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Learning Exotic Leather: American Alligator


Welcome to the second installment of the crocodilian leather series! Here, we’ll tackle the makeup, size and characteristics and leather quality of the American alligator (alligator mississippienis). Native to the American southeast, this gator is found in freshwater habitats as west as Texas and as north as the Carolinas (but predominantly Florida and Louisiana).

American alligator is perfect for simpler projects like belts and small leather goods due to its soft and flexible hide.

The Animal

American alligators can reach lengths upwards of 20 feet and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds! Normally, most of this specie sis about 8-10 feet long, fully grown.

The alligator can be told apart by its tooth placement. Most crocodiles tend to have their fourth lower-jaw tooth placed on the outside when their mouths are closed, but alligators have a place for it inside their mouth. Another tell-tale sign of their difference is with their snouts. Gators will have rounder noses (U-shaped) whereas crocodiles will have sharper, more pointed noses (V-shaped).

Like their crocodile counterparts, the American alligator faced extinction at one point in time. However, due to massive efforts called “conservation through utilization,” we’ve been able to protect them to continue their existence in safer, healthier habitats. About 200,000 of these alligators from farm-raised environments are used for leather projects, whereas 50,000 are collected annually from the wild. 

The Skin

The plates on the alligator skin have relatively little bone. Their belly scales are medium-to-large sized and do not have the follicle marking (single dot) that you can find on the belly scales of several other croc species. The alligator skin has a large flank section (in terms of both width and length) and long and narrow belly section compared to other related species. The tails on alligators also tend to be wider than tails on a similar size crocodile of another specie.

Using Alligator Hide on Your Next Leather Project

The lack of bone and follicle markings on the belly scales give the alligator skin a very clean look, ideal for handbags and luxury accessories. The wider tail also makes the yields attractive for watchtraps and footwear. 

Hipster Cognac Wallet

The availability of lower grade wild skins also makes using alligator skin economically feasible for products like belts and small leather goods that allow you to cut around defects, since lower grade wild skins are typically less expensive per usable area than top grade farmed skins.

No matter the use of your alligator skin, it will likely be an easy process to make your product. The skin of an alligator is soft and very flexible which makes for simple, hassle-free craftsmanship that’s bound to amaze your end consumer.

For more information on alligator skin or any other exotic leather for that matter be sure to contact one of our expert representatives. We’ll give you the full rundown of each and every kind of material to help you select the perfect material of your next leather project!

If you want more information on alligator skin, be sure to download our FREE Alligator Skin Guide right here.

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Coordinating Your Exotic Leather Products with Fashion Collections


When creating a collection of clothes for any season or theme, coordinating accessories such as handbags is important.Many fashion designers specialize in the creation of accessory items such as belts, handbags, watches, wallets, and the like. For these fashion designers, the emphasis is on creating a unique, one-of-a-kind piece that will stand out and grab attention. Using exotic leathers for these accessories is a great way to make a stand-out product.

However, even for designers who specialize in making accessory items rather than entire fashion wear collections, it can be important to be able to coordinate your exotic leather accessories with a larger fashion collection. This could be because you are collaborating with a large fashion house to create a line of accessories for their latest collection, or because your accessories are being put on display on models in a fashion show. In either of these cases, coordinating your exotic leather accessories with a larger collection helps increase the appeal of the accessories for potential ultra-wealthy clients.

With the above in mind, how can you coordinate your accessories with a larger collection to maximize the attractiveness of your handbags, belts, and the like? Here are a couple of simple, practical tips we’ve assembled to help you coordinate your collection:

Tip #1: Bleaching Your Skins

Many exotic leathers such as python skin have distinctive color patterns naturally within the hide. For many designers, these color patterns are a wonderful tool for enhancing the uniqueness and beauty of their leather product.

However, a complicated color pattern in a leather accessory may clash somewhat with a larger collection. In such an instance, it may be necessary to used bleached skins which hide the natural markings on the hide. 

Of course, you can still dye the hide without bleaching it first, and the colored portions of the hide will show up as more darkly colored sections. When dyed this way, you get some color contrast in the finished product at the cost of a uniform appearance, which can be fine if the patterns complement the design of the rest of your collection.

Making the decision to use bleached or unbleached hides should be done early, before you order your hides, which brings us to our next tip…

Tip #2: Plan Ahead

Planning ahead and preparing design concepts before you order skins is a basic element of ensuring a great final product.This is one of the most basic pieces of advice for almost any endeavor, but it bears repeating: always plan ahead. Before you order your materials, you’ll want to have a detailed concept of what the collection as a whole will look like once finished. If you’re creating accessories for an existing line of clothing, this should be fairly easy, as you’ll already have a model of what the collection’s pieces each look like so you can plan around that.

