How 'quiet luxury' is putting the spotlight on topcoats for leather goods

21 September 2023

The traditional practices of leather goods may have stayed the same for centuries, but trends are always changing. Joachim Henkmann, global marketing manager for leather at Stahl, explains how its range of topcoats can help keep leather with the times.

For years, a new force has been quietly taking over the luxury market. Ostentatious logos are out and well-made, minimalist investment pieces in muted tones are the height of fashion. Known alternately as ‘quiet luxury’ and ‘stealth wealth’, the trend has made a big impression on the autumn/ winter ’23 catwalks. And as more and more brands embrace logo-less chic, the focus on product quality has never been greater. For leather goods manufacturers, this means pulling out all the stops to achieve a flawless finish; and that requires a great topcoat. Afterall, the finish is just the beginning

Of course, topcoats have always provided more than just functional benefits. A great topcoat can enhance the quality and feel of leather and capture the imagination; transforming a handbag or shoe from attractive to irresistible. From the warmth of a sensual matt finish to the sleek sophistication of a sheer gloss, the design possibilities are endless. In short, a well-chosen topcoat has the power to create a lasting connection with the consumer. Stahl’s Centre of Excellence for shoes and leather goods in Castelfranco di Sotto, Italy, helps leather goods manufacturers to make that connection. It all starts with giving leather the ideal texture.

The basic purpose of applying a topcoat is to help smooth out the natural roughness of the leather’s surface. If you look at a cross section of a piece of dull leather under a microscope, you’ll see what looks like a jagged mountain range. When light hits this rough surface, it scatters in different directions, creating a ‘dull’ appearance. However, if the leather has been smoothed and a topcoat has been applied, you will see a flatter cross section with smoother ‘peaks’. This means that light is not scattered as much, creating a shiny or mirror effect. But this effect is often short-lived and products can become duller over time. How do we fix this?

Creating a lasting look of luxury

Using the right topcoat can play an important role in achieving a luxurious matt or gloss finish that lasts. How long leather retains its premium finish depends on one factor: fastness. This simply means how long the topcoat adheres to the leather substrate, and its resistance to physical abrasion and chemicals. To create a premium look, it’s essential to achieve high fastness without overloading the leather’s surface. This delicate balance is difficult to pull off. But the aqueous blend of polymers and auxiliaries in Stahl’s Aqualen Top NG water-based topcoats meet these stringent requirements thanks to their self-crosslinking technology.

However, as all leather goods manufacturers know, looks are only part of the story. As well as an attractive appearance, it’s important to give products a pleasing haptic profile that lasts. Aqualen Top NG’s unique formulation delivers a superior, natural non-plastic feel. And thanks to the impressive dry, wet and alkaline rub fastness it provides, products will be more resistant to normal wear and tear – so they can be loved for longer. What’s more, the range is NC-and CABfree, ZDHC MRSL-compliant and has an extremely low solvent content. Because a superior look and feel should never come at the expense of consumer safety.

With four stunning finish options available – from full matt to high gloss – Stahl’s Aqualen Top NG range will help your leather goods stand out from the crowd, even without a logo. 

Stahl’s range of top coats not only look good but they do good, too, as they are extremely low in solvents.

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