Many products, especially designer goods like shoes, handbags, belts, and wallets, boast that they are made of Italian Leather. But what does “Italian Leather” mean? It sounds good, but does that automatically mean that the leather is high quality?

The Real (And Obvious) Answer to “What is Italian Leather?”

Amazingly enough, the only thing you know about a product labeled “Italian Leather” is that the leather comes from Italy. Now you may be thinking “No duh”, but that really is the only meaning of the term. As we’ve mentioned before, there are only a few protected terms in the leather industry, and Italian Leather is by no means a guarantee of quality. It just tells you where the leather is from.

So Why Does It Seem So Fancy?

Italian leather is associated with high quality because back in the day, Italy was home to many prestigious leather tanneries. Over time, these tanneries created a reputation for producing very high quality (mostly vegetable-tanned) leather. So the statement “Italian leather” showed that the leather used came from these prestigious tanneries. To this day, many people associate the term with the highest quality of leather.

What Changed?

The same thing that always changes. People started gaming the system. As marketers realized that people would pay extra for Italian leather, they started finding ways to get that extra cash without having to pay for premium materials. Cheaper tanneries set up shop in Italy and started producing cheaper leathers. And since the phrase “Italian leather” doesn’t say anything about quality, it can mean any type of leather from Italy. You could even get away with calling bicast leather “Italian leather” as long as it was made in Italy.