Today, suede is an omnipresent material, featured on a wide range of apparel and furniture. The term comes from the French Suède, which simply means ‘Sweden’, and originated from the types of imports into the country. In particular, gants de Suède, which means gloves of Sweden, were the most common form of luxury for many decades. Originally used for winter apparel, including gloves and jackets, today suede is used for that and more. It is used to upholster furniture and can even be found as a liner on a number of accessory products or as a liner for other leather products. As common as the fabric is today however, few people are aware of its exact composition.
The material itself is a finished type of leather which is composed of the under sides of animal skins. It is primarily made from lamb but, other animals such as pig, calf, deer and goat are commonly used as well since the process requires a durable hide to get the texture that is associated with the material.
Frequently there are alternative fabrics produced and made available for non-animal product consumers. They oftentimes have a napped finish as well, as to resemble suede as closely as possible. In addition to having a similar textural feel and look as suede, this material also is more durable and has a higher level of resistance to stains and liquids. Examples of these are sueded silk, alcantara and microsuede.
Leather couches are widely available as well. The texture of something made out of leather is different from something made from suede. Leather has more of a smooth feel to it while suede has a soft material feel to it. The word leather means skin products that have been fully tanned. The process of being tanned changes the animal skins into a long-lasting and versatile material for many different uses, just like suede. These uses are similar to suede’s since leather is also used for furniture, apparel and accessories. Leather is a bit more rugged than suede, however. People like cowboys and bikers use chaps and heavy leather jackets to protect themselves against certain injuries.