Leather upholstery producers are working with a variety of new covers here, including fabric, leather/fabric combinations and what’s called bonded leather — a new, somewhat controversial leather-like material.
Higher-end manufacturers including American Leather, Elite Leather and Palliser have launched full-fledged fabric programs.
At the promotional end, companies like Klaussner and Catnapper have added bonded leather, which contains 10% to 17% leather.
As bycast — polyurethane-coated leather splits — was viewed with skepticism when first introduced about five years ago, bonded leather — a layered mixture of polyurethane, cloth, glue and leather scraps or shavings — is perceived by some as a threat, a falsehood and a fraud.
Ashley is urging buyers to “be aware” of bonded leather.
“We just want people to be aware of exactly what they are buying,” said Tom Leon, president of Ashley’s Millennium division. “We are not taking a stand either way, but we do want dealers to know what it is and that it is not leather.”
Leather suppliers are selling the product, however, displaying it in leather-designated showroom areas. Leather upholstery companies categorize it as a leather SKU. It is as flexible and supple as a leather cover and can be processed to carry a flat, grainy or two-tone patterned effect. It also affords an almost waste-free yield of nearly 100%.
Klaussner has built a program around bonded leather.
“It has the same polyurethane face as bycast but it’s less costly than leather,” said Chuck Welch, leather product manager for Klaussner. “We’ve created a new category for it, like bycast or microfiber.”
With bonded leather sofas retailing from $699 — compared with $1,199 for similar leather frames assembled domestically — Welch predicts the alternative material will take away from leather on retail floors.
And bonded leather isn’t relegated to mainstream merchandise only. Simon Li/Trayton America has introduced a reconstituted product, producing a textural Nubuck effect.
“It’s bycast with a suede top, not a polyurethane top,” said Peter Pilgaard, sales and marketing director. Simon Li calls the product “suede leather.”
“It is like leather to work with because 65% of its thickness is leather,” Pilgaard said. “It is a good way to control price points in the wake of leather hikes.”
Ashley, Flexsteel, Universal, Nicoletti and Natuzzi are among those companies that don’t carry bonded leather in their lines.
Source: Joan Gunin — Furniture Today