Real Croc Leather VS Embossed Leather

One of my earliest memories of a handbag is a structured alligator skin top handle bag. I’ve been obsessed with embossed leather for many years, but for some reason the croc texture on handbags and accessories really chomps at my heart.

This season, the croc-embellished trend took over runways from New York to Paris, but croc and alligator skins have a long history in handbags.

The use of crocodile and exotic leathers in handbags

First, a little bit of handbag history. For centuries, handbags were made of cloth or metal. In the 1950s, women became obsessed with carrying a “nice” handbag, made of black calf, crocodile, or alligator. You can go to an antique shop right now and find vintage bags in crocodile leather.

Today, Hermes is known for its use of exotics leathers made of alligator, ostrich, and crocodile. One of the most expensive purses in the world is an Hermès Birkin bag with white gold and diamond hardware that sold for more than $200,000, is made out of Porosus crocodile. Louis Vuitton makes crocodile and alligator leather bags each season to stroll down their runway.

In 2018, Chanel announced that they are no longer creating products made from snakes, crocodiles, lizards, and stingrays because of ethical issues. Since their announcement, the sales of mock croc-embossed accessories have skyrocketed.

The entire state of California prohibits the importation/sale of python, crocodile, and alligator, and some now luxury brands are getting on board with the ban too.

The other major players in the industry like Hermes, Louis Vuitton (and other LVMH brands), and many brands owned by Kering have moved towards their ability to source exotic skins ethically by owning and operating reptile farms instead of sourcing them. That way, they’re caring for the animals through the entire supply chain and have control of the animal’s welfare. The ever-increasing price point on exotics is due to the care that goes into raising and caring for the animal.

Features of Crocodile Skin

Many species of crocodiles and alligators are endangered. Therefore, for crafting goods manufacturers use reptiles that are grown at crocodile farms. Crocodiles are grown mainly in Southeast Asia, alligators – in the United States. In captivity, crocodiles reproduce reluctantly since they need a lot of free space for life. The age of crocodiles for commercial manufacture is between 4 and 7 years. Dressing the skin of reptiles is a very complex, multi-stage process and it requires exceptionally manual work. These factors determine one of the main features of genuine crocodile leather – a high price.

Crocodile skin differs depending on the part of the animal’s body. The abdominal part is the most valuable and expensive. However, this skin is most often counterfeited and such a forgery, at times, can be hardly distinguished.

The head and tail have pronounced osteoderms – horny growths on the skin that form a rigid carapace of the animal. It often makes cool small stuff, like crocodile leather case.

The dorsal part of large crocodiles is rarely used in the manufacturing of leather goods. It is the most rigid and thick skin and can only be used as decorative elements. However, the dorsal part of young reptiles is utilized more often. Such leather has a very rich and inviting appearance as well as excellent mechanical properties.

The most commonly used skin of alligators is the skin on the sides. However, the lateral skin of crocodiles has a less geometrically correct pattern than on the ventral part, which causes their lower value and cost.

When I read that quote, all I could think was how much I respect that as a consumer. I think it shows humility and an awareness of the world… which many luxury brands lack in the name of making money.

As a reptile lover, I don’t like the idea of alligators and crocodiles being raised for their skins. Hermes faced backlash after an undercover investigation exposed their mistreatment of reptiles in farms that sent skins to an Hermès-owned tannery where they end up becoming Birkin or Kelly handbags that can cost $50,000 or more. It takes two or three crocodiles to make just one Hermes handbag.
What is embossed crocodile leather?

Instead of using alligators and crocodiles, many brands have turned to the lower cost option: creating their own reptile print on leather. Mock croc, or crocodile-embossed leather, is created with a machine that applies heat and a stamp, then presses super hard until there’s an impression on the leather, giving it the look and feel of the reptile skin. It creates a unique and beautiful texture that has depth and richness of reptile skin, but made with cow leather instead (using cows for leather is a separate post entirely).

Fake, or non-leather croc-textured items are getting trickier to identify, as many of them are made with molds from real crocodile or alligator skins. Usually, the space between the scales is not very deep, and the pattern is often repetitive.
Hand with red nails holding a Black Embossed Crocodile Leather Saint Laurent YSL Monogrammed Card Case. If you want know more about distingushing a real croc leather from embossed croc leather, read this guide.

If you didn’t know it was embossed leather, wouldn’t you think it was real crocodile? The scales look imperfect and luxurious, but it’s not actually made of crocodile.

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