Here at Owen Barry we really love and appreciate beautiful skins.
We hope that our passion for glorious quality skins together with a wide diversity of finishes & colours really shines through.
Many generations of the Barry family have been involved with the tanning and processing of leather and sheepskin dating back to the mid 1800s.
Great grandfather (Walter) & grandmother (Amy) set up their own tannery in a small village in Wiltshire, their sons carried on that tradition moving to a larger tannery here in Street Somerset, where we still manufacture today.
It is this inherent passion and knowledge for skins that helps us today when we are selecting leathers for every aspect of our production.
ALL of the skins we use are 100% a by-product of the food industry, the animals are farmed carefully for the food industry.
I am always very proud of the work leather technicians produce, without these experts the skins from the food industry would be pretty ugly and only go into landfill, but nowadays without the use of any heavy or dirty chemicals, our tannery specialists are able to turn an ugly by-product into something that is beautiful, comfortable, practical, biodegradable and much sought after.
Scroll down to find out more about the different types of skins we use at Owen Barry.
Sheepskins are explained first, our Leathers are further down, please keep scrolling! And at the very end our very firm stance on exotic (fur) skins.
Sheep and Lamb Skins
For our clothing & accessories collection and our lifestyle, rug & beanbag collection - our main resources are Sheep and Lambskins, these skins are 100% a by-product from the meat industry, nearly all sheep are farmed for their meat, in many cases, even the wool fleece is harvested from an animal that has been bred for the food chain.
The skins that we use are chosen for the ultimate end purpose of the product, whether that is heavier pelts from UK/Europe or Australasia that will be used in lifestyle heavier wear products, or much finer pelts/breeds such as Merino's & Toscana's from Spain & Italy that are selected for their super fine finish, ideal for clothing and accessories.
As you look at each product on the website, check out the Materials section, this provides information on the sheepskin that we are suggesting for each product.
Here is that information
Merino Curly Sheepskin (Shearling): -
The characteristic of curly sheepskins is one of the most natural, essentially, the fleece is left soft and curly as you would find in nature. The wool is dense and warm, giving your winter coat a snuggly cosy feel.
The pelt side can be finished with either sueded or napalan (leather) surface.
Sueded: OB hand select all their skins to ensure that the suede surface is always soft and sensual, with a slight velvet nap on the suede.
Napalan: Is both a protective and a fashion finish, the leather surface can offer more protection against staining and grubbiness.
In our Somerset workshops, every skin is painstakingly matched for every coat, by toning with adjoining skins we ensure that the garment is completely consistent in colour and texture all over, matching is a very skilled process, with many years of training to perfect, if the matching process is not carried out to the highest standard, a shearling garment can include many multicoloured panels, OB also match the wool side of the coat as well ensuring that when you open it, inside there is a consistency throughout.
Hurricane Curly Merino Skin
Hurricane has been a long-time favourite in the Owen Barry Shearling collection.
It is a hard-wearing skin with a stunning texture in its curly wool.
The outside of the pelt has a leather or slight Napalan finish applied, Napalan is both a protective and a fashion finish, the leather surface can offer more protection against staining and grubbiness than a standard suede.
The Hurricane Napalan has an aged look which it distresses more over time accentuating the vintage look, this makes Hurricane Napalan our first choice for Aviator type jackets, it also gives hats & accessories a real outdoors feel.
Snow Cap - Sometimes we select the Hurricane to have snow-capped wool, this tipping effect gives a stunning texture and emphasises the curly finish by giving a depth of shading to the wool.
Merino Shearling with a Napalan (leather) finish
This skin is one of the most tactile, buttery soft skins in our collection.
The team at Owen Barry has been selected and handcrafting garments from leather & shearling for over 70 years, and still, today when these Merino Napalan skins come through production we stand and stroke them - Yes really! these skins are so delightful and soft in hand that we love to handle them, appreciating the quality and technical expertise in tanning skins to this level of finish.
Napalan Merinos have a fine leather surface, that is particularly suitable for reversible garments. The wool is ironed and equally luxurious and velvet-like as the pelt.
