the end-product may remain hazardous residues of hazardous chemicals.
Leather made from the hide from various parts of the animal has different qualities. Animal hide can be split into layers. Each layer has different qualities or grades:
• Top-grain leather includes the outer layer of the hide, known as the grain, which features finer, more densely packed fibers, resulting in strength and durability. Depending on thickness, it may also contain some of the more fibrous under layer, known as the corium.
• Split leather is created from the corium left once the top-grain has been separated from the hide, known as the drop split. In thicker hides, the drop split can be further split into a middle split and a flesh split.
• Bonded leather, also called reconstituted leather, is a material that uses leather scraps that are shredded and bonded together with polyurethane or latex onto a fiber mesh.
Artificial leather, also called synthetic or imitation leather, is a material intended to substitute for leather in upholstery, clothing, footwear, and other uses. Artificial leather is marketed under many names, including "leatherette", "faux leather", "vegan leather", "PU leather" and "pleather".
Artificial leather is processed with chemicals depending on desired properties and end-use applications.
Artificial leather differs from real leather in many aspects including the chemicals used to create and process the leathers.