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4 Tips for Making Crocodile Skin Handbags


Crocodile leather handbags are a hot commodity on the high fashion market.Crocodile skin is a luxurious, supple material that is very much in demand in the fashion industry. With high-fashion crocodile handbags selling for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, getting the manufacture of your crocodile skin right is incredibly important for impressing ultra-wealthy clients. With this in mind, we’ve assembled a few short tips for making crocodile skin handbags that should be helpful.

Tip #1: Choosing Your Crocodilian Species

There are a few dozen different species of crocodiles in the world, a few of which are commonly used for leather. Three of the most popular are:

  1. The caiman crocodile.

  2. The Nile crocodile.

  3. The American alligator (it’s a member of the order crocodilia under the scientific classification).

With handbags, you generally want to have a flexible material to use for the bag. The caiman crocodile has the boniest skin, rendering it less flexible and harder to work with, while the American alligator has very little boniness to it at all, making the most flexible and easiest to work with. Nile crocodiles fall in between these two extremes, having some calcium deposits, but not nearly as much as caiman crocodiles do.

This boniness also affects how well each species of crocodile will take to being dyed, so keep that in mind as well. Bonier hides are tougher to dye evenly, while less bony hides are easy to dye.

Tip #2: Choosing the Size and Grade of Hides

Caiman hides are measured a bit differently from alligator and Nile crocodile hides.With handbags, you’ll need to use very large, clean panels of skin for each bag. High-fashion handbag customers want only top-quality workmanship and materials, so top-grade skins will be the most desirable. In most cases, you will need a nearly flawless, grade I skin to get the best results.

For small handbags, the crocodile hide should be at least 30 to 34cm wide. Medium-sized handbags generally need 35 to 39cm wide skins, and large handbags take 40 to 50cm wide grade I skins. If flaws in the skin are kept to the extreme edges of the hide, you might be able to use a grade II skin that is oversized.

Tip #3: Using Scraps for Straps

If the layout of your panels leaves you with excess hide, use that extra skin to make the carry strap, gussets, interior details and other odd parts. This can save you a large amount of money on buying extra skins, and gives you accents that will perfectly match the handbag they are attached to.

If you don’t have enough excess material to do this, consider buying smaller, grade II or III skins to make into carry straps. With these straps, it’s easier to work around flaws in the hide, as long as they aren’t extra-wide. When buying hides specifically for straps, make sure that they’re the same type of cut (belly or hornback, for example) and come from the same dye lot as the ones being used for the bags themselves.

Tip #4: Preparing Sewing Lines

Leather sewing machines might be heavy duty, but even the toughest needles can bend or break on a calcium-rich skin if it isn't prepared correctly.When working with bonier hides such as caiman or Nile crocodile skins, be sure to prepare sewing lines with a dremel or other tool to thin the hide and prevent calcium deposits from bending or breaking your needles. In the long run, taking a few minutes to prepare sewing lines will actually save you time and frustration on fixing up your sewing machines and replacing needles every other motion.

To learn more about using crocodile leather for handbags, contact Pan American Leathers today!

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Why Buy Exotic Leather from an Independent Seller?


Alligator leather bags are in high demand in the fashion world, with price tags of tens of thousands of dollars and waiting lists over half a decade long, it's little wonder the big fashion houses are in a rush to get their hands on top-quality materials to speed up the process and make more sales.In the world of high fashion, securing the supplies needed to craft the best luxury wear is an enormous challenge. Top-tier luxury clients demand only the best products, which often means using rare exotic leathers such as crocodile and alligator skin. According to a statistic featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, the value of the luxury accessories market topped $77 billion U.S. dollars in 2012. That’s 77 billion reasons for high-end fashion studios to dedicate themselves to the task of securing the very best resources.

For a long time, alligator leather handbags, footwear, belts, and other accessories have served as a mark of distinction, a way of affirming affluence and making bold fashion statements. 

Why Big Fashion Houses are Buying out Crocodile/Alligator Farms, Exotic Skin Factories, and Tanneries

To satisfy consumer demand for ultra-high-end products, the big fashion houses, such as Louis Vuitton (LVMH), Prada, and Gucci, are in a virtual arms race to procure the finest exotic hides for their products. As a part of this race to have the most exclusive products, big fashion houses are buying out alligator and crocodile retailers, from the farms, to the tanneries, and even factories that specialize in exotic skins. By doing this they can:

  • Secure a steady source of top-quality exotic hides for their products (allowing them to shorten the wait times customers have to face, which can be years-long for some).

