NBAA 2013 visitors can choose among plenty of leather types and colors, with each supplier offering its own unique features, depending on what the customer can afford. Leather for an entire business jet cabin the size of a Falcon 2000 typically falls into the $40,000 to $60,000 range. Passionate experts in leather crafting at Edelman Leather (Booth No. N5711), Garrett Leather (N213), Green Hides Leather Studio (C10135) and Townsend Leather (N5124) also gave AIN some tricks for proper leather care.
All the suppliers agree the best cattle for leather is bred in countries like Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. “Breeders there use no barb wire and no branding,” explained Echo Mackenzie, Edelman’s marketing vice president. Green Hides vice president Keith Hill added that European cows and bulls tend to be larger, yielding greater-area hides, about 60 sq ft on average. “Animals there graze on open land as opposed to feed lots; this helps ensure the overall quality of the raw material,” said Garrett director for aviation sales Jennifer Coleman. Less insect activity under the Western European climate means hides have fewer bite scars, according to Sarah Eckler, Townsend’s, vice president of sales and marketing.
“We buy the top two percent of European quality,” Mackenzie told AIN. Edelman offers more than 800 colors and 80 different types. “The level of quality as a whole is the best, but it’s what you do with it, how you finish it or emboss, that changes it,” she explained.
Edelman’s “best of collection” is Royal Hide, a full grain leather that shows “natural characteristics,” Mackenzie said, meaning that some “beauty marks” are visible. A recently developed “super finish,” dubbed Edge, offers better resistance to stains and spills. “Stains such as coffee, wine, ketchup and some inks are not a problem,” according to Edelman. Edge makes leather more durable, without losing the magical soft hand feel of the leather, the company says.
Edelman is using the NBAA stage to introduce the new Royal Aviation line, an innovation not unlike its popular Royal Hide, but with fewer of the slight imperfections that give Royal Hide a certain character. Royal Aviation does, however, include the Edge super finish.
According to Edelman aviation and marine division manager Kay Jeronowitz, many business and private jet owners demand the same perfection in the leather seat upholstery and sidewall coverings they expect in every other element of a $63 million airplane. “And that expectation does not include even such small inconsistencies as ‘fat wrinkles.’”
To avoid the contrived “perfection” of vinyl or faux leather, Edelman’s craftsmen emboss the Royal Aviation hides with a fine-grain print, which further evens out inconsistencies. And while offering the same soft hand feel, the upholstery yield is greater than that of Royal Hide.
Royal Aviation is stocked in 12 flame-treated standard colors for yacht and aircraft owners. While the in-stock inventory ensures short lead times, said Jeronowitz, the company also offers Royal Aviation in custom coloring of the client’s choice.
Green Hides is showing a new leather product with a lower price than its Aeronautica aviation full grain leather. Aeronautica uses a special vacuum drying process, which gives the leather a silky touch plus extra firmness. The passenger and the tailor in the completion center, respectively, will enjoy these benefits, Hill said. Moreover, a finish specially formulated for an aircraft environment gives better resistance to abrasion.
Garrett Leather is displaying 16 new colors (on top of the existing 500 plus) for its Avion and Caressa lines, six and 10 additional colors, respectively. Another new product is the Caiman line, with a rugged alligator aspect. Garrett offers 25 different types of leather with various prices, finishes and patterns, Coleman said. She emphasized that Garrett specializes in stocking for swift delivery, usually within 48 hours. “We also provide custom coloring, with slightly longer lead times,” she added.
Townsend is showcasing a handful of entire hides, with different textures and embossments. For aviation, Eckler suggested the company’s Excel Cowhide. “A pebbled grain, embossed leather, it will mask a lot of imperfections and the grain will look uniform,” she said. It is also lower in price.
What is the best way to take care of leather seats, curtains, etc.? Garrett recommends not to over-clean the leather; deep cleaning may not be needed after every trip. A clean damp cloth, followed by a clean dry cloth, may be used daily. A cleaning product, applied from time to time, should be carefully chosen. “You should use the vendor-supplied cleaner; as every finish is different, another vendor’s product may degrade your finish,” Garrett’s Coleman said.
Conditioners, which replenish the leather with oil, may be used quarterly, Green Hides’s Hill suggested. This helps repel spills such as wine.
Townsend is exhibiting here along with sister company The Leather Institute. “They offer on-site repairs and repair training programs,” Eckler said. The Leather Institute’s experts can remove a stain and fill holes and scars, she said, as they are “magicians.” Not all miracles are possible with leather, however, and some stains are less forgiving than others. Mustard and pen rank worst.
Asked about durability, Edelman’s Mackenzie said, “Good leather wears in, not out.” One of Edelman’s mantras is that quality leather develops a rich patina over the years. Some leather suppliers claim their leather can last a lifetime. Customers generally don’t replace leather because of wear but because they want new colors.