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Understanding Full-Grain Leather

Understanding Full-Grain Leather

Natural material spotlight

Leather has always been the backbone of Mismo designs, from the first full-grain leather briefcase and laptop cover introduced in 2006, to the recent success of our fabric styles, with bridle leather supporting most of the designs. Leather is a natural material and we believe in using it as such. We enjoy watching our leather develop a rich and unique patina over time. 

Full-Grain is the best quality leather available, maintaining the full texture of the original cowhide. For this reason, we use only full-grain leather in our designs. We craft our products from two different kinds of premium full-grain leather. A thinner version (1.8-2.2mm) is used for our full leather styles and wallets, and is simply referred to as 'full-grain leather'. The second type is also a full-grain, but is much thicker (more than 3mm). This is our bridle leather, which is used as trim and handles for our fabric styles.

Full-grain leather is sourced from the outermost section of the hide and is the most sought-after leather for its durability and character. Only about 10 percent of all upholstery leathers produced worldwide can be graded as full-grain leather. The raw skins feature an intact natural surface grain but without too many markings or imperfections. Only the very best hides make the cut.


Mismo navy nylon briefcase with vegetable-tanned bridle leather and Mismo full-grain leather briefcase in black


Only full-grain leather is suitable for aniline dying, a process that relies exclusively on soluble vegetable dyes (also referred to as vegetable tanned/dyed) without covering the surface with a topcoat. The result is a rich, luxurious finish that retains the hide’s natural surface grain and achieves a lustrous, individual patina that is enhanced with the passing of time. Full-grain leather has a character of all its own, often displaying natural markings that lend beauty and refinement to the material. Being a natural product, full-grain leather can also vary in hue and structure from product to product and from collection to collection. We view these small variations as unique characteristics and not as flaws – and we encourage our customers to do the same. With proper care and maintenance, a Mismo bag will provide years of vibrant and durable performance. The best way to care for the Full-Grain leather and your Mismo product is to use it, but always to do so with care.


Mismo navy nylon briefcase with vegetable-tanned bridle leather



Full-grain leather is a sturdy and hard-wearing natural material that can last for many years, but it does have its limits, so avoid extreme temperatures, rough handling and direct contact with wet surfaces. We recommend treating full-grain leather with leather conditioner at least once a year. Leather conditioner provides moisture to keep the leather supple and ensure that it does not dry out, fade or crack. Treatment with leather conditioner will also impart a richer lustre and deeper colour to the full-grain leather while keeping it free of impurities. 


Chart comparing vegetable tanning to chrome tanning of leather



Mismo bridle leather drying in the sun

Mismo bridle leather drying in the sun


Bridle Leather

Bridle leather refers to the way that a piece of leather (cowhide) is treated with wax both on the flesh and grain sides of the leather. This is generally a labour-intensive process, and is therefore costly. With a thickness of approx. 3mm, only the best grades of leather from older cattle can be used, a certain age is required for the hide to attain the thickness and sturdiness necessary to become bridle leather.

Bridle leather must have good depth of colour, must age well and must not have natural imperfections that weaken the leather. Bridle leather is expected to be smooth, comfortable and flexible for handling. Originally designed for use in bridles, the leather must be comfortable for a horse to wear next to the skin. This is why the wax treatment of the flesh side is equally important because this is the side typically in contact with a horse’s skin. Finally, bridle leather must be both strong and durable. A rider’s life literally depends on the leather not failing unexpectedly. An item of saddlery is typically expected to last for 10 or more years of use, so not only must the leather be strong, it must also be able to survive bad weather, dirt and wear and tear.

The bridle leather used in Mismo bags is custom-developed in Turkey, and the best leather available for our purposes. To finish off the process, once the skin has been tanned a colour finish is applied to our exact specifications in order to give a smoother, deeper and more refined look. We work with three main bridle leather colours: Black, Dark Brown & Cuoio (Tabac). This involves adding oils and coloured polishes to coat the top layers of the skins. Each skin is therefore slightly different, as always with hand-finished leathers, which is why you may find slight variations in shade from one product to the next. Over time, the bridle leather will acquire a unique patina as it absorbs natural oils and is polished by repeated handling.



Mismo vegetable-tanned bridle leather in black, tabac and dark brown.


Once a Mismo bag leaves us, we know that it will mature well for our customers and become a trusted companion, developing character and tactility as it ages. In tandem with our premium fabrics, we strive to create products that are not only aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but which also offer second-to-none quality defined by the choice of materials. We use bridle leather as a supporting framework for most of our fabric styles. It provides strength and support where necessary (especially in the base) and lends a unique natural character to our bags. We use our bridle leather unsparingly, applying it where it makes sense – such as with our shoulder straps, as we know this will enhance both the longevity and beauty of the bag.


close-up of Mismo bag showcasing 3mm thick vegetable-tanned bridle leather


The best way to clean Bridle Leather is to wipe it gently with a soft damp cloth, then allow it to dry naturally. Applying a little leather balm or neutral wax polish once in a while will help protect and nourish the leather so that your product will last for many years. To care for your bridle leather, avoid extreme temperatures, rough handling and direct contact with wet and moist surfaces. If it does get wet, leave it out to dry naturally and away from direct heat sources. Once dry, check for any watermarks and apply a little polish or leather balm if necessary. Over time, rubbing and friction can cause slight de-pigmentation as the top layers of waxes and coloured finishes rub off. This is unfortunately inevitable with constant use. However, the leather will also darken slightly and acquire a unique patina through use, which should give your leather goods even more character.

close-up of Mismo full-grain leather bag