  • Keep competitors from being able to acquire the best hides, extending those competitors' wait times and lowering their ability to match quality.

This increases the exclusive nature of a fashion house’s products, giving them a competitive advantage. It also allows them to justify the expense of buying out alligator and crocodile farms as an investment. These cash-rich fashion industry giants can soak up the costs and pay them off with a small handful of handbag sales. 

The Trouble with Buying Alligator Skin from Fashion-House Affiliates

When dealing with a supplier who is owned by a major fashion house, remember who the puppeteer pulling the strings is.After spending sizeable amounts of capital to make these acquisitions, big fashion houses are naturally inclined to make the best use of them. The “best use” of a crocodile farm in this case typically does not involve making top-grade skins available to potential competitors.

When every product sold represents tens of thousands of dollars, fashion houses have no reason to supply their competition with the crocodile skins they need to operate for a fair price, assuming they’ll make a sale at all. With a fashion-house owned or affiliated supplier, there’s a built-in bias that is, quite frankly, impossible to really avoid.

“How is this bias reflected,” you ask? It is reflected in the:

  • Skin Selection. When the farm, factory, or tannery is owned by a big-name fashion house, that fashion house will keep the most select stock for themselves to gain a competitive advantage.

  • Price. With a house-owned outlet for skins, the fashion house will want to charge a premium to part with their skins, one that makes buying from a fashion house-owned retailer of hides less than ideal.

  • Delivery Times. If a farm or tannery has to make a choice between fulfilling your order in a timely manner and completing an order from the fashion house that owns them, they’ll fill the fashion house’s order first, every time. This manifests as delays in the shipping speed of your order.

When a farm is outright owned by a fashion house, its financial future becomes inexorably tied to the success of the fashion house that owns it. As a result, the needs of that fashion house will always have to come first.

Getting Great Materials from an Independent Source

Rather than having to deal with suppliers who are owned by one of the major fashion houses, you can get your exotic hides from an independent supplier who has the quality products that major fashion houses demand, but remains independent so that you can have rest assured that you will be given fair treatment.

For example, Pan American Leathers, Inc. has been serving the needs of the top fashion houses for decades. Unlike other suppliers, however, we have stayed independent of these fashion giants so that we can provide the same quality hides and service to all of our clients, independent of conflicts of interest.

As a tannery and a distributor, Pan American Leathers can create custom orders to meet your needs, or expedite the shipment of ready-made hides in stock as necessary.

Get the top-grade exotic leather you need to compete with the high-end fashion houses today!

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4 Benefits of Using Alligator Leather for Handbags


Alligator skin handbags are a hot commodity for high-fashion clients. Make your mark with your own alligator skin products.As many designers know, the market for high-fashion handbags and other accessories is an intensely competitive market. With so many major fashion houses out there with such a strong grip on the market, it can be difficult for any single fashion designer to stand out.

However, difficult is not impossible.

With the right design, a lot of hard work, and some top-quality materials, you can make a gorgeous handbag that high-fashion aficionados will covet for their own collection. What is a top-quality material for handbags, you ask? One example of a top-of-the-line material for handbags would be American alligator skin.

Why would you want to work with alligator skin? It is a top-rate material for handbags, with a price point to match, which may make it prohibitively expensive for some. However, the exclusivity is part of the allure.

What are the benefits of working with alligator skin as opposed to plain cowhide? Read on and see.

Benefit #1: It’s Visually Distinctive

With an alligator hide, your final product has a built-in texture from the natural scale pattern of the alligator. This adds visual pop that helps to set the bag apart from ordinary cowhide and catches the attention of high-fashion accessory lovers.

Benefit #2: It’s a Very Exclusive Material

Alligator skin is prohibitively expensive, which makes it very exclusive. Ultra-wealthy clients wait for years for their orders with the big fashion houses to be filled, and/or pay exorbitant sums for used bags from private collections because so few of these bags are available and the demand for them is so high, which brings us to our next point…

Benefit #3: It’s Highly Sought After

Fashion wear collectors love alligator skin handbags.Top-end fashion clients love buying things made from top-end materials, and alligator skin is a top end material. When fashion clients buy alligator skin handbags, they’re coming in prepared to spend top dollar, making alligator skin handbags a very lucrative venture for any up-and-coming fashion designer.