When you’re creating the whole collection yourself, think about the theme you want. For example, ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • What’s the idea behind it?

  • Is this collection for recreation, work, or exercise?

  • Who is your intended client and what are their likes and dislikes?

  • What materials/colors will be prevalent in the collection?

Whenever you design a collection, knowing the kinds of activities that the wearer is going to be engaging in can help you choose the right materials for the job. For example, if your collection is a sportswear collection, you’ll want to use materials that are both comfortable to wear and rugged enough to take some punishment. When making accessories for work attire collections, your clients will want something that fits in well with a professional environment, something sleek and clean in appearance.

Keeping the use and theme of the collection in mind throughout the design, ordering, and manufacturing can help you anticipate potential issues with matching your exotic leather accessories to the larger collection, as well as help you with the next item on our list…

Tip #3: Picking the Right Skin to Match the Collection

There are many different kinds of exotic leathers out there that you can use for the fashion accessories you make to go with a larger collection. Some of the skins available include python skin, alligator skin, caiman crocodile skin, ostrich skin, and even stingray skin, just to name a few of the most popular choices.

Each of the above exotic skins have many different characteristics, including:

  • Size,

  • Availability,

  • Cost,

  • Available Colors/Finishes,

  • Flexibility,

  • Durability, 

  • Skin or Scale Patterns, etc.

The list goes on and on. When creating accessories to go with a collection, these characteristics should be taken into account. For example, stingray hides are incredibly durable and water-resistant, with a beady texture to the skin. However, they also tend to be stiffer than alligator or ostrich hide. Because of the durable nature of stingray hide, it makes for a great solid case-style handbag material. On the other hand, more flexible materials such as python or alligator skin are better for items meant to bend, such as belts or watchstraps.

Because of the dizzying variety of exotic leathers out there, and their many different characteristics, consulting with an experienced provider of exotic leathers can be a big help when picking out the materials you need for your accessories.

To learn more about exotic leather, you can check out some of our other blogs, or you can request a free project consultation at the link below.

Free Project Consultation

Our 3 Favorite Exotic Leathers to Use for Handbags


There's a lot of money to be had in the purse/handbag industry, especially for creative and talented designers who use top-quality materials.In the high-fashion industry, accessories such as handbags are an intensely competitive market for designers. For many top fashion houses, handbags are a lucrative business, one that keeps them very busy. In fact, some fashion houses have waiting lists for their handbags that very wealthy clients will be on for years before getting their handbag.

In a field where clients are willing to wait for years to get their perfect handbag, it’s important to have a product that stands out for the right reasons, one that exceeds the client’s expectations. A great way to start creating the perfect handbag to please the most demanding clients is to use the very best materials for that handbag.

One way to create a truly unique look while making sure that your clients know that you’re using the best materials for a handbag design is to use exotic leathers in your handbags. With this in mind, we here at Pan American Leathers have assembled a list of some of our favorite exotic leathers to use in handbags.

Top Handbag Leather #1: American Alligator Skin

Alligator leather is a very popular choice for handbags, it's flexible, distinctive, and easy to work with.Alligator leather is a very popular choice for handbags; it's flexible, distinctive, and easy to work with. Of the different crocodilian species used for leather, the American alligator is perhaps the most luxurious and easiest to work with.

The hide of the American alligator has very little calcium. This makes American alligator skin much less bony in comparison to other crocodilian species. Because there is so little calcium in the alligator hide, the hide is flexible and easier to dye. When you want a solid, even color in your handbag, alligator leather is your go-to material.

With the flexibility of alligator hide, it makes for an ideal material for handbags. Why? Because, over time, handbags will be repeatedly exposed to both light and severe bending from everyday use. With repeated flexing, a more rigid skin will begin to show crease marks. However, alligator skin, being more pliable than other crocodilian hides, will not show crease marks as easily. This allows alligator hide to continue looking like new for longer with less maintenance.

Top Handbag Leather #2: Python Skin

Python skins are large, wide, and flexible, which makes them almost perfect for handbags.A native of Southeast Asia, the python is a reptile that needs no introduction. Gathered from both the wild and from farms, the python is a popular choice for many different high fashion and design projects. Part of the reason for this is the size that python skins can grow to: small skins are 25 cm wide and 1.5 meters long, while the largest skins can be 60 cm or more in width and as much as 6.5 meters long. In short, python skin is easily large enough to meet the panel size demands of a large handbag. 

Because these skins come from farms as well as the wild, it is often easier to find the kind of large, grade I skins needed for items with big, open panels such as handbags. This makes the python a superior choice compared to the anaconda, which is taken only from wild sources which makes getting large, pristine skins incredibly difficult. 

The primary drawback with the python is that in some markets, such as California, you cannot trade in items made from python skins. 