Merino Ironed Sheepskin
This skin is recognised as being the finest shearling in the marketplace, these exquisite skins have a plush velvet-like ironed wool and super silky suede, they are medium to lightweight, the perfect skin for the finest sheepskin garment.
Merino sheepskin has a way of "falling" when manufactured is stunning, second to none and the "handle" of these pelts has to be felt to be believed - it is buttery soft and supersensuous like silk.
Merino skins are available in Suede or Napalan finish, this skin is perfect for any occasion and can be worn all season long, in fact, it will become so special, it is doubtful you will want to disrobe come spring!!
Classic Sueded Sheepskins
Many people recognise Sueded Sheepskin with an ironed wool as what traditional sheepskin (or shearling) looks like, and understandably as it is by far one of the most popular sheepskin finishes.
The shearlings that we use at Owen Barry have all been hand-selected to ensure that the suede surface is always soft and sensual, with a slight velvet nap on the suede.
Each skin is painstakingly matched with its neighbours to ensure that the garment is completely constant in colour and texture all over, this is a very skilled process, with many years of training to perfect, if this matching process is not carried out to the highest standard, a sheepskin coat can end up looking like a multicoloured patchwork piece, unlike many companies OB also match all the wools as well ensuring that when you open the coat, inside there is a consistency with the wool colour & finish as well.
Ironed wool is just that, in the tanning process the wool has been ironed and polished to bring out the superb luxurious feel and finish that nature provided.
Luxe Sheepskins – long wool
Our Luxe Sheepskins are of Australian or New Zealand origin, the lush beauty of their habitat can be appreciated when handling these skins;
The long-polished wool, whilst very hardwearing has a luxury, softness and warmth that is second to none.
These skins are ideal for areas of heavier usage, they are robust and easily refreshed with a good shake, brush and airing on the washing line. They can easily be spot washed, and fully hand washed - please follow the instructions attached to the back of the rugs or check out our product care area of the website.
These Swedish sheepskins have been especially hand-selected for their characteristic round curly wool, their short nordic wool is reminiscent of a Gotland sheep profile and therefore very popular with on-trend designers and home-lovers who want to bring a Scandi flavour to both contemporary and classic lifestyles.
Very hardwearing, but tactile and flexible these skins are perfect for rugs, throws, bench & chair covers as well as a variety of soft furnishings.
Requiring virtually no care, Swedish sheepskins are hardy and robust, can easily be spot washed, plus a good shake and air on the washing line will refresh, they can be hand-washed, check out our product care guide or the product care label attached to the rug.
Tibetan or Mongolian Lambskins
The stunning skins originate from Tibet or Mongolia, where the harsh terrain of the mountains and steppe produce very specific sheep, these skins (like all OB skins) are 100% a by-product of the meat industry.
The voluminous super fine curly wool is natures way of trapping the warm air next to the skin, protecting the animal in the severest of weather conditions.
This unique wool cannot be found anywhere else in the world, the delicate fibres of the soft long wool make it the most delicate (by far) of all the skins we offer, therefore care should be taken to maintain its exquisite appearance.
Owen Barry does not offer Tibetan skins made up as large products as we believe they are too fragile for repeated hard use, they are, however, perfect for interior design accent pieces and chair backs etc.
Care has to be taken when cleaning these skins, they are very delicate, if the wool becomes matted, do NOT force a comb thru or you could rip the wool clean away from the skin, spot wash, like washing a baby's hair, very gently. HOT water is not a good idea (like with all wool products), but with Tibetans, it is very risky, - for more info check out our product care section.
Tigardos is luxurious Toscana lambskin in its more natural form, the stunning curls originally provided by Mother Nature give this skin it's soft texture and depth.
Very luxurious, Tigardos skins are Spanish in origin and are super supple and cosy to wear, the unstructured look of Tigardos makes it a very versatile skin to wear, it can be dressed up for impactful sophistication or paired with jeans and a chunky jumper for a casual boho look - the best of both worlds.
Toscana is nature at her most elegant, guaranteed 100% a by-product of the food industry.
Toscana lambskins are a tribute to both Mother Nature and the skill of the worlds leading tannery technicians.