Upper-crust clients know how rare and valuable a top-quality alligator skin handbag is, and they want one of their own. For many of these clients, a genuine alligator leather handbag is a badge of distinction, a mark that they have it all, while others simply insist on having the best, and will settle for nothing less.

Benefit #4: It’s a Mark of Quality

The best handbags are usually made from the best materials, and people know it. Alligator leather is widely regarded as one of the best materials on the market for high-fashion handbags, so any handbag made from alligator skin lends cache to your brand. 

Getting Your Alligator Leather

Overall, alligator leather is an excellent material for creating high-fashion handbags. Luxurious, supple, and very easy to work with, alligator leather is a top-quality material for talented fashion designers. However, it is one that can be hard to acquire because of the incredibly high level of demand for it and the limited number of skins available.

Alligator skin is in very short supply, so distributors don't typically stock much.

Tanneries, on the other hand, make skins “to order,” so you can get virtually any color of dye applied to your alligator skin. The major drawbacks here are that it can take a long time for an order to be processed, and the tannery will have to cover their setup costs with a surcharge.

Pan American Leathers offers the best of both worlds by acting as a tannery and as a distributor. We keep a ready stock of popular colors for short-notice orders, or we can custom tan your alligator hide order to give you the finish and coloration you want.

Check out our online store or contact us to learn more today!

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Alligator Leather, A Great Option for Your Footwear



Want to take a walk on the exotic side? When you are looking for a material that will give shoes a stylish up-scale look, there is only one choice that is exciting enough to grab your customer’s eyes. Alligator leather is a durable material that is beginning to gain popularity with buyers who are daring enough to be different.

Alligator leather is a product known for luxury. It’s becoming a commodity that is popular with designers that want to invest in an material that will last for ages. Plus, a quality-made pair of shoes made from alligator leather can sell for well over a grand, which means high profits for manufacturers and stores alike.

Alligator leather makes great men's or women's dress shoes. There has been an increased demand for this product in the market for its lasting qualities and opulent look.

As well as being known for its aesthetic appeal, the product is also known for having a great feel. Alligator leather has a soft, smooth touch that’s hard to find in any other material. However, there are some unique considerations to think about when purchasing alligator leather for your company's footwear.

skinThe Richness of American Alligator Leather

The American Alligator is the Rolls Royce of leather richness. The least bony of the different crocodilian skins on the market, the texture of the American alligator is unbeatable. This is arguably one of the most luxurious leathers you can get. It’s noted for its smooth, consistent scales. Alligatore scales are also more noticeably circular than other leather options. Most of the time, the skin that is used is taken from the belly of the animal. The belly usually makes for the most consistent, defect-free leather.

Buying Quality Leather

Even though you're going for a high quality look, it doesn't mean you need the highest priced product. For shoes, a grade 2 or 3 alligator skin is usually safe to use for most footwear styles. The important thing to remember if you choose a grade 2 or 3 skin is to take a look at the defects of the product and make sure that they are in out-of-sight places. Here are some unique factors to consider when buying alligator leather for your footwear:

  1. The price of an alligator's skin is related to its grade. One benefit of making shoes from this material is that they can be made from a grade 2 or 3 skins, which aren't quite as expensive as grade 1 skins.  

  2. It's important to buy the skin in pairs for your shoes. Even if you're making one pair of shoes, it is essential that two skins are used. One pair of footwear should come from the bellies of the gators and the other pair should use skin from the tails. This way, none of the leather goes to waste. The rest of it can be used for foxing of the shoe.

  3. The skin from the underside and tail of the two gators should be similar to one another. Here, you're really trying to make sure the size of the scales are close to each other in appearance. High-quality leather pairs of footwear will be extremely similar in pattern. After choosing the grade of skin you’d like to purchase, you can then move onto choosing a finish.

