Exotic Leather Blog

Working with Caiman Skin for Handbags

Posted by Mark Mendal on Oct 29, 2014 9:23:00 AM

Caiman handbagCaiman skin is a popular choice for high-fashion accessories and footwear. Not very long ago, we discussed a few general tips for working with crocodilian leathers for handbags. In the world of high fashion, handbags made from crocodilian hides are highly desirable. Ultra-wealthy clients pay top dollar for handbags made of crocodile skin, as a mark of distinction in the fashion community. Today, we’d like to talk about the use of caiman crocodile skin for handbags specifically.

Why Use Caiman Skin for Handbags?

One question that many designers of high-fashion accessories often ask themselves before starting work on an exotic leather project is “why would I want to use this material for this project?” Such questions lead to thinking critically about the project, what the goals of it are, and how the material in question contributes to making the best product possible.

With caiman skin being one of the more difficult of the most popular crocodilian hides to work with, why would you want to use it instead of Nile crocodile or American alligator skin for your handbag project? There are actually a few reasons for using caiman skin in your handbags over the other types of crocodilian species, such as:

  • Cost. On average, for every Nile croc skin that you could afford for your leather project, you could buy three caiman skins for close to the same price.

  • Rigidity. Often viewed as a negative quality, the rigidity of the caiman’s hide can actually be desirable for hard-case designs. The pronounced, calcium-rich scales in caiman skin are sturdy, making them ideal for a more rigid case design.

  • Natural Scale Patterns. With caiman hides, the calcium deposits in the skin actively resist getting an even dye color. While this can make the skin more difficult to dye, it also helps to establish the final product as a genuine crocodile hide product. The lighter-colored portions of the hide represent a mark of the calcium in the hide. This adds authenticity to the final product, and lets buyers know that they’re getting a genuine crocodile skin product, not a stamped imitation.

While generally regarded as being more difficult to work with than the other crocodilian hides, caiman skin is still a high-quality material for any high-fashion project. Using caiman skins to the greatest effect can separate the pros from the amateurs when it comes to fashion design.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for getting the most out of caiman skins for handbags.

Tip #1: Picking the Right Skins for the Job

In general, you want to avoid using hides with holes or other blemishes for handbags.When picking out caiman skins for your handbag project, it is important to find clean, defect-free skins of a considerable size for each panel. 

In general, caiman skins are good for small to mid-size handbags. Small handbags take skins that are somewhere between 30 and 34cm wide, while medium-sized handbags need skins that are 35 to 39cm wide.

The largest caiman skins available commercially ar 40cm in width. This can make finding enough caiman skins big enough for a large handbag much more difficult than finding ones for small to mid-size ones.

As a general rule, you’ll want to use grade I skins for any handbag project because handbags have large, open panels where it will be difficult to hide the blemishes and puncture marks of a grade II or lower skin.

When making a bulk order for caiman skin, try to make sure that each skin comes from the same dye lot. This helps to ensure a more consistent appearance for each skin that you use, and prevents the possibility of any single handbag having an uneven appearance where individual panels don’t have a consistent coloration.

Tip #2: Treating the Skin

Caiman skin is a relatively inflexible material compared to Nile crocodile or American alligator hides, which is a direct result of it having more calcium in it than the other two skins. Because of this, it is more likely to develop stretch marks or creases from being flexed too much than the others.

To reduce the appearance and severity of crease marks in the hide, you can apply crocodile leather conditioners to the skin to protect it from becoming damaged. Treating the skin with a conditioner can also add luster while helping to prevent outward signs of damage from daily wear and tear.

Tip #3: Sewing

Preparing sewing lines before putting a caiman hide under your machine can make life much easier, and make your sewing needles last longer.The calcium deposits in a caiman’s hide make for an interesting challenge when sewing said hide into a fashion product. More than once, a sewing machine’s needle has been bent or broken by hitting a hard calcium deposit in the hide of a caiman.

Two things you can do to avoid this include:

  1. Marking calcium deposits and laying skins on panels in such a way as to minimize the number of them that you’ll have to sew over.

  2. Preparing sewing lines with a dremel to thin out the calcium deposits so that a sewing needle may pass through.

Doing either (or both) of these can help you to reduce the number of times production has to be brought to a halt in order to repair the sewing machine so that work can continue, saving both time and money in the end.

To get more tips about working with caiman hides for handbags and other popular accessories, contact Pan American Leathers. Or, you can get a free project consultation today using the link below.

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Topics: crocodile skin, caiman skin, handbags