When working with any of the crocodilian leathers (e.g., American alligator skin, caiman skin, Nile crocodile skin, etc.), it is important to know how to work each skin in order to get the best results.
We’ve talked about the unique characteristics of each of the crocodilian leathers before, but today we’ll share a few tips about designing and making boots out of these exotic leathers:
Tip #1: Selecting Your Material
Naturally, before you can begin to craft a top-quality leather boot or shoe, you need to pick the right material for the job first. Consider the following when choosing a crocodilian skin for your project:
- Budget. Caiman skin is the most budget friendly option, and may be easier to afford when you’re planning to release a large line of footwear or a custom job. Nile crocodile leather is the midrange option in terms of price, being a little less expensive than alligator skin.
- Flexibility. Caiman hide is bony, rigid, and less flexible. Nile crocodile hide is a bit softer, but American alligator hide is the most supple and flexible material.
- Ease of Care/Durability. While caiman skin is the least expensive material, its general inflexibility causes it to be more susceptible to showing stretch marks and crease lines than the other two materials. Alligator and Nile crocodile skin, being more flexible, will withstand bending more easily, making footwear crafted from such material a bit easier to maintain without causing crease marks. Purveyors of high-fashion goods often appreciate ease of care.
- Grade of the Skin. With footwear items, you may be able to get away with Grade II skins, assuming the defects are near the top of the tail or otherwise in an out of the way spot that won’t be on display in the final product. You may even be able to get away with grade 3 skins if your footwear is made from several small panels as opposed to larger ones.
- Color. For any designer, color is one of the basic elements of a complete design. However, there are unique challenges for getting the color right for each of the crocodilian hides. For example, the bony hide of the caiman is the most difficult to dye, but is frequently stocked by suppliers in a variety of colors. Meanwhile, American alligator skin colors up very evenly, but it can be difficult to find finished hides stocked in the exact color you want because of how expensive they are. It may require custom work if you aren’t looking for a basic color.
These are just a few of the primary concerns that you have to consider when choosing which exotic leather to use for footwear. Once you know which of these exotic leathers you want for your project, it’s time to acquire it…
Tip #2: Buying the Material
When purchasing any exotic leather for any project, there are generally three sources that you can go to:
- Tanneries. Basically, this is the straight from the manufacturer option. Purchasing from a tannery gives you the greatest amount of options for color, finish, and grade of the skin. The caveat is that with a tannery, you are better off purchasing in bulk, because a tannery will have some basic setup costs that they incur whether they tan a single hide or 100 hides for you, which will often show up as a surcharge on your bill. If you’re only ordering one or two hides, you may wish to consider a different buying option.
- Distributors. Instead of buying from a tannery, you can order a skin from the distributor. The advantage here is that distributors keep a variety of skins in stock for immediate purchase. This provides a time advantage over tanneries, who prepare skins to order (which can cause long delays). However, distributors do charge a markup to cover their costs, and they may not have the exact color or finish of skin you want in stock. For small orders, the distributor markup is often less than the surcharge a tannery may have for operational costs.
- Manufacturers. This is the option that designers who want to simplify their logistics as much as possible will often choose. Instead of ordering skins and turning them into products, you can place an order with a manufacturer who can handle everything for you. This does tend to be a more expensive option than the other two, as the manufacturer may have a markup on top of the charges for the basic order. However, this is a great way to make the total production costs of your crocodile footwear highly predictable.
For large custom-manufactured orders, tanneries are usually your best bet. For a small order, such as a trial run of a new line of footwear, buying a small handful of skins from a distributor can be a great option. If you want to make production easier on yourself, ordering from a manufacturer is a good way to simplify the manufacturing process (just make sure they’re only buying the skins they need to complete your order).
One other important note for purchasing crocodilian leathers for footwear: always buy at least two skins. Otherwise, you’ll end up having to use belly/back skin for one boot, and tail skin for the other, creating a mismatched pair. By buying two skins, you can still make two pairs of boots, one from the belly/back skin, and one from the tails.
Tip #3: Working the Skins
With the bonier crocodilian hides (caiman and Nile crocodile), you can prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your sewing needles by thinning out a sewing line using a dremel or other tool. This can minimize the chances of a needle having to pass through a thick calcium deposit in the hide and bending or breaking upon it.
