Ever wondered what makes Hermes bags so unique and coveted that women all around the world are ready to add their names to the waiting list in hope to get purse in several years? Though the Hermes catalogue has more items than any other brand, it doesn't make their bags less expensive and sought after.
The most significant characteristic of all purses is their extremely high quality. For Hermes, leather is not just material to create their goods, it their base for pricing. There are about 30 types of it, each having its own name and features. Therefore, it is normal to feel a bit lost when choosing a perfect Hermes bag for your collection. We've created this ultimate Hermes leathers guide to help you navigate through the world of Hermes materials.
What Are Hermes Bags Made Of?
Starting as a saddle-making firm for rich aristocrats almost 200 years ago, Hermes now provides the best luxury items which are recognized as masterpieces. The fashion house still cares about every step of manufacturing, starting with excellent supplies of skins. It's not a secret that Hermes owns several tanneries across the globe to ensure the quality of their products. No wonder, each leather requires special treatment and care. From popular calfskin to exotic crocodile leather (directly from the Nile valley), Hermes offers a wide range of materials.
Let's learn more about them! For your convenience they are divided into groups according to leather type. Inside every group you will find several kinds, each with its unique characteristics.
Group 1 - Calfskin
The biggest group of Hermes leathers is calfskin. Don't be surprised by the number of kinds, they are actually very different! We are going to describe the way they look, how they feel to the touch, and share some typical features of every kind.
Hermes Togo Leather
The queen of leathers used in Hermes bags manufacturing. It has grained texture, although smooth when you touch it, and is crafted to be gliding under the fingers (maybe, that's the reason for the global addiction to Birkin). However, some fashionistas consider Togo to be heavy-looking because of the grains. This version is prone to scratching and keeps shape very well.
Hermes Barenia Leather
Legendary sort of leather that has been used by Hermes for centuries. It was one of the materials the fashion house used for their saddles and it's extremely durable! A purse made of Barenia is incredibly soft with a little gloss. When you touch the material, you feel as if you were touching wax or butter. Keep in mind two things when choosing a bag from this leather: it gets darker at places you touch it most and develops scratches easily.
Hermes Box Calf Leather
Looking for something pleasant to the touch and smooth, choose a purse made of Box leather. It may look frail, but it's actually rigid and durable. Calfskin sheen gives any bag model an elegant and feminine look. The only real enemy of the Box leather is rain, as it might leave marks on purse.
Hermes Chamonix Leather
A twin sister of the Box leather, but with matte finish. It is sourced from the most beautiful French region - a small village in the mountains called Chamonix that gave the leather its name. It is more resistant to damages than Box. Bags made of this material require wiping: water is not good for them.
Hermes Tadelakt Leather
Often mistakenly taken for Box, and that's for a reason - they are quite similar. Their main difference is in the feel - when you touch Tadelakt it's so smooth and soft, you hardly believe it is leather! Such effect is achieved by grains not visible on the exterior.
Hermes Ardennes Leather
Also sourced in France, but this time it's the northern part of country which gave the material its name. It's one of the most rigid Hermes leathers, prone both to damaging and water. The only sad part about Ardennes: Hermes bags are no longer produced from this leather. Birkin and Kelly models made of it are considered vintage and hunted down by fashionistas.
Hermes Epsom Leather
Released in 2003, Epsom holds shape of any bag well thanks to rigid texture that is also grained but not naturally - it is craftsmen's work. An Epsom exterior gives an impression of laminated surface. It's the most durable material among all the Hermes calfskin kinds. Besides, Epsom is easy to clean and maintain. A bag made of this leather is perfect for everyday wear.
Hermes Swift Leather
Very pleasant and smooth when you touch it. Although at first sight it may seem that this material is plain, it actually has micro grains. Incredible softness of Swift makes it easy to develop scratches, so it's not designed for clumsy and careless people. When carrying a bag made from Epsom, extra attention is required all the time.
Hermes Evergrain Leather
A simply irresistible leather - it's not afraid of water and isn't easily damaged. Despite grains all over the surface, it is soft to the touch. Another version is called Evercalf, and it's just an embossed variant of Evergrain, less prone to water and scratches. Both materials aren't rigid, as it often happens with embossed leather.
Group 2 - Buffalo
This group consists of only one kind, but it is definitely worth mentioning. There used to be several buffalo sorts, but some of them are now discontinued (like Dalmatian) or are only used for small leather goods (like Gala).
Hermes Buffalo Leather
Though being fairly soft, it's known for incredible resistance to external and environmental factors. Spots or scratches are not likely to appear. In case you want to check its strong fibers, Buffalo is also flame resistant (but we actually hope you wouldn't try burning Hermes)! Despite the grainy texture, the surface is relatively smooth and can be cleaned with no special cloth. One of interesting features of the Buffalo leather is that it develops quite a unique color with time.
