Our Materials – Leathers

About the leather that we use at Owen Barry

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 hide is just the by-product.

We are 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 useless and virtually all would go into landfill. Without the use of any heavy or dirty chemicals our tannery specialists are able to turn a waste product into something that is beautiful, useful, practical, biodegradable and much sought after.

In the case of leather, it is used in everyday situations the world over. Remember that nature’s 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 by-product would just be thrown away.

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 throw 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: 

Classic Leathers

The Owen Barry Classic Leathers are one of the most popular leathers within our 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 quite naked, you will see slight variations in the characteristics of the grain and subtle natural markings. We feel this aspect enhances the beauty of our bags and enables the quality of the leather to really shine through. 

Cowhide leather with the hair on 

Owen Barry Cowhides are a signature part of all our collections and quite a few are limited editions developed exclusively for OB.

We would like to emphasise that all our hair on products are cow hides (not pony) and are 100% a by-product of the food industry.

These skins have been tanned with the hair still left upon the hide.

We work with our tanneries to introduce new colours and finishes every season, these can include screen printing, acido foils, and laser cutting into the hair. OB cowhides always introduce the wow factor to our range.

Bison Leather

Bison leather is actually cowhide – NOT real Bison !!

We use the name “Bison” to describe the characteristics of the 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.


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.

Upholstery Leathers

The OB upholstery leather is far more tough and robust than our standard leathers.

Simply because of the stress and workload, that 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 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/ Equestrian 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 allow the skin to age beautifully but it has to
go through an ageing process. When you first receive a bag cut from waxy cowhide leather, it may “mark” quite easily. This is isn’t permanent. It will level out and allow the skin to break in and start absorbing the oils and influences from you and its surroundings.

We love this – it shows true leather at its very best but once a bag cut from waxy has moulded itself to you, you may want every future leather bag to do the same!

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 only used in very fine tailored collections or trimmings.

Pig Suede – for very specific uses (mainly linings in structured designer bags) we will use pig suede, if requested by the client. Presently this has very limited use in our mainstream collections.

Skins that Owen Barry do 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 generally of a high enough quality for our production.

Exotic skins – such as Ostrich, Crocodile, Reptile, or Mink, Fox, Raccoon etc.

Owen Barry takes 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.

OB would never consider utilising the skin from any creature that was killed solely for its pelt in any of our collections.

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