Also, when working with exotic leather, consider applying conditioning agents to the finished product to help repel dirt, dust, and other contaminants. This will help keep the boots looking like new when they’re on display.
Learn More from Pan American Leathers
Of course, these are just a few things that you may want to think about when you’re preparing to make exotic leather footwear. For more information, tips and advice, contact Pan American Leathers directly. We have years of experience in helping our customers handle the challenges of working with exotic leather, and the know-how to answer your questions.
Here at Pan American Leathers, when we talk about stingrays, it is usually about how durable and versatile their hides are as a material for making a wide variety of leather goods. As an exotic hide, stingray skin is tough, being resistant to moisture damage, puncturing and scuffing.
Today, however, we’re here to discuss a problem with the stingray population itself. Namely, how they’ve invaded the U.S. coastline in recent years, becoming a serious nuisance to beach-goers on both ends of the continental U.S.
Last year around August, more than 40 beach-goers in the state of California were harmed by toxic stingrays. Meanwhile, another school of rays encroached on the coast of Alabama, causing coastal authorities to fly purple warning flags up and down the coastline. According to an article featured on the Epoch Times, there were more than 20 complaints of close contact with the stingrays in Alabama alone.
What Drew the Rays?
According to experts cited by The Daily Mail, the large school of stingrays may have been attracted to the California coastline by “warm water temperatures and lots of organisms to feed on.” No reason for the stingray incursion into the USA’s eastern coast was given in the article, but it is likely that the combination of warm water and plentiful food was a factor there as well.
With August coming soon, it may be time to be on the lookout for another major stingray incursion, especially if the waters are as warm or warmer than they were last year. According to the National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC), the average temperature of the water along the Florida coast in the month of August last year was 88 °F, and as of July 1, the water temperature is 86 °F.
If the temperature of the water stays high, we may see another major stingray incursion before long.
What Can Be Done About This?
Typically, stingrays are not aggressive; they don’t go out of their way to chase and attack humans. Instead, they merely defend themselves when they feel threatened. Last year, the animals happened to be on the coast in such great numbers that people kept accidentally stepping on the rays, causing the rays to reflexively defend themselves using their toxic stings.
If the rays are present on the beach in such numbers again, the best way to avoid harm would be to use caution around the water. Instead of diving in blindly, it is advised that you shuffle your feet along the bottom of the water so as to warn stingrays of your presence and avoid surprising them.
Should you be stung, seek help right away. Even though a single ray sting is not normally fatal, the ray does inject its victims with a poison that can be very painful. Experts cited by The Daily Mail say that dousing the affected area in hot water “helps break up the protein toxin injected by the stingray.” If you see wildlife warning flags indicating the presence of stingrays, make a note of where the lifeguards and any medical facilities are located.
For most people, the above represents all that can be done about stingray-infested beaches. More active forms of stingray population control, such as allowing fishermen to harvest the animals for meat and hides, are a matter for the legislative body to consider.
However, if the fishing of stingrays were to be allowed as a way to control the risk of harm to American beach-goers and vacationers up and down the coast, it would benefit more than just those who want to enjoy a good swim.
In Southeast Asia, fishermen have harvested stingrays for centuries. The meat of these animals has been a key source of food for people living on the coast of Asia, and the skins are sold to tanneries to turn into high-value exotic leather goods. If such harvesting were to be used here, it could prove to be a boon to local businesses along the coastline.
Stingray skin, as we mentioned earlier, is a very durable and useful material. Water, fire, puncture and even abrasion-resistant, the skin of a stingray is very tough, making it ideally suited for use in items that are expected to survive hardship, such as motorcycle saddlebags and luggage cases.
For years, alligator products have been a cornerstone of the high fashion industry. Stores in areas such as California’s Beverly Hills are touted as featuring some of America’s most comprehensive luxury and high-fashion offerings.
So, when lawmakers were presented with a choice to either pass or reject a bill that would allow stores in the Golden State to continue selling products made of alligator skins, it was kind of a big deal.
