What is Saffiano Leather and Is It Vegan?

If you are into designer purses, there’s a great chance you’ve heard of Saffiano Leather. Ever since Mario Prada first used it in the early 1900, for his famous Saffiano bag, the material has continously gained popularity. Kate Spade, Michael Kors and Longchamps are only some of the brands, that use Saffiano Leather. While the material is unquestionably popular, there is quite a bit of confusion and many conscious shoppers are left wondering: “What is Saffiono Leather? And is Saffiano Leather Vegan?” Today we set out to answer this questions once and for all!

The History of Saffiano Leather

Saffiano Leather was invented by Mario Prada. The design house itself was founded in 1913 and located in the renowned Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II arcade in the heart of Milan. From the get-go Prada only sold the finest and most sophisticated luxury travel articles and accessories. It wasn’t long until the European upper class discovered Prada and in 1919 the design house was appointed Official Supplier to the Italian Royal Household. The original Prada shop in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II still exists today and has kept much of its original early 1900s charme.

Saffiano Leather was first produced in one of Prada’s famous tanneries in Italy. It was patented and first used to make the Saffiano handbag (Prada’s first bag!) in 1913. Saffiano style bags by Prada are still popular today and adored for their beautiful strong leather, easy maintenance and durability.

What is Saffiano Leather? (Definition)

As mentioned, Saffiano leather was first made by Prada in Italy. Saffiano stands out because of its cross-hatched structure, which forms the diagonal print. It was originally made from calf leather. Today the Saffiano methodology is used on many types of leather and vegan PU materials alike. What started in one of Italy’s most famous tanneries as Prada’s signature has now made it to many factories all around the globe. If a material has the typical cross-hatch pattern, the end product is often referred to as Saffiano, no matter how or where it has been produced. It is really about the look and not so much the original method or materials anymore. This is why a bag, that is marked “Saffiano” could in theory be vegan, which makes it a little more difficult to answer the question: “Is Saffiano leather vegan or not?”

While most leather used for handbags is dyed (vegetable-tanned leather or chrome tannes leather, Saffiano leather isn’t. It is “coated over” in whatever color the designer desires and cross-hatch-ed. Essentially you only get to see the original color of the material, if the top layer gets a scratch or wears off over time.

Many say that the Saffiano treatment of leather creates a sturdy, synthetic looking finish similar to PU or PVC, which adds to the confusion whether or not a bag is vegan or not.

How is Saffiano Leather Made?

Saffiano Leather is Made Using a “stamping method”. As discussed, it is a textured leather, which means a machine is used to press the signature cross-hatch texture onto it. If calf hide or another animal leather is used, a wax finish is usually applied.

3-Step Production Process:

  1. Material is put into a machine, that’s heated to 165°F (70°C)
  2. Material is pressed for 10 to 15 seconds
  3. (Wax) Finish is applied

The advantage of Saffiano is that it is quite scratch resistant, durable, water-repellent and easy to clean. Some don’t like the synthetic feel of the finished material and say the coating masks leather’s identifying properties, which is true. They argue, that patent leather or synthetic material might as well be used instead of Saffiano leather, since even real leather will end up looking and feeling a little bit like vinyl or plastic.

Nevertheless Saffiano is very popular among high-end fashion houses. Exclusively used by Prada for many years, it has recently been adopted by other designers such as Kate Spade, Michael Kors, DKNY, Longchamps, Tory Burch or Coach to name just a few.

Is Saffiano Leather Vegan?

The classic Saffiano leather as used by Prada in the early 1900s is not vegan. These days, however, the term Saffiano is used to describe the typical cross-hatched pattern and designers choose to apply a Saffiano finish to a range of different materials. Some of those materials are vegan, others are not. It is difficult to judge, whether or not a Saffiano bag is vegan or not just from looking at it, as the finnish gives even an animal-based leather a synthetic look and feel. The only way to know for sure, whether or not your Saffiano looking bag is vegan is to carefully read the label, when making the purchase.

Vegan Prada Saffiano Leather Bag Alternatives

If you are still confused about Saffiano leather and want to make sure your next designer bag is vegan, we recommend you had on over to our article introducing some of our favorite vegan luxury bag designers.

If you are looking for a vegan bag, similar to the original Prada Saffiano, we think you might like LaBante London’s Collection.

How to Clean Saffiano Leather

Because of it’s synthetic finish, it is quite easy to care for a Saffiano leather type of bag. The material is durable, water-repellent (not water-proof) and quite sturdy, which keeps your bag in shape. Below are some of our top cleaning tips for Saffiano bags.

  • It is usually enough to just wipe off your Saffiano leather bag with a cloth and some water
  • Use a leather care and protect product and a sponge, which will help with the textured surface of Saffiano leather. Generally speaking you can apply a spray or lotion meant for leather to a faux-leather bag as well.
  • If your bag stains or scratches, get a professional to have a look. Don’t DIY!

Below are some helpful videos to help you take good care of your Saffiano leather bag.

Hi! I'm Kathrin and I want to introduce you to the world of vegan designer bags! I write about trends, bags and designers, that use cruelty-free materials.

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