With stunning ironed and polished wool, and super silky suede, these skins offer the ultimate in luxurious warmth and style.
Very often Toscana's have tipped wool which makes them look like the finest furs - but rest assured they are NOT fur, in fact, they are the opposite, Toscana is the only true environmental answer, - 100% by-product, & biodegradable, obviously better than real fur, but also far better for our oceans etc. than the chemicals used in producing faux fur.
Because of this, we like to use Toscana throughout our collection as both a statement full pelt and as a trimming skin, on our clothing and throughout our accessories range.
UK Domestic Sheepskins
Owen Barry has resourced these British skins, especially for our interiors and lifestyle collection, we believe they are absolutely stunning.
Our inherent knowledge acquired over 70 plus years of working with sheepskins has enabled the Owen Barry Team to develop and perfect this stunning British short wool shearling.
UK Domestic sheepskins are glorious on both sides of the skin, they can be reversed and used either wool or suede up, offering texture and individuality to different interiors, many other skins are just single face relying upon the wool alone, these have a soft silky suede as well.
These skins are very robust, as you would expect with hardy British sheep, you can easily spot wash, comb, shake well, or air on the line for a refresh, the Sueded side can easily be revitalised with a soft brush or scouring pad (dry). Check out our product care section for more information.
With Australian origins, this skin was originally developed back in the 1980s in Somerset by Fenlands an artisan tannery, just down the road from Owen Barry.
Yetti inherited its name from the Himalayan Snowman: but this Yetti skin is a far more robust version of the popular Tibetan/Mongolian Lamb (check out the description in this guide).
For everyday use Yetti is unbeatable, it has the stunning shaggy wool profile, which is very easily maintained, being hardwearing and a head-turning accompaniment in any household.
Yetti has a texture that improves with usage, but it can easily be spot washed, refresh with a good shake and hang on the washing line, combing won't "hurt" but it will open the natural curls and ringlets, these will reform over time, but you might have to suffer the fuzzy bad hair day for a while.
For more information on product care, check out the product care section of this website, and each rug comes with a product label on the back.
If you would like any swatches of any of the above skins to aid you in your selection please complete the form in the customisation area and we will be pleased to supply these free of charge
Or if you wish to discuss the sheepskins Owen Barry select in any further depth, please contact us here at the factory.
About the leathers that we use at Owen Barry
As with the OB sheepskins, all of the leathers that we use here at Owen Barry are 100% a by-product of the food industry, every animal has been farmed for its meat value and the pelt or hide is just a by-product, I know I keep saying this, but I am very much in awe of the leather technicians who work within our industry today.
Without these experts, the skins from the food industry would be pretty ugly and virtually all would go into landfill, but nowadays WITHOUT the use of any heavy or dirty chemicals our tannery specialists are able to turn an ugly waste product into something that is beautiful, comfortable, practical, biodegradable and much sought after; in the case of leather, it is used in everyday situations the world over, for example, remember natures thermostat is the reason you can sit on a leather aircraft seat and feel "comfortable" on a long haul flight, without our leather technicians this waste product would be just that "wasted".
For Owen Barry handbags, travel goods, small leather goods & accessories collection together with our lifestyle, cowhide and leather rug & beanbag collection - our main resource is virtually 100% cow skin, whether left with the hair on the hide or tanned with a suede or leather finish these cowskins are 100% a by-product from the meat industry.
The hides that we use are chosen especially with the end purpose of the product in mind, for example with OB handbags we want strong but supple, tactile, lightweight skins, whereas our purses are hand-cut from heavier more rigid leather and the rugs, aprons and beanbags - need to be pretty tough to withstand all what life is going to chuck at them!
As you look at each product on the website, check out the Materials section in the descriptions, this provides information on the leather that we are suggesting or have selected for each product.
Here is that information in full:
Bison Leather is actually Cowhide - NOT real Bison !!
We use "Bison" to describe the characteristics of the skin (a bit like "croc" leather is used as a way of describing the mock reptile pattern or grain on a skin).
Bison is a heavier skin with a slightly more pronounced grain than our classic leathers, we choose Bison leathers specifically in our small leather goods and purses because it is more substantial and offers the ideal structure and support needed with those designs. Whilst Bison is chunky it still has a lovely buttery handle and tactile finish that it isn't hard or stiff.