The History of the Bill
You might be wondering why it would be necessary to pass a bill to allow stores to continue selling a product they’ve carried for years. The reason is because in 1967, the American alligator was considered to be “at risk” of going extinct, so laws were passed to protect these creatures so that they would not die out. One provision of these laws in California was that endangered animals and products derived from them could not be imported or distributed within the state.
Over time, however, conservation efforts proved to be wildly successful and the American alligator went from having a population that was estimated to be only a few thousand to having a population in the millions. In 1987, twenty years after being listed as an endangered animal, the American alligator was removed from the endangered species list. Now, this animal is listed as being a “least concern” species when it comes to extinction risk.
Despite the recovery of the alligator as a species, many of the protection laws that prohibited the sale of alligator skins remained in place in California. To allow retailers in that state to sell these high-value products, a bill had to be passed in order to provide an exemption for alligators.
However, each bill that has been passed has taken the form of a temporary exemption rather than a repeal of the older law. For this reason, it is necessary for lawmakers in California to periodically assess the state of the alligator population and pass a new exemption.
The exemption for alligators was previously renewed in 2010, for a period of five years.
A Victory for the Industry
With the exemption set to expire at the end of the year, it was time for the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee to debate whether or not to renew the bill.
If the bill failed to pass, stores would have to cease and desist the sale of any product that contained the least piece of alligator byproduct. The sheer loss of capital invested in the acquisition of these products alone would be a severe blow to the industry, and the state would lose a lot of its high-fashion business to other states which had repealed the laws decades ago when it became apparent that the alligator population made a comeback.
According to a Los Angeles Times article covering the events surrounding the bill, the testimony of alligator population experts from Louisiana proved to be especially impactful on the committee’s decision. In his testimony before the committee, Don Ashley, a consultant to the Louisiana Alligator Advisory Council, stated that “There are alligators everywhere, on golf courses and in people’s pools” in the state of Louisiana.
With the testimony and documentation provided by the alligator experts present at the committee hearing, and with the financial well-being of the state’s booming fashion industry at stake, the committee passed the bill unanimously, allowing retailers to keep selling their alligator-based products until 2020.
The decision to continue the sale of alligator based products is a victory for the fashion industry and for the exotic leather trade. It allows for the properly regulated, legal trade of alligator products and keeps high-fashion stores in business.
To learn more about exotic leathers, or to order your own alligator hides, contact us today! Pan American Leathers is here to help you with your questions and concerns.
When it comes to making footwear out of exotic leathers such as crocodile skin, you want to make sure that whatever you make is as perfect as possible. From the size and shape of the shoe to the coloration of the scales, everything has to be just so for your final product to meet your vision.
In all, there are 23 different species of crocodile. However, less than half of these species are used commercially for their skins. Currently, three of the most popular crocodile skins are the caiman crocodile, Nile crocodile, and the American alligator.
Each of these three skins differs from the others in terms of cost, softness, coloration, available sizes and even country of origin. It is these factors that should ultimately determine which type of skin you order.
That being said, here are some quick details about each of the three crocodile hides:
Of the three most popular crocodile skins, the caiman is the least expensive by far. This relative cost can be attributed to the fact that caiman skin is the boniest of the three, making it more difficult and time-consuming to work with than Nile crocodile or American alligator skin. Because the hide of the caiman is bony, the scales retain some calcium markings and are firmer than the scales of the other crocodilian species.
For the most part, caiman skins are measured between the outer edges at the widest point of the belly. For smaller size shoes or boots, a skin that is between 30 and 34 centimeters wide is fine. However, for larger sizes, you will probably need a skin of more than 35 cm.
Tanneries and distributors typically have somewhere between 10 to 20 different colors of caiman skin available.
The Nile Crocodile
Nile crocodile hides are the median option on this list when it comes to price. On average, Nile crocodile skin for footwear will cost three times as much as a comparable caiman hide, but will still be approximately 15 percent less expensive than a similar alligator hide.
Overall, the skin of a Nile crocodile is much less bony than the skin of a caiman, making it easier to work with. Where the caiman’s hide is measured only at the widest point of the belly, a Nile crocodile skin is measured between the center portion of the innermost bones on each side of the widest point of the belly. Given this measurement method, the best size of skin to use is roughly 25 to 29 cm for small shoes and boots, and 30 to 34 cm for larger pieces of footwear.
