Suede Or Leather? What Sets Them Apart?

Suede Or Leather? What Sets Them Apart?

June 20, 2024

Suede Or Leather? What Sets Them Apart?

When it comes to craftsmanship, suede and leather are two exquisite materials that have captured the hearts of fashion connoisseurs and designers alike. Both originate from the refined art of tanning animal hides, a process that requires meticulous skill and precision. Yet, they possess distinct characteristics that set them apart. 
Suede, with its velvety texture and matte appearance, exudes a luxurious allure, while leather's smooth sheen and durability make it a timeless choice.

This article delves into the nuances that distinguish suede from leather, exploring their unique properties, applications, and maintenance requirements. We'll unravel the mysteries surrounding the creation of these remarkable materials, shedding light on the processes involved. 

From understanding how to clean suede and properly care for it, to appreciating the versatility of leather across various industries, this comprehensive guide will equip you with invaluable insights into the world of suede and leather. 

We will also provide detailed information on the maintenance requirements of leather and suede, including cleaning methods and tips for preserving their quality over time.

What is Suede?

Suede is a luxurious and highly coveted form of leather that has captivated artisans and fashion enthusiasts alike. As craftspeople devoted to authentic craftsmanship, we appreciate the intricate process that transforms the underside of animal hides into this velvety and alluring material.

Unlike traditional leather, which is derived from the outer layer of the hide, suede is crafted from the inner, fuzzy side. This unique characteristic lends suede its signature soft and plush texture, making it a true delight to the touch. 

While suede may lack the rugged durability of its leather counterpart, it more than makes up for it with its unparalleled softness and warmth. Suede also has a unique ability to absorb liquids, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage depending on the application.

Types of Suede

Suede, like leather, encompasses a diverse range of varieties, each with its unique characteristics and applications. Allow me to guide you through the primary types:

Genuine Suede: Derived from the underside of animal hides, genuine suede is the epitome of luxury and authenticity. This variety is prized for its unparalleled softness, breathability, and natural beauty. Genuine suede is often sourced from lamb, calf, goat, or deer skins, each imparting its distinct character to the final product.

Faux Suede: In response to the growing demand for alternatives, textile manufacturers have developed faux suede, a synthetic replica of the genuine article. Faux suede is typically crafted from a cotton or microfiber base, with a woven synthetic yarn designed to mimic the plush texture of genuine suede. While it may not possess the same level of luxury as its natural counterpart, faux suede offers a more affordable option.

Sueded Silk: A unique and exquisite variation, sueded silk is created by subjecting silk fabric to a chemical process that roughens its surface, imparting a texture akin to suede. This fusion of two luxurious materials results in a fabric that combines the softness of suede with the elegance and lustre of silk, creating a truly exceptional textile.

Sueded Cotton: Similar to sueded silk, sueded cotton undergoes a chemical treatment that alters the surface of the cotton fibres, giving them a suede-like texture. This variety offers a more affordable alternative to genuine suede while retaining the softness and warmth that suede is renowned for.


Applications of Suede

The versatility of suede extends far beyond the realms of fashion, with its applications spanning various industries and products. In the world of fashion, suede has long been a beloved material for creating exquisite garments, accessories, and footwear.
Suede jackets, trousers, and skirts exude a sense of sophistication and warmth, making them perfect for cooler climates. Suede shoes, handbags, and belts add a touch of luxury to any ensemble, elevating it to new heights of elegance.

Beyond fashion, suede finds its way into our homes through upholstery, cushions, and decorative accents. Faux suede, in particular, has become a popular choice for upholstering furniture, as it offers a soft and inviting texture while being more durable and stain-resistant than genuine suede.

Scatter cushions, throws, and wall hangings crafted from suede or faux suede lend a cosy and inviting ambience to any living space, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere that embraces the art of authentic craftsmanship.

Key Differences Between Suede and Leather

As artisans we understand that suede and leather, though originating from the same source, possess distinct characteristics that set them apart. Let us delve into the key differences between these two exquisite materials:

Texture and Feel

One of the most striking contrasts between suede and leather lies in their tactile experiences. Suede, crafted from the underside of the hide, boasts an incredibly soft and velvety texture that is an absolute delight to the touch. Its plush, almost fuzzy surface invites caresses and exudes a warmth that is unparalleled. In contrast, leather, derived from the outer layer of the hide, exhibits a smooth and sleek surface. While its texture may vary depending on the type of leather, it generally offers a more rigid and structured feel compared to the supple embrace of suede.


When it comes to durability, leather undoubtedly holds the upper hand. The outer layer of the hide, from which leather is crafted, is naturally more resilient and resistant to wear and tear. Full-grain and top-grain leathers, in particular, are renowned for their exceptional longevity, withstanding the test of time with grace and elegance. 

Suede, on the other hand, is more delicate and susceptible to scuffs, stains, and abrasions due to its soft and porous nature. While proper care and maintenance can extend the lifespan of suede, it may not match the ruggedness of its leather counterpart.

