March 29, 2019

Leather Lounges: How to Tell Between Fake vs. Genuine

leather sofa

Leather lounges are synonymous with durability, lavishness and sophistication. Despite the hefty initial price tag, their long-lasting nature makes them a good investment for your home.

Unfortunately, many people trying to make a quick buck selling knockoff couches have made it difficult to determine whether or not the sofa you are buying is the real thing. Essentially: not all leather lounges are made equal.

The number of frustrated customers who have realised that their purchase wasn’t what they were expecting is growing. And as there is no Australian standard for labelling hide, it’s hard to know what you’re in for when the tag says ‘leather lounges’.

However, there are things to look out for when couch shopping that can help you spot a fake.

But first, it’s important to know what genuine leather lounges actually are.


It’s in the hide

The proper material is made of tanned animal hide (or skin). The fake stuff is made with plastic, though it can be tricky to tell the difference if you’re unfamiliar with it. The quantity of surface coating used on leather lounges affects whether the piece can be called ‘genuine’. The coating must be thin – 15mm or less.

There are four main kinds of hide:

Full grain

Has had the least amount of human intervention and is the most natural, durable and expensive hide option.

Top grain

Uses the uppermost layer of the skin and has been buffed and polished.


Uses the bottom layer of the hide; it is the most fragile yet cheapest option.


Any of the above hides which has had an artificial grain placed on its surface. This removes any imperfections. It is imprinted with an artificial grain texture.


What to make of labels

It is important to be aware that there is a lot of misleading advertising out there. Words like ‘genuine’, ‘100%’, ‘cow hide’ and ‘bonded’ (which is 10% hide, 90% synthetics) may suggest that you’re looking at authentic leather lounges, when in reality you’re not. Make sure to look out for items which have genuine contact areas (arm rests, seat backs etc.) but synthetic non-contact areas (i.e. outer arms and back).


How to spot the difference

Unfortunately, due to the lack of certification in Australia, it’s up to the consumer to do the research on what constitutes real leather lounges. Labels can rarely be trusted, so it’s crucial to ask your supplier some questions (and possibly write their answers down on paper in case there are issues down the track). If they can’t answer these, take your purchase somewhere else.

What material is the sofa made of?

Full grain and top grain are ideal. Anything else, such as split, bonded or pleather, should be avoided as they are not the best quality.

Is the hide used all over the couch?

As previously mentioned, a couch may have real hide on certain areas of the seat but not on others. Try to get a couch which is made completely of hide for a longer-lasting purchase.

What is the warranty?

Check to see how long the warranty lasts and what parts of the couch are counted in it.


What to do if your purchase turns out to be fake

If you notice that your leather lounges have begun to peel, crack or sweat, especially after a short amount of time, this is a good sign that your couches are not genuine. Some actions you can take include:

  • Going to the business and requesting a refund or a replacement. Show photos if possible as evidence.
  • If the business won’t comply, contact Fair Trading for advice.

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About Oscar Prescott