Skins/Hide Manufacture

A hide is animal skin that has been treated so that it doesn’t decompose and can be used by humans. These animal skins are flexible and make pieces of material. The material can be sewn and made into garments, much like any other fabric. These pieces of fabric are either leather or fur depending what animal the hide if from.

Leather fabrics come from Cattle, Alligators, Snakes and Pigs. Fur fabrics come from Bear, Lynx, Sable and Mink, along with many others. In the case of both different types of material, the animal skin is stretched, dried and tanned. These can then be treated with many different finishes to enhance the properties of the end material.

It is thought that leather and fur fabrics have been used as a form of clothing since prehistoric times. They were also used by Native Americans and Inuit people, before the introduction of synthetic fabrics. All of these fabrics were very popular and had really good insulating properties, which other natural fibres could compare to.

Most leather and fur fabrics today are by products of the food industry, therefore reducing waste and meaning that less animals are hunted purely for their fur. Fur farms are still around today, rather than capturing the animals in the wild.

There is a lot of stigma and moral ethics attached to wearing and using fur. Many companies campaign against the use of Fur from a Fashion perspective PETA regularly tries to persuade people to use synthetic alternatives and CITES regulates and restricts the hunting of animals making sure they are not over hunted or treated badly. Because of the introduction of synthetic fabrics with similar properties, the demand for Skins and hides has decreased rapidly, many people referring to use faux fur and imitation leather now that they have the option.

Properties of Skin/Hide

  • Comfortable
  • Warm to wear
  • Heavy
  • Durable
  • Many are waterproof depending on the animal they come from
  • Usually biodegradable unlike synthetic fabrics
  • Available in many colours/patterns/weights depending again on the animal
  • Soft
  • Flexible
  • Versatile
  • Breathable

Uses of Skins/Hide in Fashion Past and Present

  • Nowadays only really used for Coats, stoles and bags mainly
  • Used by Native tribes as whole garments
  • Used by Nobility as a sign of power, status and wealth
  • Frequently used on the catwalk
  • Many designers such as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Stella McCartney refuse to use any animal products in their work
  • Leathers are used in protective clothing such as Motorcycle clothing

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Written by Kelly Mitchell

Kelly Mitchell, extremely competent and reliable, she is currently in her third year at the University of Lincoln UK, studying Fashion. Kelly is responsible for the Fabrics, Fibers and Leathers sections of our Dictionary

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