The Price to Pay for Quality Alligator Leather

The two primary deciding factors of price are:

  1. Grade: The standard of grading starts at 1 (best) to 4 (most defects). The basis for the grade comes from a number of criteria. The first thing to look at is how many scratches, holes, inconsistencies or blemishes are present. In order to be considered a grade 1 skin, there must not be any defects present on any area of skin. A grade 2 has defects present in one quadrant and grade 3 has them in two quadrants. Typically, grade 2 and 3 are used for footwear. The last grade of gator has issues in three quadrants of the gator and is usually reserved for accessories, such as belts.

  2. Next, the grader looks at the size and shape of the skin. The larger the gator, the better the grade. Typically, the skin is measured in centimeters starting at the widest part of it’s underside. For shoes, you will need about 20-29 centimeters for a piece of footwear.

Pam American Leader in Leathers

If you want to invest in a quality product that will drive your shoe sales, alligator leather is a great option. Every article created from it is unique. Sure, it may take some time to determine the right choice for you, but the results are well worth it. Pan American Leathers has been an industry powerhouse since 1984 and continues to serve excellent leather products. For more information on this product, contact Pan American Leathers directly.

Alligator Skin Guide

General Care Tips for Crocodile Leather


Taking proper care of crocodile hide products can prevent unsightly damage such as cracks or scratches.When you make a high-end piece of fashion wear, odds are you want to make sure that whoever buys that item takes proper care of it so that it will last for as long as possible. Keeping fashion wear looking nice keeps clients happy.

Of course, once the client has bought their custom-made crocodile skin boots, your control over how the product is taken care of is over. However, before the client leaves with their fashionable new footwear, there are a few general tips you can share with them so that they can get the most useful life out of their crocodile hide products.

Please note that this list consists mostly of general advice, and that some leather finishes might require extra care steps:

Storage Tips

When not in use, crocodile leather items such as boots or shoes should be kept in a cool, dry environment. One example of an appropriate place to store crocodile leather boots would be in a shoe closet.

For larger crocodile leather pieces, such as jackets, avoid folding them tightly. Crocodile skin, particularly caiman skin, has calcium deposits in it that makes the skin more rigid. Folding the skin too tightly at points that were not meant to be folded can cause damage, resulting in unsightly cracks or crease marks.

Ideally, instead of trying to fold leather items and putting them in a small dresser drawer, they should be hung on a coat hanger. Crocodile leather belts should also be hung by their belt buckles to avoid causing cracks in the leather.

Cleaning Tips

Exposing leather to excess water can cause damage to the finish, so avoiding excess moisture is a must to keep leather looking like new for longer.First and foremost, you should always avoid getting leather excessively wet. While many may assume that their crocodile leather repels water rather than absorbing it, too much moisture can actually cause damage to the finish of the leather. So, if your crocodile leather wear gets wet, it is important to clean off the excess moisture promptly.

To remove excess moisture, gently rub the affected area of the crocodile leather product with a soft, dry towel or cleaning cloth to soak up the majority of the excess moisture. Once that is done, hang-dry the item to finish removing excess moisture. It is important to avoid using direct sunlight or any other direct heat source when drying the leather, as that may cause damage to the finish and result in discoloration or cracks.

After the leather is dry, apply leather conditioner formulated for your crocodile leather to help protect the finish and keep it looking new. When applying the crocodile leather conditioner, be sure to follow the application instructions on the conditioner’s packaging.

Leather conditioner for crocodile hide should be easy to find at any exotic leather goods retailer. However, if you are having difficulty finding the right crocodile leather conditioner for treating the specific finish of your crocodile skin, contacting the manufacturer can prove helpful for finding the right crocodile leather care products.

For removing dirt, dust, and other contaminants, the process from above remains largely the same, possibly minus the time spent drying the leather. First, remove the contaminant with a dry cloth. For fine particulates such as sand, using a slightly damp cloth to remove the dirt can make the initial cleaning process easier, but the leather will need to be dried and treated with conditioner afterward to reduce the risk of damage to the finish.

Whenever trying a new leather care product on a crocodile leather item (or any other exotic leather item), first test it on an inconspicuous part of the item first to see if it affects the finish adversely. For example, the inside sleeve or cuff of a jacket. This way, if the new product does cause some discoloration, it won’t be in a place where everyone can see it right away.

With proper care, crocodile skin products should remain beautiful and ready for use for years to come. Sharing general care tips such as these, and tips that are more specific to the crocodile leather products you make, can help prolong the useful life of exotic leather goods and keep the clients who purchase your goods satisfied and coming back for more.