Water Resistance

Another notable difference between suede and leather lies in their ability to withstand moisture. Leather, especially full-grain and top-grain varieties, is inherently water-resistant due to its tightly woven fibres and the natural oils present in the hide. Whilst it is never recommended to expose leather to wet conditions as this will ultimately dehydrate the leather, leather is much more resilient than suede on occasions where it may be exposed to wet conditions, such as shoes, jackets, and bags. 

Suede, however, is highly susceptible to water damage, as its porous surface readily absorbs moisture, leading to staining, discolouration, and potential mould growth. Extreme caution must be exercised when wearing or using suede products in damp or rainy environments.


The cost of suede and leather can vary significantly, with several factors influencing their pricing. Generally, genuine suede tends to be more affordable than high-quality leathers, particularly full-grain and top-grain varieties. 

This is due to the intricate processes involved in producing premium leathers, as well as the scarcity of hides suitable for such applications. However, it's important to note that the cost can also be influenced by the type of animal hide used, the tanning methods employed, and the overall quality of the material.

What is Leather?

Leather is a remarkably versatile and durable material that has been cherished for centuries. As artisans of authentic craftsmanship, we hold a deep reverence for the rich history and intricate processes involved in transforming animal hides into this luxurious fabric.

The origins of leather can be traced back to prehistoric times when our ancestors first discovered the protective and insulating properties of animal skins. Over the millennia, civilisations across the globe have honed the art of leather-making, elevating it from a mere necessity to a symbol of affluence and sophistication. Similarly, suede has a rich history, with its use dating back to ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians and the Native Americans.

Types of Leather

Leather encompasses a diverse range of varieties, each with its unique characteristics and applications. Allow us to guide you through the five primary types:

Full-Grain Leather: This is the crème de la crème of leathers. It is the outermost layer of the hide, left entirely intact - which also makes it strong, with all its natural markings and textures preserved. Full-grain leather is renowned for its durability, water resistance (depending on tannage and finishing), and ability to develop a beautiful patina over time, making each piece unique.

Top-Grain Leather: Slightly beneath the surface of full-grain leather lies top-grain leather. While the outermost layer is removed, this variety still retains much of its natural character. Top-grain leather is sanded and buffed to create a uniform appearance, then treated with finishes and dyes to enhance its aesthetic appeal and longevity.

Genuine Leather: Often referred to as "corrected" or "split" leather, genuine leather is derived from the innermost layers of the hide. It undergoes extensive processing, including sanding, embossing, and dyeing, to achieve a consistent look and feel. While more affordable, genuine leather lacks the robustness of its full-grain and top-grain counterparts.

Bonded Leather: Often misunderstood, bonded leather is not true leather. It is crafted from leather scraps and fibres bound together with adhesives, creating a cost-effective alternative to genuine leather. Although durable for some applications it is only as strong as the adhesive holding it together, it lacks the breathability and longevity of higher-quality leather and is prone to cracking and peeling over time.

Faux Leather: For those seeking a cruelty-free option, faux leather offers a synthetic alternative to genuine leather. Composed of materials like polyurethane and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), faux leather can mimic the look and feel of real leather while arguably these alternatives appear to be more environmentally friendly and are certainly more cost-effective, it is important to bear in mind that most leather alternatives are composed of synthetic compounds which may require the use of nasty chemicals for their creation, tend to be less durable and ultimately will not decompose, unlike a full grain vegetable tanned leather which will both be durable and decompose at the end of its life.

Applications of Leather

The versatility of leather is truly amazing, with its applications spanning a vast array of industries and products. From fashion to furniture, sports to accessories, leather has proven itself an enduring and indispensable material, constantly surprising us with its adaptability and durability.

In the realm of fashion, leather has long been a staple, gracing everything from jackets and pants to shoes and handbags. Its rugged yet stylish appeal has made it a favourite among trendsetters and rebels alike, embodying a sense of cool and edginess.

Leather is also crucial in sports, where its flexibility and durability are prized. From baseball gloves and footballs to motorcycle racing suits and Formula 1 driving gloves, leather provides the perfect balance of protection and performance.

Beyond fashion and sports, leather finds its way into our everyday lives through furniture, luggage, and accessories. Leather couches and chairs exude timeless elegance, while leather suitcases and bags offer style and durability for the modern traveller. Even the smallest details, like watch straps and belts, benefit from the luxurious touch of leather.

Leather and suede have not only been integral to the fashion industry but have also played significant roles in various cultures, symbolising wealth, status, and craftsmanship.

Advantages of Leather

As artisans devoted to authentic craftsmanship, we recognise the myriad advantages that leather offers, making it a timeless and coveted material. Firstly, leather boasts unparalleled durability and longevity and is renowned for its strength and resistance to wear and tear. Leather products, be they bags, shoes, jackets, or furniture, are designed to withstand the test of time, ensuring their beauty endures for years, even decades, with proper care and maintenance.