The Owen Barry Classic Leathers are one of the most popular leathers within our handbag collection.
Classic is semi-aniline cow leather that has been developed and hand-selected by OB, it's super tactile, rounded, lightweight and hardwearing (with normal usage) and performs exceptionally well within the soft unstructured styling of the Owen Barry Range.
Because it is semi-aniline leather, which is, by definition quite naked, you will see slight variations in the characteristics of the grain and subtle natural markings with our classic leathers, we feel this aspect enhances the beauty of our bags and enables the quality of the leather to really shine through.
Cowhide with the hair on
Owen Barry Cowhides are a signature part of all our collections, quite a few are limited editions developed exclusively for OB and will not be available anywhere else throughout the UK & Europe.
At this point, for the sake of clarity, we should emphasise that all our hair on products are Cowhide (not pony) and are 100% a by-product of the food industry.
Acido is a stunning finish applied to the cowhides, each hide is individual, the hair has been removed at random, making every skin totally individual, where the hair loss occurs a finish/colour has been applied, our most popular spotting/. finishes being, Silver, Gold & Rancho Brown.
Tricolour is a description that encompasses a variety of natural cowhides, Tricolour, technically means including 3 colours, usually, shades of Browns/Tans, Whites/Beiges & Blacks to differing degrees, these markings are all-natural and NO two pieces are the same. Owen Barry, select only the prettiest of cowhides, and our cutters hand select and cut them to ensure a good variety and attractive placement within every bag.
Printed Cowhides These are the most uniform of our cowhide, still, 100% a by-product of the food industry these skins have been selected for their uniformity (within reason, this is always a natural product) and then the screen printing finish applied - so, standard joke, there have been no Dalmatian puppies, Zebra's or Leopards etc. killed in the making of our bags, everything is just printed - very nicely printed, but nothing more than that.
Laser-cut Cowhides The laser cutting process has been applied to the cowhides, patterns and styles can range from geometrical, thru floral and include things like "croc" finishes, this laser cutting adds another layer of texture and variety to our cowhides.
Glace leather has been used in our handbag collections for many seasons, it is Italian leather, that has been selected because of its subtly of colour and popular smooth glossy finish.
Glace is very popular, but you must be aware that it is quite a fine leather, which means light colours especially can be prone to getting grubby and will mark over time. Also, the flat surface grain will soften or slightly distress with repeated usage, unless you are super protective of your bag, this is unavoidable; we don't mind this ageing and feel bags made from these skins become a bit like all of us, growing older and a little more broken in around the edges over time.
Heavy Metal Leather
Heavy Metal is our way of describing metallic leathers that go just that little bit further !!
Heavy Metals are traditional skins with an extra layer of design finish, so whether it is the fine metallic reptile graining on the Palladium & Titanium or the sumptuous metallic dust on Rock, Mermaid or Oyster, These finishes just take the metallic leather palette to another level.
Heavy metals are quite often, semi-limited editions and will only feature in a collection for a couple of seasons. Most often they are combined with another leather from within our collection, thereby perhaps lifting a popular bag shape to a whole other layer - stunning.
Metallic leather plays an important role in the Owen Barry collection.
Often OB metallic leather is a stunning foil used with Cowhides and Heavy Metal feature skins, but actually, it is stunningly beautiful in its own right.
Soft, tactile and not too shiny, all of our metallic leathers are hand selected, the skins are very natural and only finished with a metallic top dress to a certain level of protection ( otherwise they become very hard, boardy and plastic looking - not nice!!). So with reasonable wear and tear, they will be fine, but much like us all, too much robust treatment and they will start to show the effects of life, we love that - a bag is for using not for looking at - and especially a metallic bag, let it shine !.
Nubuk is a very specific kind of leather that some people "wrongly" confuse as suede.
Nubuk is actually a grain leather that has the surface buffed gently to remove the grain finish thereby exposing the softer skin from below the grain which has a soft velvet slightly sueded feel.
