Caiman skin is a popular choice for designers who want a strongly-textured, rugged exotic leather for their high-fashion projects.
These particular crocodile hides are much more rigid than most other crocodile skins, with dense concentrations of calcium being located in the scales. This makes caiman skins perfect for more structured projects, such as hard-case style handbags.
Additionally, the calcium deposits in the skin lend to a highly distinctive, and easy to authenticate, appearance. These markings in the hide allow even non-experts to identify caiman leather as being authentic crocodile hide rather than a shape-formed imitation piece.
When buying caiman skin, there are several things that fashion designers should keep in mind to get the best results from their final product:
1: Consider the Size and Number of Panels You Need to Fill
Caiman skin is a great exotic material for many different projects. However, the size of your panels and the number you need to fill should be carefully considered before placing an order.
Caiman skins generally grow to about 2-3 meters long and between 15cm and 45cm wide on average. When used for a project panel, the largest caiman skins can typically fit an 8.5" square with ease. While more than enough for smaller panels and projects, larger project panels will require multiple hides to fill them.
When ordering multiple skins to fill a panel, check to see if you'll need two skins per panel, or four (more than that isn't generally recommended). For each skin you're pairing up, remember to subtract 1-2 inches from the length/width of each skin to account for space lost to sewing the hides together.
If you want to use a single skin for each panel, keep in mind the ideal measurements of a Grade I skin for the following project types:
- Small clutches: 37+ cm outside measure
- Men’s wallets: 32/36 cm outside measure
- Boots: 34/38 cm outside measure
These skin sizes would produce the ideal yield for these types of projects.
2: Balance Your Project Timeline vs. Your Need for Specific Colors
There are three main placesto buy caiman crocodile skins:
Each of these suppliers offers different benefits to fashion designers.
Distributors typically provide the fastest shipping of exotic leathers such as caiman skin—if they have the skin you need in stock at the time of the order. When you’re looking for fast delivery of a commonly-available skin color and finish, these are the go-to resource.
Tanneries often have the best selection of specific colors and finishes to choose from since they process the hides themselves. However, the time it takes for them to finish curing and prepping leather goods can add days or weeks to the timetable for your leather order to ship. Best for when you want a very rare finish, and a lot of it.
Manufacturers source the skins and make the product for you. A manufacturer source skins from tanneries, distributors, or both to complete your order, so it can be hard to make generalizations about their time-to-delivery. Most of the time, designers choose to use manufacturers when they need a production team to make things in a timely manner, or when they just don’t want to deal with the hassle of directly managing the creation of their fashion goods.
3: Distinctiveness of Your Cut
Caiman skin has a much more deeply-grooved set of back scales than many other crocodilians. Some designers try to avoid these ridges, others embrace them. Using the deeply-grooved back scales at the center of a panel helps highlight that the product is a true crocodile skin piece.
The choice to use either hornback cut or belly cut skins is one that you should set well before placing your order, as it will dramatically influence the appearance of your final product.
While this choice is mainly an aesthetic one, using belly scales helps to create a sleeker appearance for leather goods, while using the hornback cut will produce a more visually striking, bold look.
With a little preparation and work, buying caiman skins for your next high-fashion project can be very simple.