  Caiman Skin Guide

Tips for Crafting Footwear from Nile Crocodile Skin


Crocodile skin is a very good material for high-fashion shoes such as high heels.In recent posts, we’ve discussed the use of the crocodilian skins in the manufacture of high-fashion footwear. So far, we’ve covered tips for both caiman crocodile skin and American alligator skin, respectively the lowest and highest end crocodilian hides that are commonly used.

In between these two extremes lies another type of crocodile skin, one that isn’t quite as expensive as American alligator, but is more flexible and of a generally higher quality than caiman skin: Nile crocodile skin.

About Nile Crocodile Hides

Although it is considered the “middle of the road” option between caiman skin and American alligator hide, Nile crocodile skin is a high-end material that is perfect for a number of applications in the fashion industry, including footwear.

Many people, when they think of crocodile leather footwear, their first thought is of cowboy-style boots. While Nile croc hides are certainly useful for boots, their improved flexibility over caiman hides means that they can be useful for other types of footwear as well.

For example, you could use crocodile hide to make athletic footwear, sneakers, or even dress shoes with the right type of finish.

Tips for Buying Nile Crocodile Skins

Crocodile skin can be dyed many different colors, thanks to its relatively low calcium content when compared to caiman skin.

When buying Nile crocodile hides, keep in mind that the measurement standard for these skins is to measure the center portion of the innermost bones on both sides of the widest point of the crocodile’s belly. Because of this, a 25 to 29 cm size skin is best for smaller pieces of footwear, and a 30 to 34 cm size skin should be used for larger footwear.

As with any crocodilian skin, when planning to make footwear out of Nile crocodile hide, you should plan around making multiple pairs of footwear. One reason for this is that if you were to try to make a single pair of shoes or boots from a single crocodile hide, you would end up using belly or back skin for one part of the pair, and tail skin for the other. This would create an uneven look for that pair of boots or shoes.

Instead, buy skins in pairs so that you can use two bellies or backs for one pair, and two tails for the other. Even if your original plan was only to produce one pair of footwear for a test or demonstration, get two skins so that your final product can have an even look.

For most footwear applications, you don’t need to purchase flawless, grade 1 skins. Instead, you can use grade 2 Nile croc skins if the defects are located in places where they won’t be an issue, such as the top or bottom of the belly or tail. Defects in these areas can be worked around or even trimmed off, so you may be able to save some money by acquiring less expensive, lower-grade skin.

When making your purchase, keeping the unique advantages of the three different kinds of exotic skin sellers can be beneficial:

  • Tanneries- For large, custom orders, tanneries are almost unbeatable. By ordering direct from a tannery, you have the freedom to choose almost any color and finish combination that the hide can take. However, tannery orders take considerable time to process, and on smaller orders, the initial setup costs can lead to a high surcharge.

  • Distributors- When making a small order of commonly-available colors for a short-notice order, distributors are your go-to resource for hides. Since they already have the hides in stock, you typically only have to wait for shipping. However, in order to make money, distributors have to charge a markup, which can quickly outpace tannery setup surcharges on large orders.

  • Manufacturers- Here’s the option that is best for when you don’t want to worry about having to manage the actual production of your footwear. Using the services of a manufacturer not only leaves you free to concentrate on other things, it can help you regulate your expenses by giving you a single invoice to pay as opposed to overseeing labor costs, production facility leasing, and other associated bills yourself. Just take care to make sure that the manufacturer is only ordering skins that they need to complete your order and not wasting your money.

Working with Nile Crocodile Hide

Generally speaking, Nile crocodile hide is easier to work with than caiman hide, but not quite as supple as American alligator hide. With some calcium in the Nile croc hide, however, it can be beneficial to take extra precautions when crafting with Nile hide, such as preparing sewing lines with a dremel or other tool to thin out the skin and make it easier to sew so as not to place too much stress on your sewing equipment.

As mentioned earlier, using two sets of skins to make two pairs of footwear can be beneficial, as it allows you to have matching scale patterns on each individual pair.