Usually, only the very finest leathers can be selected and used to create Nubuk as there is "no hiding place" for defect or markings, this also means that the skin itself is super tactile and has a glorious touch to hand.
Because the protective leather top surface has been removed from the skin, this means the skin performs much more like suede than leather, so you have to be a little bit careful with oil and grease, and over time the nap can flatten (like suede) so a regular buff with the foam side of a dry scouring pad, will have the effect of lightly buffing off dirt and revitalising the Nubuk finish.
Smooth Leather i.e. Lamb Nappa
Lamb Nappa is a super soft and tactile smooth leather, it is normally Italian in origin and primarily used for very fine products.
We have chosen this smooth lamb leather, especially for our facemasks, as it is super soft, very lightweight and tactile and as it sits next to the skin it moulds gently to the contours of the face.
This leather is not washable, it has to be wiped clean with a damp antiseptic cloth.
If you would like small cuttings of this leather - please contact us using the customisation form, or drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or even telephone ( in the old fashioned way ;o) 01458 442858.
Owen Barry only uses British or European Cow suedes throughout our production. This selection guarantees a quality of finish, strength and suppleness that is second to none.
By using the finest tanneries, our suedes are guaranteed a depth of colour that is strong and vibrant, however, this means we always suggest an amount of caution when wearing them the first few times; All suede has natural dust or nap, this can shed or bleed during the first few wearing's, therefore, we ask that you use our suede bags (in the first instance) with sympathetic or toning colours until the shedding diminishes.
The OB upholstery leather is far more tough and robust than our standard leathers.
Simply because of the stress and workload, it has to endure, we choose our upholstery leathers accordingly.
Compared to our Softee handbag leathers, the OB upholstery leather has far more surface finish and protection included in the tanning process, thereby ensuring that "life" doesn't scuff, snag or rip it. - this also means it feels tougher and less tactile than our handbag leathers, rest assured it will break down and soften up with wear, but initially, it will have a far more business-like feel,
Our upholstery leathers are easily wiped clean and come with all of the necessary fire retardancy requirements.
Vegetable Tannage (Veg Tan) Leathers
Veg Tan Leather or Bridle leather as it is sometimes called is a skin that OB uses mainly for features, straps and fastenings.
It is a much heavier substance skin, tanned in the original vat or pit methods using only vegetable-based processes.
Waxy Cow Leather
Our waxy cowhide leathers are always very popular, for the simple reason that they become more and more beautiful with age.
The OB waxy leathers are by their nature very naked and any protection applied to the skin is in the form of a waxy dubbing, this finish will undoubtedly allow the skin to improve with age, but as with everything it has to go thru an ageing process when you first receive a bag cut from waxy, it may "mark" quite easily, this is isn't permanent, but the heavy wax is being scratched "thru" very quickly this will level out and the skin break in and start absorbing the oils and influences from you and it's surroundings.
We love this - it shows true leather at its very best, but you have been warned once a bag cut from waxy has moulded itself to you, you may want every future leather bag to do the same - fact.
That's it - that is the bulk of what we use every day in the factory
There are a few other types of leather that we use but these are usually for very special design jobs or marketplaces, for example:
Sheep or Lamb Nappa - we are quite happy to use this skin (as again it is a by-product) but presently it is used in very fine tailored collections and trimmings, however, watch this space !!
Pig Suede - for very specific uses (mainly linings in structured designer bags) we will use pig suede if requested by the client, but presently, this is very limited use.
Skins that Owen Barry will not use:-
Goat or kid leather - Presently we do NOT use goatskins, although we concede goat is becoming more popular in the food chain, for OB these skins are not mainstream enough nor are they the quality or finish that we wish to use in our collections at the moment.
Exotic skins - such as Ostrich, Crocodile, Reptile, or Mink, Fox, Raccoon etc.
Owen Barry take a very strong stand on any exotic pelts & furs, we WILL NOT & DO NOT use these items within our production - we provenance all our skin resources very seriously, so OB would never consider utilising the skin from any creature that was killed solely for its pelt in any of our collections.
If you would like to see cuttings of any of the cowhides, suedes or leathers to help you make your choice please visit our customisation page and we will send these cuttings free of charge