Leather, like denim, is super durable and only gets better with age. These are the 6 key things you need to know before and after buying vintage leather.
Some things are just better bought vintage—and not just because of the lower price. Like denim, leather is super durable and only gets better with age. But shopping for vintage leather isn’t always as direct as buying new. We reached out to VEDA designer Lyndsey Butler for expert tips on what to be aware of before making the purchase and how to maintain a more aged leather piece. Below are the 6 key things she shared.
Dry clean carefully
It’s totally necessary to dry clean any vintage find—but don’t overdo it. “Most leather cleaning techniques used by dry cleaners involve chemicals that strip the leather of their natural oils, which can change the original color and feel of the leather,” Butler says.
Fit it or quit it
Sometimes the cost and trouble of having leather altered aren’t worth the buy, even if it is for a discounted price. Leather material is harder to work with, and you can’t cover up mistakes that require you to undo the seam. If you’re going to take a leather piece in for alterations, make sure you know exactly what you want. “I think the fit is still very important with leather,” Butler advises. “If you buy a jacket that has crazy shoulders or is super oversized with the intention of having it altered, you probably won’t do it, or it won’t come out quite right, and you won’t end up wearing it.”
Saddle soap is your best friend
Usually, you can spot clean leather with a damp cloth, but for a tougher clean that also softens your leather try a saddle soap. “We love saddle soap and shoe polish at our office for buffing out bigger blemishes and keeping the leather from drying out,” she says.
Some leather cleaning products can do more harm than good
Some products intended to protect leather, like rain and stain repellents, do more harm than good. “…products with harsh chemicals are less ideal,” she says. “I understand sometimes you need a weatherproof-er for a suede jacket, but when possible, I would avoid these kinds of topical treatments.”
Machine washing can be done—but isn’t recommended
Apparently, former Vogue editor and Co-founder of La Marque, Meredith Melling, machine washes her leather jackets (yes, you read that correctly.) It can be done but isn’t recommended. “By throwing a leather jacket in the washing machine, you risk changing the shape, fit, texture, etc.,” Butler says. “I don’t think it’s ever ideal to totally soak a leather jacket as the skin changes when it dries out again. But, the dryer is a different story. A light tumble (low heat) can add texture and a more worn-in affect to a leather jacket. But again, there is a risk. Avoiding buckets of water and high heat are two good rules to live by.”
Long live leather
Leather is a tough material made to last, but there are some things you can do to help. “Wearing your leather a lot and using a good saddle soap when needed are two good ways to make it last,” Butler says.
For those of you new to buying vintage leather, Butler recommends Ritual Vintage in NYC and Style Station in West Texas. There are also great vintage Instagram and Etsy shops you can order from directly.