Being more expensive to acquire than caiman, Nile hides are usually stocked in fewer colors by tanneries and distributors. At best, you’ll find 5-10 colors of these hides in stock at any given time.
The American Alligator
The hide of the American alligator is one of the most prized exotic leathers there is. As such, it is the most expensive of the skins on this list. Unlike the caiman and the Nile crocodiles (which hail from Central America and Africa, respectively), the American alligator is an animal that is born and bred in the USA. Collected largely from specialized farms in the southern USA, alligator is a supple and luxurious material.
Of the three crocodilians, alligators have the least bony skin of all, making dyeing the hide and sewing it a breeze by comparison to the other two. This makes alligator hide ideal for a number of uses, including footwear.
Alligator hides are measured in the same way as Nile croc hides, between the center of the innermost bones on each side of the widest point of the belly. As such, the same sizes of alligator skin are used for footwear as the Nile croc skins.
Being the most expensive skin, alligator is also one of the hardest skins to keep in stock. The investment required to stock alligator skin prevents most distributors from stocking more than one or two colors at a time. If you want a particular color/finish, you may need to go straight to a tannery with a production order.
Quick Tips for Making Footwear out of Any Crocodilian Hide:
If you are making shoes or any other paired item out of crocodile hides, be sure to order your hides in pairs. This is because if you order just one skin, you would end up using the belly of the animal for one shoe/boot and the tail for the other. These two parts of the animal have very different scale patterns, which would create an uneven look. To combat this problem, order two hides and create two pairs of shoes, one from the matching bellies and one from the matching tails.
Also, to save some money, you can utilize grade 2 skins if the defects are located towards the tops or bottoms of the bellies and tails of the hide. On any of these exotic materials, grade 2 skins are cheaper and easier to find.
If budget is a major issue, caiman skin might be your best bet. For value, Nile crocodile skin is your best bet. If money isn’t an issue, and you want the greatest luxury as well as the ability to say “made in America” all the way, American alligator skin will certainly turn heads.
Here at Pan American Leathers, when we talk about alligator harvesting, we’re usually concerned with the skins of the animal. While the meat of the American alligator has been a prized delicacy for years, especially among the inhabitants of the American South, the fat of these animals often goes to waste.
That may be about to change, however. In a recent article featured on Science Daily, researchers from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette have announced that the animal fat from chicken, pork, beef and even alligators can be converted to biodiesel fuel for use as a renewable fuel source, similar to the corn-based biodiesel currently in use.
What separates the new animal-fat biodiesel from previous forms of biodiesel?
For starters, researchers are suggesting that the new fuel production from animal fat would be more efficient and produce less solid waste than previous biofuel production methods.
What this Means for Alligator Harvesting
By finding a use for parts of the alligator that would otherwise go to waste, the practice of alligator harvesting becomes more efficient. Turning alligator fat (and the fat of other animals) into a viable alternative fuel source, scientists can create a truly renewable fuel source that will help to alleviate the woes of the energy sector.
If this research turns into a dedicated effort to gather spare animal fat for use as fuel, major biodiesel producing companies could turn into an extra source of income for alligator farmers, improving the profitability of gator farms on the whole. Such a circumstance would be a welcome boost for gator ranches.
Alligator farming is a complex and expensive task. With the added income from the biodiesel industry, alligator farms would have more capital to invest in improving their operations, providing larger enclosures for gators and better safety training and equipment for handlers.
Potential Benefits for the Fashion Industry
In the fashion industry, large, pristine alligator hides are hard to come by, which renders them very expensive. Part of the reason for this is that gators become more aggressive as they get older, which poses a challenge for humans and the other animals on the farm.
However, with larger enclosures and more incentive to raise these animals to full size, larger skins could become easier to acquire from farms.
Naturally, these are just preliminary observations, as the research is still ongoing. The larger impact of the use of alligator fat on the biofuel industry as a whole is impossible to predict until we actually start seeing how it’s used.
That being said, we look forward to seeing how research like this can reduce waste and improve the exotic leather industry as a whole.