Moreover, leather exudes a luxurious and high-quality appearance that is simply unmatched. Its unique texture, grain, and colour lend an unmistakable look and feel that synthetic materials struggle to replicate. The natural character of leather imbues each piece with a distinct charm, elevating it to a true work of art.

Leather's resilience extends beyond mere aesthetics; it is a material that can withstand harsh environments and heavy use, making it an ideal choice for products subjected to daily wear and tear. Its resistance to wear and tear is a testament to the durability of this natural material.

Another notable advantage of leather is its breathable and flexible nature. Leather adapts to the body's temperature, ensuring comfort even during extended wear. Its flexibility allows it to conform to the body's shape, providing a tailored and comfortable fit that only improves with time.

Furthermore, leather's versatility is unparalleled, finding applications across diverse industries, from fashion and automotive to furniture and beyond. This versatility underscores leather's value as a commodity, making it a sought-after material for artisans and designers alike.

Lastly, leather is a biodegradable and recyclable material, offering an environmentally friendly alternative to synthetic options that can take centuries to decompose. Its natural origins and ability to break down over time make leather a responsible choice for those seeking sustainable and eco-conscious products.

Advantages of Suede

Suede, a luxurious and coveted form of leather, offers a distinct set of advantages that have captivated artisans and fashion enthusiasts alike. Firstly, suede is renowned for its soft and supple texture, providing an unparalleled level of comfort and pleasure to the touch. Its velvety surface exudes a warmth and elegance that is truly unmatched.

Moreover, suede's unique matte sheen and textured appearance lend it a sophisticated and innovative aesthetic. Its one-of-a-kind look adds a touch of beauty and refinement to any ensemble or product, making it a favourite among those who appreciate the finer things in life.

Suede's breathability is another notable advantage, ensuring comfort in various climates. Its ability to regulate temperature and allow air circulation makes it a versatile material suitable for a wide range of applications, from clothing to upholstery.

Furthermore, suede's versatility extends beyond its comfort and aesthetics. Its ease of handling and the availability of a wide range of colours make it a practical choice for diverse applications, allowing artisans and designers to unleash their creativity without compromise.

Disadvantages of Suede

While suede's advantages are undeniable, it is crucial to acknowledge its potential drawbacks. One of the primary concerns with suede is its durability, as it is generally less resilient than full-grain leather. Frequent use and exposure to wear and tear can take a toll on suede, making it more susceptible to damage over time.

Another challenge with suede is its susceptibility to water damage, fading, and staining. Unlike leather, which can be treated for water resistance, suede's porous nature makes it more vulnerable to moisture and spills, necessitating extra care and caution.
Cleaning suede also requires specialised techniques and tools, such as suede brushes, to effectively remove stains and grime without damaging the fabric. Adhering to the manufacturer's recommended cleaning procedures is crucial to maintain the quality and appearance of suede products.

Furthermore, suede's lack of natural water resistance poses a significant limitation. While preventative treatments can enhance its water resistance, they are not foolproof, and suede items should be handled with extra care to avoid excessive moisture exposure.

Lastly, the cost of suede, particularly natural suede, can be a deterrent for some consumers. While imitation suede offers a more affordable alternative, it may not possess the same level of luxury and authenticity as its natural counterpart.

In summary, both leather and suede possess unique advantages and disadvantages that must be carefully considered when selecting the appropriate material for a particular application. As artisans of authentic craftsmanship, we strive to provide our clients with an in-depth understanding of these materials, empowering them to make informed decisions that align with their needs, preferences, and values.

In this comprehensive exploration of suede and leather, we have delved into the nuances that distinguish these exquisite materials, unveiling their unique characteristics, applications, and artistry behind their creation. From the velvety allure of suede to the rugged durability of leather, each material holds a special place in the realm of authentic craftsmanship. 

While suede and leather may share a common origin, their distinct qualities offer a diverse range of possibilities for fashion, home décor, and beyond. By understanding their strengths and limitations, we can make informed choices that align with our personal preferences and values, ensuring that each piece we acquire resonates with our individual sense of style and purpose. Ultimately, the decision between suede and leather lies in our ability to appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship that these remarkable materials embody.

FAQs about Suede and Leather

1. What are the main differences between suede and leather?

Suede is crafted from the inner side of the hide, known for its textured surface and matte appearance, whereas leather is made from the outer side, featuring a smooth texture and a sheen finish. Leather is generally more durable against external damage compared to suede.

2. Which is more durable, suede or leather?

Leather tends to last longer than suede due to its position on the outer-facing side of the hide, making it inherently more durable and resistant to wear.

3. Is leather more resilient than suede?

Yes, leather is typically more resilient than suede. Suede, which is less durable, can be prone to quicker wear and tear, but proper care and maintenance can significantly extend its life.

4. Do leather and suede differ in their tendency to crease?

Leather is more prone to creasing, which can enhance its casual, worn look. On the other hand, suede is much less likely to show creasing, maintaining a smoother appearance over time.

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