What is Vachetta Leather?Written by Gavin Humphreys
Vachetta is not the easiest leather to grasp.
Not because of its gorgeous, smooth, silky surface, but rather, I mean to get your head around exactly what this leather is.
A quick Google search tells you it’s what Louis Vuitton bags are made from (and not much more info!).
Here at Beckett Simonon we use Vachetta leather in several of our bags, and in all our footwear.
So the question is, what is Vachetta leather? *and how do I care for it?
What is Vachetta leather?
The first defining factor of Vachetta is that it’s a type of calfskin leather. This is leather made from the hide of a young cow or steer, probably around a year old - so, calfskin leather is most often a by-product of the veal-meat industry.
Vachetta is often full-grain, as is all the Vachetta that we use. This means it is the entire width of the hide, without any ‘correction’ (when parts are skimmed off).
Coming from a young animal, the leather is also thinner than many other leathers, at roughly 1-2mm. Younger cows have softer skins - which makes a very pleasant, smooth, and supple leather, while at the same time being strong and resistant.
It is generally produced using a vegetable-tanning process. This process is a traditional method to preserve the hide. Tanning this way takes several weeks and only uses plant-based materials.
The tanner will then usually leave the leather without any dyes or finishes - as you can see in our Vachetta shoe lining. This is unusual because almost all leathers get protective finishes and color added at this stage.
That unfinished surface is one thing that makes Vachetta leather distinctive from other calfskin leathers.
Unfinished leather will react with the light and moisture and develop in color and patina quicker than many other leathers.
Being untreated, the leather retains its natural color. It is generally a light color, more or less the original skin tone of the beast. While treatment helps leathers become more water-resistant and develop a shine, it also diminishes the hides’ natural color and texture.
This ‘unfinished’ style is more likely to show blemishes or markings from the animal’s skin - which can be an attractive guarantee of authenticity. However, since the skin is from a younger animal, the hides tend to be even-toned and have fewer marks.
Our range of bags is slightly unusual because they use dyed, finished Vachetta. This way the Vachetta retains most of its properties, but has more protection from the elements.
Since bags are exposed to a lot more of the elements than shoe linings, finishing is important to protect the leather. It also means that the typical aging of vachetta is not as drastic and allows our bags’ leather to develop more gently.
Another factor that makes Vachetta leather special is its high fat content - because the hide is less treated, it retains more of the natural fats. This makes it supple and soft, giving it an almost silky feel.
The result of all this is a smooth and soft leather that is durable and wears well over the years.
The story of Vachetta leather
This is a type of leather that has existed for many centuries.
It wasn’t always called Vachetta, though - before, it had a slightly less catchy name ‘untreated, vegetable-tanned, calfskin leather.’
The leather was popular in the Italian region of Tuscany, and became called Tuscan leather. Even today, this type of leather is sometimes referred to as Florentine Vachetta leather.
The word Vachetta is an Italian-French mash-up. It’s believed that at some point in the 20th Century, luxury bag makers in Italy wanted a way to distinguish the high-grade leather that they used, so they started referring to it as Vachetta.
The French word for cow-hide vachette (pronounced ‘vash-et’) was borrowed in a superb marketing move. The bag makers then turned it into an Italian word to describe this specific type of hide. So, with the Italian twist, vachette became Vachetta, with a big V (and thus pronounced ‘vak-et-ta’).
So why has Vachetta become one of the most respected and desired types of leathers?
Little by little, Vachetta transformed into the go-to leather for luxury bag makers. It is beyond compare for pieces such as the handles that are close to the skin, because it feels so nice.
Vachetta became more and more popular. It was especially perfect for the handles and straps, as well as the accent areas where the designers look for an attractive leather that will stand out.
The leather not only feels good but often looks more attractive than other leather types. It is also sought after because of the way it ages, developing a dark honey color and patina over a relatively short period of use.
If this leather is taken care of, over the years it will only look more and more stunning.
Louis Vuiton can take the most credit for making Vachetta leather famous - matching it up with their trademark dark leather print to create an instantly recognizable look.
While Vachetta leather is most associated with Italy, the secret got out. Now there are Vachetta producers across the World.
Italy is famous for its leather production, and produces some of the best - and we have recently begun to buy our leather from a Gold-rated tannery in the north of the country. Ironically, however, they don’t produce Vachetta leather (yet), so we are very happy to continue to be supplied by our wonderful tannery in Argentina.
This is a country famous for both its cattle and its Italian heritage. There they produce vegetable-tanned Vachetta leather that is as beautiful as you will find anywhere.