When it comes to creating high-fashion items, it is often a struggle to find the right material to use in your project. Exotic leathers are a great way to differentiate your work from the work of others who might be imitating your designs, but which exotic leather should you use for your next project?
We’ve talked at length about the benefits of using reptilian leathers such alligator, caiman and python skin, but what about lizard skin? Surprisingly flexible and suited for a number of uses, Pan American Leathers’ lizard skins are a great material for many different items.
Before we continue, it is important to note that we actually supply TWO different kinds of lizard skin:
- Varanus Niloticus (Nile Lizard).
- Varanus Salvator (Ring Lizard).
Both of these skins share many common characteristics, such as their flexibility and what dye colors and finishes they can take. Both animals are gathered from wild sources.
The primary differences are in the cuts that are typically used for each and in the natural skin patterns and colorations they possess. Our Nile lizard skins are front cuts while our ring lizard skins are available in both back and front cut. Also, the ring lizard’s skin has an intricate ring pattern on its back which the Nile lizard lacks. Although both species of lizards are close in size, the Nile lizard’s skin is slightly larger on average.
Which Lizard Skin is Best for What?
Ring lizard skins are smaller and have a distinct natural design featuring a series of intricate rings. This makes them ideal for ladies’ footwear, clutches and other small or medium accessories.
Nile lizards are much larger and the pattern is bleached out. This makes them better for larger handbags, upholstery and belts.
Basically, either lizard skin is useful in any project where you need flexible material. However, the ring lizard skin is often better for getting attention with its natural patterns, while Nile lizard skin is ideal for making items that need a consistent, uniform appearance.
If you need more information about these two types of skin, or any other exotic leathers, contact Pan American Leathers today!
When making any exotic leather purchase, it is important to know why the skins you are ordering cost what they do. Knowing the factors that affect the prices of skins allows you to plan ahead for your exotic leather purchase so that you can get the most out of your order.
So, what are the factors that affect lizard skin prices? Why do the prices on these skins vary from time to time, and why do some finishes/colors cost more than others at all times?
To help you with these questions, we’ve assembled a short list of the biggest factors that affect the pricing of your lizard skin.
Size and Quality of the Skin
Our lizard skins come from two different animals: Varanus Salvator and Varanus Niloticus, otherwise known as the ring lizard and the Nile lizard, respectively. Both lizards are members of the monitor (Varanidae) family, and their skins are obtained primarily from wild sources in Southeast Asia and Africa.
As a wild animal, these lizards are subjected to innumerable hazards that are beyond the control of the tannery. For example, water monitors sometimes prey upon dangerous animals such as snakes and young crocodiles, which can result in confrontations that damage the monitor’s hide.
Because of the risks of damage to a lizard’s skin from natural and man-made hazards in their wild habitat, pristine grade 1 skins that are free of defects are more difficult to find than grade 2 skins that possess scuffs and other defects.
Larger skins tend to come from older lizards, which also means that these skins have been exposed to more potential sources of harm. This makes large grade 1 skins considerably more rare and expensive than small grade 2 skins.
So, when you are making an order, you may want to consider what the size of your panels are, and if you need large, pristine skins for your project. If the items you are making are small, such as watch bands or men’s wallets, you may be able to use smaller, grade 2 skins and work around any flaws.
Supply and Demand
It’s one of the basic law of economics: The more commonly-available something is, and the fewer people that are demanding it, the lower the cost of that item will be. On the other hand, the rarer something is, and the more people want it, the more that item will cost.
Remember the example of why large grade 1 skins cost more than smaller, grade 2 skins? That’s an example of supply and demand. Big, pristine skins are harder to come by, so they cost more.
Also, because lizard skin is collected from wild animals, the availability of the skins are subject to the effects of weather patterns and other external forces.
As for demand, when larger fashion houses make lizard skins a central part of their seasonal collections, they tend to buy up large amounts of skin, driving up the price. Typically, they are using large, top grade lizard skin.
Once you’ve decided that the market conditions are right and that the time for your order is now, there are still other factors that will affect the price of your lizard skin order. These factors include:
- The size of your skin order.
- The finish you want.
- Who you buy from (tanneries, distributors, or manufacturers).