With python skins, you have a choice of whether or not to use the natural skin patterns of the python in your project, or to bleach the skin and dye it to make it a consistent, even color. While it may be slightly more difficult to use the natural scale patterns in a manner that creates a perfectly polished look, it can be well worth the effort for the uniqueness and the added authenticity a natural finish provides. On the other hand, using a bleached and dyed skin may make it easier to match the handbag to a specific collection of fashion wear.

To learn more about python skins, check out our Guide to Python Skin.

Top Handbag Leather #3: Caiman Skin

Of the exotic leathers on this list, caiman skin is one of the most cost-effective, making it great for a larger product launch by comparison. While more rigid than alligator leather, caiman skin is still a top-rate material for high-fashion accessories such as handbags.

Caiman skin comes from farm-raised sources, which helps to ensure that there are more grade I skins available on the market than skins that only come from wild sources. The largest commonly available caiman skins are roughly 40 cm in size, making caiman skins better suited for small to mid-size handbags.

With caiman skin's natural rigidity, these hides are particularly well-suited for use in hard-case type handbags. 

To learn more about how you can work exotic leathers into your next handbag project, contact Pan American Leathers today!

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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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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

Comparing Exotic Leathers: American Alligator vs. Caiman Skins


Pan American Leathers is dedicated to bringing top-notch service along with the best exotic leathers.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

Alligator skin is very soft and supple, perfect for luxury items.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

Caiman hides are more rigid, holding their form under tough conditions.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. 

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Tips and Tricks Every Designer Should Know when Using Exotic Leather


Pan American Leathers is a proud provider of premium quality exotic leather.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 hide is both visually striking and durable.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

We keep a large stock of alligator skins on hand.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

The natural coloration of a python's hide is beautiful, but you don't necessarily have to keep it because these hides can be bleached easily.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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 

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Famous Exotic Leather Projects


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.

Martyn Lawrence-Bullard:

Elton John's famous Python skin bed as made by Martyn.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:

This beautiful luxury car interior is both extravagant and tastefully stylish.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, 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

Alligator leather is a truly remarkable way to bring an exotic touch to your designs.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.

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What Affects Alligator Skin Price?


tanning vatsJust like every other good that you can purchase, there are various factors that can affect the price of alligator skin. Mostly, it’s about supply and demand. However, there are other considerations that you’ll need to take into account when you’re buying (and paying for) alligator skin.

Supply and Demand Factors

Day to Day Factors

In normal market conditions, the most influential supply and demand variables affecting the price of alligator skin are grade and size. The 40-60 cm skins with the fewest defects are the most sought after for handbags, garments, etc.; yet they are the hardest to come by. Large alligator skin comes from the wild. The larger the skin, the older the animal and thus the more it endured (scars, scratches, bites from fighting, feasting and general wear). So skins that are large in size are rarely in pristine condition. The few that are command top dollar in the marketplace.

Environmental Conditions

Like any other game, alligators are subject to environmental conditions and disasters. For instance, when Hurricane Katrina ripped through Louisiana in 2005, it destroyed the alligators’ habitat causing dramatic effects on their population from eggs to feeding patterns. Naturally, this affects the supply of alligator skin from the not only from the wild – but also from the farms. Farmers collect alligator eggs from the wild (approximately 14% of the alligators are returned to the wild at a certain age to conserve their population). This means that the disaster that immediately and harshly affected the wild population affects the farms a few years later.

Katrina is a dramatic example. More normal shifts in annual weather patterns can also affect the availability of alligators. In fact, prices for wild alligator skin typically reset every year after the wild season.

Cost Factors

Naturally, a tannery will charge more for an alligator skin that costs more to produce. For example, basic finishes like matte and glazed are typically the least expensive. On the other hand, specialty finishes that require more work, expensive chemicals or additional materials command a higher price. For example, shaving a skin to a thin, garment weight requires more time than shaving it to a heavier weight, say for handbags. Alligator skin with pearlized finishes requires chemicals that are very expensive versus the materials required to finish a matte skin. These types of costs are passed through to the customer, but they are relatively small compared to the other factors affecting price.

To some extent, these factors are supply and demand driven as well. There are only a handful of tanneries worldwide that can make certain specialized products. So if you really want a special product, you have to pay that premium price because you really can’t go anywhere else to get it.

In the case that alligator skin needs to be made to order, the number of skins ordered per product will greatly affect the price. A lot of the work that goes into producing alligator skin is set up, like mixing chemicals or dyes, setting water temperatures, etc. Whether the tannery makes one alligator skin or 100 skins, the set up time is about the same. As a result, tanneries will typically apply substantial surcharges for smaller orders.

Just remember to keep these factors in mind when you’re buying your alligator skin, as these factors (and more) can move prices. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!


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