When planning for a particular footwear piece, consider the finish of the skin you’ll be using. For cowboy boots and dress shoes, finish processes that leave the hide stiff are great. For sneakers, athletic shoes, and other “everyday” wear items, the skin should be processed using a finish that leaves the hide softer and more flexible. This is one reason why it may be best to order from a tannery, as you can ask the tannery for specific finishes and get advice on what finishes would be best for your footwear application.

Nile crocodile hide is a luxurious, bold material that is perfect for many different types of footwear. Check out our selection of crocodile hides today!

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Using Caiman Skins for Footwear


Leather footwear comes in a variety of sizes, colors, and materials.The footwear manufacturing industry continues to be an economic powerhouse, even through the events of the recent depression. According to the statistics site, the annual revenue of the footwear industry as a whole (including suppliers of the material to make footwear) topped $48 billion, with U.S. consumers spending $20 billion.

Of the revenue recorded on the Statistic Brain site, 13% of the market share for footwear was directly tied to women’s dress shoes, 6% was attributed to men’s dress shoes, and fully 25% of the market share was listed as “other styles.” That means, according to these percentages, U.S. consumers spent $2.6 billion on women’s dress shoes, $1.2 billion on men’s dress shoes, and $5 billion on specialty footwear that did not fit into the other categories of casual or athletic footwear.

Leather footwear products are a significant part of that multi-billion dollar industry. Within the leather footwear industry, however, there are traditional cowhide leather items, which can go for $200 a pair, and then there are items made from exotic leather, which can go for thousands of dollars per pair.

Crocodilian skins remain one of the most popular alternatives to plain cow hide when it comes to making high-fashion footwear. While there are 23 distinct species of crocodile, there are three which are most often used for their skins: the American alligator, the Nile crocodile, and the caiman crocodile.

Today, we’ll talk about how to make footwear from caiman skins.

Acquiring Caiman Leather for Footwear

For fashion designers who want to have an authentic, exotic material with a look that will be markedly different from standard leather, but don’t want to spend too much on acquiring a more expensive crocodile hide, caiman skin is the way to go.

With caiman skin, ordering from distributors is usually a very simple process, as many distributors who carry caiman skin will have a wide variety of colors and finishes in stock at any given time. Caiman skin is more often stocked in colors than alligator skin and Nile crocodile skin because it costs a lot less.

A caiman hide is measured at the widest point of the belly.When making an order for caiman skin, keep in mind that the hide’s measurements will be based on the outer edges at the widest point of the belly. Because of this, when you order caiman skins, the ideal size for a caiman skin to be used in smaller shoes and boots would be 30 to 34 cm, while larger shoe sizes typically require skins that measure 35+ cm. You usually don’t have to spring for grade I skins for shoes as long as the defects on the grade II skins are at the top, bottom or outer edges of the belly. The key is that the defects are not on the panel of the skin where you will cut your vamp.

Whenever you’re planning to make footwear from caiman skin, make sure to order at least two skins to make two pairs of footwear. You’ll want to avoid ordering a single skin because if you do that, then you’ll have to use the belly for one shoe or boot and the tail for the other. Because the scale patterns are different on the belly and the tail, the left and right pieces of the pair would not match properly. By using two skins, you can make two pairs, one from the bellies and one from the tails.

For smaller orders, you are better off buying from the stock of a distributor. If you’re planning to make a large custom order that is not stocked, try to buy directly from a tannery. It should cost less than buying from a distributor and it helps to communicate directly with the tannery so nothing is lost in translation via middleman.

Working with Caiman Leather for Footwear

Now that you know a few tricks to acquiring caiman leather footwear, how about a few tips for working with these skins.

The number one piece of advice for working with caiman skin is to keep in mind that it is very bony when compared to the other crocodilian skins. This boniness makes caiman skin more difficult to work with than Nile crocodile or American alligator skin, which is a part of the reason why it is less expensive.

However, this very boniness makes for a tougher, more rigid toe and heel than the other skins, which can be an advantage.

When preparing to sew a caiman skin onto a shoe or boot sole, prepare a sewing line using a dremel or other tool to thin out the bony parts of the hide where you’ll be sewing. This will save your sewing machine’s needles a lot of wear and tear that would otherwise ruin them.

Because of its rigidity, caiman leather is much more prone to showing creases than alligator skin or Nile crocodile hide. If you’re worried about the rigidity of caiman skin in your footwear product, consider using strips of other materials for parts of the shoe or boot that are meant to flex. Alternatively, using special leather chemical treatments on the final product and leaving detailed care instructions can help end users keep their leather footwear looking like new for longer.