Whenever a tannery makes hides, there are certain costs that they incur whether you order 10 skins or 1,000 skins. If you order a very small number of skins, then the tannery will attach a surcharge to the order so that they can cover the chemical and labor expenses that they incur as a part of fulfilling that order. In short, the more skins that you order at once, the less that you will end up paying per skin. Note that distributors do not typically incur such charges for skins that they have in stock, so for smaller orders, a distributor may be your best option.
Beyond the quantity of your order, certain dye and finish combinations may cost you more than others because they add more steps to the process. For example, bleaching the skin to remove the natural patterns in the leather before dyeing it adds an extra chemical process and more labor, increasing the costs for the tanners. Simply dyeing the skin without bleaching reduces total labor and chemical use, which makes the product less expensive. However, it is important to note that in most cases, the dye and finish that you choose to use will have less of an impact on the final cost of your skin order than the quantity, size, and grade of the skins you order.
When you are looking for lizard skin for your own custom products and designs, keeping these pricing factors in mind can help you make sure that you get the best value out of your exotic skin order. If you want to know more about how we process lizard skin, or need help making your lizard skin order, contact us today! Pan American Leathers has years of experience with the tanning process and the industry, and we’re here to help you.
When it comes to high-fashion handbags and other items, exotic leathers are at the highest end of luxury. One of the most popular materials for the fashion-conscious is the supple, luxurious hide of the American alligator. Hailing from the Southeast USA and frequently harvested from farm-bred gators as well as from wild animals, American alligator skin is a classic, durable and versatile leather.
However, alligator skin is not the only crocodilian species used for high fashion. Caiman crocodiles are also used in the fashion industry by many. Hailing from South America and Central America, the caiman crocodile’s skin is taken only from farms.
While both skins are very desirable for high fashion, they are not the same. These two crocodilian species might be distant cousins, but they each have unique characteristics.
Characteristics of Alligator Skin
Of these two species of reptile, the American alligator’s hide is the softer and more pliable material. This is because the skin of this reptile is less bony than the skin of the caiman.
This softness makes the alligator’s skin easier to work with than the skin of other reptiles, making it easier to work with for cutting, stitching and folding. In addition to making it easy to work with, the softness of alligator skin means that it feels much more supple to the touch than other reptile skins. The top global fashion powerhouses take advantage alligator skin to make a variety of ultra luxury products like belts, furniture, garments, handbags and wallets.
Another result of the lack of bone in alligator skin is that it is easier to give them a very smooth, even dye. Without the presence of calcium-rich deposits in the skin, dyes that are applied to a gator’s hide have the chance to be evenly distributed, which makes getting a uniform color into the hide less complicated. When you need to work multiple hides to have a uniform coloration in a large object, such as a piece of luggage, the cleanness and smoothness of an alligator’s scales could be considered one of alligator leather’s biggest advantages over caiman skin.
Speaking of luggage and other large items, the American alligator skins available in the marketplace can be much larger than the caiman crocodile. In fact, it is not uncommon for alligator hides to exceed 10 feet long. So, for items with large panels, you can get large alligator skins so that you don’t have to do as much cutting and seaming as you would with the hide of a smaller skin, such as a caiman crocodile.
Characteristics of Caiman Crocodile Leather
While caimans might be cousins to the American alligator, the hides of the two animals are worlds apart. For starters, caiman hides tend to be stiffer than alligator hides. This is because the caiman has distinctive calcium rivets in the center of each scale. These calcium deposits also give the caiman’s scales a patterned effect that is not seen in alligator hides, one that may even persist through the dyeing process.
Another key characteristic that separates caiman skins from alligator skins is their size. Caimans are rarely farmed to larger than 3-4 feet long while several alligator farms grow their animals larger. In addition, wild caiman skins are not available in the marketplace; whereas there are tens of thousands of wild alligator skins available each year, ranging from three feet to 15 feet long. This often means that for projects with larger panels, you will have to use more hides, do more stitching, and generally perform more work overall.
While the boniness of the caiman hide might lead some to regard it as being less useful or lower-quality, there are benefits to using this material. For starters, the skin of a caiman tends to be more structured than softer hides. For those who want to emphasize the natural qualities of the animal’s skin, the caiman skin is also a definite plus.