Group 3 - Goat leather
This group consists of two kinds only with quite similar characteristics. Bags made of them are the most favorite among Hermes fans, and you will easily understand why.
Hermes Chevre de Coromandel Leather
If you don't want to be scared of damaging your precious Hermes bag, this material is exactly what you need. Besides, it's soft to the touch and very lightweight (that means you can carry more stuff in it). Women like Chevre de Coromandel as a bag crafted from it can be used on a daily basis and become one of your most long-lasting designer bags.
Hermes Chevre Mysore Leather
Fashionistas often say that if Chevre de Coromandel were a wife, then Mysore would be a mistress. Of course, this is just a joke, but it's hard not to fall in love when looking at its refined, clearly visible grains. Chevre Mysore has the same characteristics as its sister: lightweight, damage-resistant and soft.
Group 4 - Bull leather
Hermes Clemence Leather
Hermes Negonda Leather
This leather is used only for Garden Party bags. All purses made from the Negonda leather are absolutely water-resistant. Bags look ultra matte and have different colors than all the other items in the Hermes collection.
Group 5 - Suede
Hermes Doblis (Grizzly) Suede
One of most beautiful and unique Hermes materials. It gives a stunning velvety look and it is extremely rare to find new items made from it (available only as pre-loved in secondhand shops). Doblis requires delicate care: keep your hands spotlessly clean and beware of scratches. Suede is a challenge to maintain and it's not your choice if you live in rainy areas. We would say that Doblis is not crafted for everyday wear, it's more a collector's purse.
Group 6 - Cowhide
Hermes Fjord Leather
This sort features gorgeous matte finish. The surface of the leather is grained, but grains are much wider and flatter than in any of the above-mentioned types. It makes the material is soft and smooth. Fjord is resistant to water splashes, and that's one more reason to adore it.
Hermes Vache Leather
Another classic leather in the Hermes family, made of cowhide. Bags manufactured from this material are quite delicate: exterior tends to darken with time, damages appear way too quick, it is vulnerable to rain, and spots will appear after contact with water. Nevertheless, extremely pleasant to the touch, Vache looks gorgeous with its smooth finish.
Hermes Vache Hunter Leather
Originally Vache Hunter was only used to trim bags, but since 2017 more and more Hermes bag models made completely from it have appeared on the market. It's incomparably soft material with tiny grains that gives the items a little sheen. It can handle water, but it scratches easily.
Hermes Vache Liegee Leather
A bag made of this sort of leather will last you forever. Vache Liegee is the thickest and the most durable in the entire Hermes collection. It's not only practical, but has a beautiful grained surface, too. It was released in 2004 to replace discontinued Ardennes.
What Are Some of the Most Unique Leathers Used to Make Hermes Bags?
Apart from ordinary materials, the Hermes fashion house is also known for making bags of rare leathers. They are not only hard to get but also require infinite patience while working with them. Yet, the result is usually stunning and the bag can cost several times more than usually (if you want to learn more about the prices on Hermes items, check out our guide on How Much Do Hermes Bags Cost? From The Cheapest To The Most Expensive). Those goods are crafted for VIP clients in limited numbers. That's how the famous waiting lists appeared. Let's learn about some exotic Hermes leathers!
Hermes Lizard Leather
Bags made of this leather demand high and proper maintenance: avoid wearing them in wet weather, use only in perfect conditions and give the items a regular rest. Its naturally grained texture is what makes celebrities and VIP clients fall for it. Cells are tiny and of the same size throughout the bag. Lizard is extremely valuable and rare, and can be both with shiny or matte finish.
Hermes Alligator Leather
One of the most precious skins in history, with unique manufacturing process. The material is polished with agate to create this special finish. You won't find bags of large sizes made of Alligator, as it's hard to find a piece of skin big enough to make a whole bag out of it. The surface is smooth, much smoother that Crocodile (because alligators live in fresh water, not salty). Only legendary models of Hermes bags (Birkin and Kelly) are crafted from it. When you look at alligator bags you can spot a long scar exactly in the middle with cells scale becoming smaller closer to sides.
Hermes Crocodile Leather
Some people think that crocodile and alligator leathers are almost the same. Well, when it comes to details, you can spot the difference. First, bigger purses can be manufactured from crocodile. Second, although cells are almost of the same size as in alligator skin, it's not as smooth (because animals live in salty water). Third, crocodile skin has little pores that can be seen in each cell. All cells are approximately of the same size. Bags made of Hermes crocodile leather can have shiny or matte effect.
