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Look for Quality Material and Treat It as an Investment Piece

September 17, 1993|KATHRYN BOLD

Some words of advice for those who are new to suede:

First, pay attention to the quality of the material, says designer Sam Wolf. Suede comes from the flip side of leather--the top, thin layer of skin shaved from the raw hide. Cheaper leathers--those other than top grain--are made by splitting the leftover hide.

Refusing to be involved with the sacrifice of animals solely for their skins, most designers, including Wolf, only use suede that's a byproduct of the meat industry. Lamb suede is considered more desirable than pig suede because it's softer, but pig suede is more plentiful and costs less.

High-quality suede has a fine nap to it, Wolf says.

"You should be able to run your finger back and forth over it so that it changes color as the light hits it," he says. A short, delicate nap means the tannery has taken the time to properly buff the suede with a huge stone wheel.

Because suede, like leather, is extremely durable, the somewhat pricey garments can be treated as investment pieces. If cared for properly, a suede garment can last years, Wolf says.

His suggestions for caring for suede: Keep it away from sun or even indoor lighting so it doesn't fade. To keep a garment from stretching, store by folding it in a drawer instead of hanging it. Clean it with a damp cloth and a little soap (he recommends Ivory); dry-cleaning solvents can be harsh on leathers and suedes.

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