Caiman skin is used by brands in high luxury – just not quite ultra luxury like the alligator skin. Handbags and cowboy boots and other ladies’ footwear are common uses for the caiman skin.
Differences in Cost
Whenever you’re shopping for caiman and alligator skin, you may notice that there is typically a very large price difference between the two. Alligator skin is easier to work with and considered more luxurious than the caiman skin for the reasons detailed above, so both manufacturers and the consumer people will pay a substantial premium for it compared to the caiman’s skin. It is not uncommon for a caiman skin to be priced at a fraction of the cost of a comparable alligator skin.
For more information about caiman and alligator hides, or any other exotic leather, be sure to ask an expert today. Pan American Leathers has been a trusted tannery for major fashion houses for over 30 years.
Using exotic leather materials in your designs, such as alligator skin, python skin and stingray skin can add endless amounts of personality to your work and create something that is truly one-of-a-kind. Beyond that, exotic leathers offer a whole new world of design opportunities to inspire you and impress clients.
However, it is important to remember that not only are exotic leathers different from traditional cowhide leather visually, they each have special properties that need to be taken into consideration when crafting items from these beautiful materials. To help out, we’ve assembled a few tips and tricks for working with exotic leathers to make sure that your next design is perfect.
Tips for Stingray Skin
Stingray leather is a very strong and durable material for crafting with. The tiny, pearl-like calcium deposits in the skin are attractive and create a strongly-textured appearance that can be used to great effect in your designs. Unlike cowhide, the fibers in the skin run in random directions and often crisscross with each other, making the skin very difficult to tear. In short, stingray leather is a very durable material.
While the durability of stingray skin means that the final product that is made from it will be durable and long-lasting, this very toughness can frustrate craftsmen who are not experienced in handling this material. We have heard many stories of first-time handlers bending or breaking sewing machines, needles, dies and blades on stingray skin. Yet, this is a situation that is very avoidable, and no, you don’t have to splurge on diamond-tipped needles.
With stingray, a little preparation goes a long way. You can use a dremel on the areas you intend to sew to smooth them out, creating a stitching line to reduce the chances of your sewing machine’s needle hitting a hard calcium pearl.
The toughness and damage resistance of stingray hide makes the ideal material for a leather surface that will see a lot of abuse, such as a custom leather tabletop. The calcium deposits in a stingray skin make it incredibly scratch resistant, and as an aquatic hide, the skin is naturally resistant to moisture, meaning that it can take the occasional drink spill like a champ.
When designing around the use of a stingray skin, remember that skins larger than 13” wide are hard to come by, and as such can be pricey. Rather than making large panels from a single skin, try buying several smaller skins to fill out your larger panels.
Tips for Alligator Skin
Alligator skin is a wonderful material that is surprisingly versatile. The common misconception with alligator hide is that their skins would be too hard and rigid to work with, since the animals are famous for their toughness. However, first-time users of a properly-tanned alligator skin find these leathers to be surprisingly soft and supple. This is largely because the skin of the American alligator is less bony than the skins of other crocodile species.
Alligator skin is a great exotic leather for large furniture pieces that involve cushions, such as sofas, chairs, or even bedding. Use the belly for the large square panels and the tail for the longer panels. The square tile shapes on the scales of the belly and the longer rectangular tile shape on the scales of the tail compliment these placements well. Then you can use the head to for small accents and trim.
Tips for Python Hides
Python skin is a very interesting material when it comes to making interior designs stand out. The skin of a python is very textured and scaly in appearance, making it very recognizable and distinctive.
However, you don’t have to use the natural patterns of a python’s skin, you can always get the markings of the python bleached and recolored to match your needs so that the final design can mesh without you having to completely rework your original color scheme around the python’s scale pattern (although that can produce some really jaw-dropping designs).
These skins tend to be long and narrow. However, with bleached python skin, you can easily work multiple hides together into a single piece for projects that require multiple skins in a single panel because of their width.
Also, with python skin, you can get either a back-cut or a front-cut, depending on whether you want to emphasize wide scales or the natural markings of the python’s back at the center of the panel.
