Fake and Real Leather: Can You Tell the Difference?


Genuine and artificial leather

Do you know how to distinguish genuine leather? Japanese import tariff on leather and leather goods is very high in order to protect domestic industry. When I worked as a customs inspector, it was important and also difficult to distinguish genuine and artificial leather declared to customs. Some of you may say “I can tell by the smell,” but that’s not correct. The smell generally believed as leather smell comes mainly from oil used at the final process. Some genuine leather doesn’t have the smell.

How to distinguish real leather

The quick trick customs inspectors use is to put a nail mark on leather (behind declarer’s back, of course). When it’s genuine leather, it remains longer (sometimes forever—I’m sorry, importers). Unfortunately, this trick is not always effective. Correct leather thickly polyurethane-painted and furthermore embossed shows almost the same reaction as artificial leather. The introduction has become quite long, but today’s subject is skin and a sense of touch.

Do you know how thick cowhide is, compared with our skin? The average thickness of cowhide is about 5 mm; that of ours only about 1 mm. I think this difference would be one of the big factors that separate human from animals. Our skin is so thin and delicate, not fully covered with hair. Due to this delicacy, we can get much more information than animals. According to a recent survey, our skin can sense light, sound, and even smell. In other words, it’s like high-performance interface connecting us with the outside world. In order to record, manage, and process such a huge amount of information, our brain is developing much more than animals.

With such a keen sense of touch of our craftspeople, our furniture is processed one by one. I believe this separates our products from other mass-produced ones, and that customers clearly feel the difference made by the process. By the way, the advancement of technology makes smaller the difference between genuine and artificial leather these days, but this keen sense of touch may be the reason why many of us still cling to genuine leather. For your information, all of our leather collections for upholstery are genuine, though I’m personally not pro-leather, to be honest.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

Photo Credit: https://www.condehouse.co.jp/journal/restore-lokal-chair02/