Here at Beckett Simonon, we are proud to be part of the story of this beautiful leather, and to use it across our range.
How and why does Beckett Simonon use Vachetta leather?
Vachetta is versatile. It can be found in bags, wallets, furniture, and, of course, shoes.
This is a very supple leather, and leather workers love working with it. It lends itself to being cut nicely and being stamped, tooled, stitched, and molded into shape.
This makes it very comfortable for shoe linings. After only a few uses, it conforms to the shape of the foot - undoubtedly one of the reasons why many of our customers comment that their shoes are comfortable from day one.
Vachetta linings are not just for our dress shoes, but in all our shoes, boots, and sneakers. We are pretty unique in offering Vachetta linings at our price range.
We also use Vachetta in our bag range. On our website we differentiate between pull-up leather, pebbled leather, and full-grain leather - in fact, our full-grain leather bags are all made using Vachetta. That’s why, you will notice, they are so smooth to the touch.
One special thing about our footwear and bags is we use full-grain Vachetta leather.
How does this benefit you?
Since it is full-grain, not corrected leather, it is more breathable. This is incredibly important for footwear because they retain less moisture, so your feet are healthier. It also cuts down on foot odor and is also antibacterial, again great for the health of your feet.
It is also important for bags because it gives extra strength and durability.
In all our shoes and boots we use just one large piece of Vachetta that covers the whole foot. This means our shoes are more comfortable because they have fewer joints and stitching inside.
Even the tongues of our shoes have a Vachetta lining. Our boots also have an additional piece of Vachetta leather that lines the higher sides of the boots.
Our shoes have a special feature. You might notice a suede-like piece at the heel - this is actually Vachetta, but ‘the other way around.’ It is the same full-grain Vachetta lining but backward, the inside exposed.
Why? Since the inside of the Vachetta has a felty surface, it is more gentle and avoids rubbing and blisters. The artisans also do this so that the back of your foot has more grip, avoiding slippage.
We have a philosophy at Beckett Simonon of using the best materials to create longer-lasting products. We believe in the minimalist principles of fewer, but better quality, possessions.
For that reason, Vachetta leather is the perfect option for our bags and lining our footwear - it lasts for a long time, and the more you wear Vachetta, the more it adheres to your foot and the more comfortable it becomes.
Using good quality, full-grain leather means that products age with grace and become beloved possessions. Vachetta ages very nicely, forming a patina - the undyed linings should gradually change from the light beige, to honey, to dark brassy color.
The natural look of Vachetta works well with the classic design of our bags, shoes, boots, and sneakers.
In summary, comfortable and functional, and looks good - so, why wouldn’t we use it?
How to care for Vachetta leather
Vachetta is strong and durable, so is pretty low maintenance. It is essential to take good care of leather goods, however, so there are a few tips I would like to share with you about caring for Vachetta leather.
Being on the inside of your shoes, you might not think about leather care so much - your top concern is probably the leather on the outside of the upper, or even the leather soles.
However, it is worthwhile taking care of the Vachetta leather linings to ensure that they last as long as possible and stay comfortable.
With bags it is even more important because the vachetta is exposed to the environment - the heat, the cold, the rain, and everything else that gets thrown its way. You want it to look good and protect everything you have inside.
Vachetta will age over the years and darken in color - this is natural, and in fact sought after. This comes with normal wear, and the exposure to the air, sun, oils from your skin, and so on. This means that it develops its own characteristics, unique to you.
Let's look at some of the most common issues you might have, one by one.
This is the most common problem you might find. If you wear your shoes out on a rainy day, leather is a porous natural material and water can seep through. On a bag it can happen just as easily.
You can limit the amount that water gets through by protecting your shoes well beforehand. Use a good coat of well-applied polish to help protect a leather upper and repel water. If you have suede or pull-up leather shoes then coat in water repellent as regularly as is needed.
Similarly, you might want to add some waterproofing to your bag. Make sure the leather is healthy and well conditioned, then spray or rub on some leather waterproofer.
Once the leather has got wet, the first step is to allow it dry naturally.
For shoes, place in wooden shoe trees, and put the shoes in a dry and warm area (warm, not hot, heat can damage the leather). The wooden shoe tree will help draw out any moisture. If you don’t have shoe trees, use crumpled up newspaper.
(I’ve never heard of this happening but.. in theory, newspaper ink could stain the leather! If you are concerned about this, you might want to replace with paper towels.)
