Cordovan and Bridle leathers are high-quality leathers with excellent durability and unique textures that have long been sought after by leather aficionados. Both types of leather are meticulously produced through complex processes by skilled craftsmen using traditional labor-intensive and time-consuming techniques. These rare materials are used to create leather goods with a classical look that accentuates the quality of the leather, making them the perfect accessories for all your business endeavors. In this article from Tsuchiya Kaban, we will introduce the common features and unique qualities of both types of leather and how to care for them. We hope that by providing a detailed introduction to these fine leather products, you will be able to make more educated decisions when choosing leather goods to suit your needs.
The production of high-quality leather takes time and effort
Even when put next to the similarly high-quality and valuable Bridle leather, Cordovan stands out for its even greater rarity.
Unlike most leathers, the leather used for our Cordovan series is not produced from hides from the shoulder, back, or other parts of the animal’s body. It is made from horse rump, which each horse hide yields only a small amount of. To maintain the exquisite texture of our products, we only use Cordovan leather sourced from the hides of heavy workhorses, whose scarcity makes it even more difficult for us to source these high-quality materials. The production process of Cordovan leather is extremely labor-intensive and complex. The rump hide first undergoes a one-month full vegetable tanning process, after which the tanners shave the leather to expose the smooth shell underneath before polishing it repeatedly. This intricate process is as complex as cutting diamonds, but the resulting Cordovan leather is both durable and soft, with a unique luster in its smooth grain. This is why it is considered to be the king of leather.
Bridle leather, too, is a valuable leather in its own right. It is made from handpicked hides taken from the shoulders of adult cows of a particular British breed and is traditionally the go-to top-of-the-line leather for manufacturing riding tack in the UK.
There is one essential element that can be found in both types of leather: a passion and commitment to craftsmanship. The craftsmen take a number of factors into consideration, including the condition of the leather and even weather conditions, and spend several months to a year completing the painstaking process.
The leather used at Tsuchiya Kaban is produced by skilled and experienced craftsmen. Our Bridle collection, for example, uses Bridle leather produced by the renowned British leather tannery J&E Sedgwick & Co.
In the UK, Bridle leather is a durable leather commonly used in the manufacture of riding tack. The hide first undergoes a full vegetable tanning process before being placed in a giant drum-shaped receptacle for beating. Afterward, wax is applied to the leather multiple times by hand to increase its durability.
The secret behind the luster of Cordovan leather and the allure of water-based aniline dyes
The manufacturing process that gives Cordovan leather its signature luster is a testament to the tanners’ skill. The Cordovan has a beautiful, glossy texture that evokes imagery of a smooth and shining gemstone. Let us take a look at how it is produced.
The secret to this incredible luster is a special polishing process. A piece of agate is used to rub and compress the flesh side of the leather, polishing it till smooth and giving it an exquisite texture.
The intricate dyeing process is another reason for the leather’s glistening luster. Our Cordovan collection is made from leather produced by LEDER OGAWA using a water-based dye process that involves the repeated application of translucent dyes by hand. The craftsmen devote themselves to this process that results in a layered look with non-uniform coloration and allows the user to enjoy the leather’s natural texture and its aging process.
White bloom that deepens the color over time
What makes Bridle leather stand out is its sturdiness and flexibility. It was originally produced in the UK to make bridles, reins, and other parts of riding tack that require sturdiness and durability.
The secret to Bridle leather’s sturdiness lies in the infusion of wax. Leathers are usually infused with oils to improve their durability, bridle leather is also infused with wax. By dissolving the wax into a liquid and applying it repeatedly with a brush, it penetrates the leather fibers and stiffens the leather when at room temperature.
Any wax that has not penetrated the leather fibers comes to the surface in the form of a fine white powder, creating a hazy, whitish look as if the item were covered in frost. This is referred to as white bloom. Depending on your personal preference, you can retain the white, waxy look or lightly brush it away with the brush that comes with products in our Bridle series. Bridle leather develops a unique patina over time. Enjoy the look of this leather as it ages, for that is the appeal of Bridle leather.
Enjoy your leather accessories by using them well and caring for them properly
How to condition Cordovan leather
① Using your finger or a soft, clean cloth, gently rub a drop of leather conditioner or conditioning oil (about the size of a grain of rice) onto the leather.
② When rubbing in the conditioner, start from the parts of the leather that must bend whenever the product is opened and closed. Apply the conditioner to the leather in small, quick motions in a rhythmic manner.
③ Rub the conditioner in so that it coats the entire surface; depending on the condition of the leather, you may need to apply a second coat.
④ Set the item aside for 10-30 minutes to allow the conditioner or conditioning oil to penetrate the leather fibers. Wipe away any excess from the surface with a soft cloth.
In this way, you will be able to bring out the smooth and beautiful luster of your Cordovan leather product.
Because of its dense fiber structure, it may be difficult for the conditioner or conditioning oil to penetrate the leather fibers despite the smooth surface. The key to conditioning Cordovan leather lies in gradually applying thin coats of the conditioner. Although the excess oil may remain on the leather surface, rest assured that it can be easily wiped away with a soft cloth.
The leather has a high oil content and therefore does not need to be conditioned during the initial usage period of six months. Conditioner need not be applied until the leather surface starts to feel rough to the touch.
How to remove white bloom from Bridle leather
If you wish to experience the pleasure of brushing away the white bloom, you can use the horsehair brush to lightly brush the surface of the leather before use. The key to removing white bloom is to avoid repeatedly brushing the same spot, and to brush along the edges, across the surface, and along the seams. Do not use excessive force when using the brush; simply rub it lightly on the leather surface. Depending on your personal preference, you can choose whether to remove the white bloom to better enjoy the unique texture of the leather or retain it on one side of the leather to observe the changes it brings to the leather’s surface. Like the winter snow, white bloom comes to the leather surface during colder seasons. The leather is infused with a large amount of wax, and therefore does not need to be conditioned during its first year of use.
Cordovan leather—sophisticated allure accentuated by a glistening sheen
Bridle leather—lustrous texture that develops over time