Some Helpful Advice for All Types of Skins
While the toughness, flexibility, and patterns on each type of exotic leather will vary greatly, there are a few helpful tips that can be useful for most any exotic leather purchase:
- If your project requires large panels, consider if you’ll be better off purchasing a single, large grade 1 skin for each panel, or if several smaller skins would work. If money’s no object and the client requires as few seams as possible, the larger skins are definitely a good thing. However, clever work in designing the look of your project to work with panels that use multiple skins can make your piece truly unique.
- For really small panels, consider purchasing larger grade 2 skins and working around flaws or defects. Are you crafting a tiny, 3” jewelry box to sit atop a dresser? Double-check the prices of small grade 1 skins and larger grade 2 skins when ordering, you may be able to get multiple panels for small objects out of the larger skin for less total cost.
- Consider the size of your order when choosing to order from a tannery or a distributor. If your order is very small, a tannery will attach a surcharge to your order to cover their setup costs. A very large order, on the other hand, may end up costing more from a distributor than a tannery (because of the distributor’s mark-up).
No matter what exotic leather you use, it never hurts to make sure that you get the most out of your exotic leather purchase by discussing your project with an expert in the use of exotic leathers before you place your order.
Recently, we’ve talked about a few ideas for exotic leather-based interior design projects, but what notable designers and studios have made their popular projects out of exotic leathers? Not just handbags, shoes, and other common uses, but large centerpiece items that become the highlight of a design project.
To help inspire your next big project, we’re listing a couple of design projects by some major contemporary designers and design companies that made them.
A former actor from Kent, Martyn Lawrence-Bullard is now a big name in Hollywood circles, having done designs for famous clients such as Elton John and Cher.
Big-name celebrities like Elton John are always looking to obtain homes and living spaces that not only stand out, but really speak to their personalities. This is one of the reasons why designers such as Martyn Lawrence-Bullard use exotic leather in their designs.
When designing Elton John’s Python-skin bedframe, Martyn decided to use the elegant and luxurious skin of the python to create a one-of-a-kind bedframe that not only stood out from the traditional bed, but also spoke to his client’s unique personality and sense of style.
Martyn’s choice to keep the natural colors of the python’s scales intact was a truly inspired choice. The natural coloration of the python skin actually meshes with the flooring well, without clashing with color of the walls.
TopCar Premium Auto-Tuners:
Of course, interior decoration can be for more than the home. TopCar, a premium auto-tuner company based out of Russia, has been creating top-of-the-line modifications and interior decorations for high-end cars for years now.
One of their recent pieces of luxury work involved creating custom alligator skin interiors for the Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard line of cars. These cars, which are designed to cater to the needs of the rich and powerful, boast bullet-proof glass, an armored frame, and an outwardly-plain look.
The modest exterior of these cars is meant to avoid drawing attention, but just because the outsides of these vehicles are plain doesn’t mean that the insides have to be. As shown on luxury article sites such as bornrich.com, the interior design of the S600 can be quite luxurious, once a top-rate designer has had the chance to rework it.
The deep browns of the alligator skin compliment the lighter tans of the rest of the luxury leathers and the rich gold decorations well, providing a color contrast that still fits in the overall color scheme. Overall, the alligator skin highlights in this vehicle have transformed the interior into something truly luxurious, beautiful, and unique.
Build a Better Interior with Exotic Leather
Using exotic leather in your interior design can make your project really stand out and attract attention, whether you’re designing for a home, an office, a car, a motorcycle, a yacht, a jet or whatever else. Not only are exotic leathers such as alligator and python skin attractive, they are highly effective as status symbols.
Design clients love to feel like they’re getting the royal treatment, and exotic leather can provide that feeling in spades. These durable and beautiful leathers are a great addition to your interior design that clients will love. Make your next interior decoration job one that your clients won’t forget by creating something unique and gorgeous out of exotic leather.
To learn more about how you can create with exotic leather, or for help with your order, contact us today. Pan American Leathers, Inc. has been helping designers with their exotic leather projects for years, which includes some of the world’s leading fashion and design houses. Our team of leather experts has the experience and the know-how to help you make the most out of your next exotic leather purchase.