Hermes Ostrich Leather
Fashionistas love it for many reasons. Bags made from ostrich not only have an incredible design with skin holes throughout, but they are also easily maintained and durable. If wet, no special care is needed, just wipe it. After contact with human skin ostrich becomes darker. Exposed to light (both natural and artificial), the colour can fade. But with proper care such a purse can last for many years.
Does Hermes Offer Animal-Friendly Versions of Their Leather Handbags?
As you can see, Hermes has plenty of interesting choices when it comes to leather. But our Hermes leathers guide wouldn't be ultimate if we don't mention other Hermes materials. What are they? Are there any non-leather versions for people who still want to have a luxury purse but care about animals? Yes, Hermes manufactures its goods from plenty of materials and even some iconic models can be found in animal-friendly versions! Let's see what they are!
Canvas is one of the most widely spread and highly durable materials used by many high-end brands, and Hermes is not an exception. Mostly tote bags are crafted from canvas, but you can find some legendary purses, like Birkin, in canvas, too. Don't expect it to be cheap though, prices are still astronomical.
Although discontinued, this material can be found when you're looking for a second-hand item. Durable and practical, Crinoline is made of horse hair and hemp. It's a perfect option for bags that need to hold their shape.
Whose Leather Is of Better Quality, Chanel or Hermes?
Buying a luxury bag we expect nothing but excellency, especially for the price asked. The quality of the leather is one of the main factors that's important to fashion lovers. So it's only fair to compare brands to ensure you're getting the best product.
Hermes has been an icon of luxury and style for almost 200 years, and was already known internationally when other fashion houses only started to gain their popularity. It still remains one of the best brands to invest in, because of their special care towards leather used for bags. Here are some reasons why we think Hermes leather quality is excellent and outstanding:
- Hermes owns several tanneries across the globe to ensure constant supply of exclusive materials.
- The fashion house uses leather from selected origins: the Alpine fields, the Florida rivers, Asia and even Australia.
- Only 3-4 bags are produced in one week, the major reason for that is the artisans work with leather very carefully and patiently.
- Leather is never painted, a special dying technique is used to color materials.
- Hermes leathers have different features depending the type. Some of them, as you saw, can be quite delicate. That means, artisans use natural qualities of skins without making them more rigid or durable.
- The Hermes fashion house is the only one so far to offer a bag spa. For a certain amount of money, your purse will be treated with professional care.
If you want to learn more interesting facts about one of the oldest French fashion houses, read our Hermes 101: Everything You Need To Know About Your Favourite Handbag Designer.
But does it mean that Chanel has lower leather quality and we all need to sell our bags to purchase Hermes as soon as possible? Not at all! Materials used by the two brands are not the same, but both excellent. Yes, Chanel doesn't breed crocodiles in Asia, but their leathers are of the same fine quality as Hermes leathers:
- Only highly skilled artisans work with leather: craftsmen from Spain, Italy and France deal with the best materials.
- Each piece of leather, though stitched by a machine, is cut by hand only.
- Incredible softness of lambskin (the most famous among Chanel leathers) is achieved with a special technique: it gets tanned with the wool remaining on skin. That also creates additional layer of protection, so the bag will age gracefully.
- Leather requires care and attention, because it can be delicate and develop scratches easily. Chanel artisans use natural qualities of the skin for extra protection.
- All Chanel leathers look elegant and flawless, because the fashion house chooses the best source of materials (even during bad seasons).
In fact, it is difficult to choose a winner between Chanel and Hermes leathers. Both brands keep old traditions when it comes to materials, that's why only limited number of purses is released every week. Patience, talent, skills and devotion - that is what makes bags manufactured by Chanel and Hermes iconic and sought after. Different mission, different origin of leather, different style allows us to say that the best leather is the one you personally like from the first touch. And it can be both Hermes and Chanel!
How to Spot a Fake Hermes Bag Just by Looking at Its Leather?
To check authenticity of a Hermes bag one of the things you need to pay attention to you is leather. It's impossible to replicate (at least, in quality). An authentic purse never has any flaws on its surface, leather should hold the shape of each model perfectly. Actually, your hands and nose can help you spot a fake (and that's not a joke). If you feel like you can't stop touching and inhaling the leather, you've got an authentic Hermes item!
If you want to learn more about authenticating Hermes, check our guide on how to spot a fake Hermes Birkin or How To Understand When Your Hermes Purse Was Manufactured: A Complete Guide To Hermes Blind Stamps (With Year Chart).
I hope our Hermes leathers guide was helpful and now you know for sure which Hermes bag you are going to buy - the one made from Togo, Clemence or Swift leather or may be you have fallen for another kind. Do you already own a precious Hermes piece? What is it made of? Share in comments!