If you’re looking for a reasonably-priced exotic skin and aren’t afraid of a little extra work getting it made, caiman skin can be a great material for your next high-fashion footwear project. For more tips and tricks to acquiring and making items from this and other exotic leathers, contact Pan American Leathers today!

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Why Perfect Crocodile Skins are Like Rare Diamonds


Crocodile skin handbags are a wildly popular item for high-fashion clients.Things are heating up in the exotic leather industry, especially where handbags are concerned. In recent years, top-end fashion houses have been working to acquire crocodile farms and tanneries that specialize in the production of crocodile leathers.

Why are Fashion Houses Buying up Crocodile Skin Production?

The short answer is because demand for handbags and other accessories made from exotic hides is up.

In fact, according to a article, “Exotic animal skins make up almost 10 percent of total revenue from handbag sales for luxury brands, at least double their share a few years ago.” In 2012, the luxury accessories market (handbags, etc.) was worth an estimated $77 billion. With crocodile handbags selling for dozens of times as much as simple cow leather products, it is little wonder that the big fashion houses want to gain control of crocodile skin production for themselves to ensure a steady supply.

Take into account the fact that many top-of-the-line fashion houses have a waiting list for their exotic leather products that is several years long, and the potential value of crocodile handbag sales could be even higher than originally estimated.

Even used, these handbags can go for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What’s the Difficulty in Getting the Skins Needed?

The top luxury fashion houses have reputations to maintain. With products such as handbags, large panels of skin have to be used to ensure a top-quality appearance. This means using the skin of more mature animals, as younger crocs may not be large enough to use for handbags.

For a high-fashion handbag maker, it's all about the quality, but for farmers, they need to see a value in the sale.However, this presents another problem, as these large skins also need to be in pristine (Grade I) condition in order to be useful for handbags. What makes getting large Grade I skins difficult is the fact that crocodiles are aggressive animals. In the wild, finding an adult crocodile with no scratches or scars in its hide would be nothing short of a miracle, so the primary source for these animals is from special crocodile farms.

Even in a crocodile farm, producing a large, pristine hide can be very difficult. Crocodiles need to be kept separated from one another to prevent fights that could cause damage to their skins, and crocodiles have to be placed on a strict feeding routine to ensure that their skin is top-quality. Pools require frequent cleaning and maintenance to prevent infections and disease from causing harm to the animals. As Stefan van As says in his interview with Bloomberg, “one cannot expect to harvest a first-grade skin from an animal which has been abused.”

It can take several years to raise a crocodile from an egg to a full adult. This is a hefty investment and can yield a poor return for the farmers if the skins can’t be sold in top condition. For many would-be farmers, the costs and challenges of raising the animals for several years may not be equal to the reward of the final sale. This leads to fewer farmers producing crocodile hides, making finding a reliable source of skins more difficult.

Buyers of high-end fashion products demand nothing less than the best, so the fashion houses themselves will only take the best quality hides from farms. This makes getting the skins needed to produce high-fashion items even more difficult.

Between the inherent danger of raising a crocodile, the difficulty in keeping the animals from fighting each other, and all of the special care involving water, food, diet, and general health , it is easy to see why finding a pristine, grade I crocodile skin is as rare and difficult as finding a flawless diamond.

Providing Top Quality

The top fashion houses only accept the best quality, and Pan American Leathers has been serving the needs of major fashion houses for decades. However, we have maintained our independence, allowing us to provide the same top-quality hides that fashion houses demand to everyone because we aren’t owned by any fashion house.

Learn how you can get your own top-quality exotic leather today!

Caiman Skin Guide

Tips for Working with Alligator Skin or Caiman Skin for Boots


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

When considering any exotic skin, balancing the price and the quality of the skin is an important consideration.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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Caiman skin can be bony, so be careful to prepare sewing lines to prevent bent and broken needles.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.

Caiman Skin Guide

Stingrays Invade U.S. Coastline, and Not as Exotic Leather Goods!


Last year around August, many beaches were forced to put up hazard signs because stingrays had invaded the shallow waters.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?

What can be done about the stingray incursion?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.

Stingray Skin Guide

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