Once they are dry you will be able to see if there is any staining or discoloration left on the lining (to be totally honest, it’s not common - it is much more likely on the exterior).
The first step is to try to minimize the visual impact, so go over the area with unscented and alcohol-free wipes. Never rub Vachetta leather, instead gently dab (or go in little circles) so as to not damage the material.
After this, apply a colorless leather conditioner (it is possible to buy a leather conditioner specifically for Vachetta leather, but any good quality leather conditioner will do). This is important because it will revitalize the Vachetta and make sure it stays healthy - stopping the leather from drying out and cracking. It should also cover up any remaining signs of the water marking.
Our Ultimate Shoe Care Kit includes leather protector and leather balm, which would work equally well for shoes or leather bags.
Note: If you do not dry your leather shoes properly, this can lead to the appearance of mold, which can eat away at the leather. This is naturally occurring on leather, because it is an organic material, but can be avoided through proper drying. If mold does appear, wipe it away very gently with wipes, and allow to dry thoroughly before assessing the damage. You will likely have to clean a little more and apply plenty of leather conditioner to restore it.
Stains can happen. Perhaps some oil has dripped into your shoes, or dye has seeped from your new socks, or perhaps your sweat feet have left a mark! I’ve had my coffee Thermos empty into my backpack more than once!
Again, you should allow it to dry, first of all. Assess the damage and see if you can softly clean the leather with a damp cloth or wipes. If it is recent, this might be enough to clean away the stain.
If this isn’t enough, another suggestion is to try a magic eraser - these are available in most big supermarkets and are actually melamine foam. Dab on a little water and rub the eraser gently on the leather to see if this helps.
Always remember not to stress - if nothing works, put it down to experience, and be proud that your leather has taken on another mark of aging, which you can look at and remember where it came from.
Remember that Vachetta leather ages with time, develops a patina, and becomes darker. If you notice that the ‘dirt’ or ‘stain’ is not moving, then it’s very possible it’s the natural aging and coloring of the leather!
Dirt is almost inevitable with a bag - you place them on the ground and take them with you to all kinds of places.
It is possible for dust and dirt to get into shoes, too - but is much more preventable.
If you are not using your shoes for a long time, moisturize them well and store them in a dustbag. Place them in a cupboard or a shoebox somewhere dry and cool. This stops the dust and beasties from getting in.
Note: Never store them in a plastic bag, because this can cause either a build-up of moisture and mold, or for the leather to dry out and become cracked and damaged. The Vachetta will, at best, lose that smooth buttery feel. Leather is like our own skin and needs to breathe.
If your shoe lining or vachetta bag does get dirty, first make sure it is dry. Once dry, gently brush the Vachetta with a horse-hair clothes brush, or a dry cloth. This should remove any loose dirt.
Gently wipe away any remaining dirt with a non-alcoholic, fragrance-free wipe. With most superficial dirt, this should be enough.
Don’t forget to then add the leather conditioner to keep the Vachetta happy. A well-conditioned leather not only feels better but is also more supple and resistant to wear, so will last longer
If you scratch the leather on your bag, many people say that this adds to the overall uniqueness of your product, and not something to worry about.
(You aren’t so likely to scratch your shoe lining, unless you have some knives in your socks, but the same advice applies.)
The most important thing is to make sure to add some leather oil or colorless conditioner and so that it’s protected in case water can get in. Gently rub it in with a dry cloth or your finger.
If your bag is dyed, you can find a conditioner of a similar color to hide the scratch a little more.
Other tricks include using petroleum jelly (Vaseline), everyday skin moisturizer or skin butters, or even olive oil to cover up light scratches.
At the end of the day, your bag will age, and it’s quite comforting to see it growing old alongside the person who wears it!
Go get a Vachetta-lined shoe!
Vachetta leather is used across our range of footwear, from sneakers to boots, to loafers, to dress shoes.
This unassuming leather is one of our greatest allies when it comes to producing gorgeous, comfortable shoes for your feet.
Check out our footwear range: everything there is lined with Vachetta leather - from smart Dean Oxfords, to Beatles-esque Bolton Chelsea Boots, to hardy pull-up leather Dowler Boots, to the classic GAT-style Morgen Trainers.
Our bags are also made from this beautiful, soft leather - all you need for any lifestyle. The stylish Davis Weekender for short trips away, the rugged Domingo Duffle Bag, the comfy Logan Backpack, or the serious-business Marco Messenger Bag.
If you have a comment, leave me a message below and I will get back to you. Be sure to browse this Resources blog for more info and tips about footwear and fashion.