I think that corrected grain leather is a rip-off! There, I’ve said it. If I take off my professional hat and change it for one of a consumer when buying leather, I see heavily corrected (plastic looking) leather on a whole range of automotive, furniture and leathergoods leathers. The grain pattern you get may be uniform but it’s not the one the cow ever had.

When looking to buy a leather sofa recently, I couldn’t believe how much of the leather was so heavily finished that it felt like plastic, looked like plastic and my face stuck to the finish. On the other hand, the aniline or semi-aniline finished leather sofas felt warmer, softer, looked more natural without the sticky face syndrome. The price difference was negligible between the two.

Now, I fully understand why tanners produce corrected and semi-corrected grain. It does make processing simpler and allows the upgrading of low quality raw material, which is full of natural, man-made and chemical defects. But then again are all leathers which have the grain partially or completely buffed-off all low grade? Surely it costs the tanner more to produce corrected grain leather with extra machinery and chemical costs, not to mention the labour time applying the corrective finish.

During my early days in the leather industry, I was involved in a trial which compared traditional hair burn liming with a new enzymatic system. The matched sides were processed under strictly controlled conditions up to wet-blue before being taken to a nearby tannery to be commercially processed through to dyed crust. From there, the sides would be assessed for hair removal, grain quality and physical properties.

When I arrived at the tannery, I found the trial hides and to my horror the grain had been buffed-off in readiness for finishing.

I had previously examined both the control and experimental hides in the blue and both had clean, fully intact grains without any obvious physical or chemical damage. Even if they had not been experimental hides, they would have made a first or second grade but were instead put into a pack destined to be stripped off of the grain enamel and covered with a plastic-like finish.

I understand that some leathers are of such poor quality that they have to be corrected but my feeling is that a large number of decent hides are being ruined by being corrected and the consumer is not buying the product that they think is perceived as leather in their minds.

Chemical manufacturers these days can produce very light and durable finishes which enhance the natural aspect of the hide and skin while maintaining all the water, soiling and stain resisting properties required for everyday life. The consumer wants to see the grain and even defects add to the final appearance.

Perhaps there are tanners out there who disagree with me and may shed some light on the practice of ‘correcting’ leathers, a term in itself which I find a little bemusing.