The Style_ist

Designers put a lot of suede on the runway for spring 2015. Among the lushest were these, from left: Derek Lam, Gucci and Chloe.
Designers put a lot of suede on the runway for spring 2015. Among the lushest were these, from left: Derek Lam, Gucci and Chloe. GETTY

Q. So suede is huge, even for spring, I’m reading, and I have a super-basic question: Is everything leather with a rough finish called suede? Or is there some special quality?

A. A quick and exceedingly basic primer, courtesy of North American Tanning: Leather refers to an animal hide (usually cow, but also of sheep, goats, pigs and exotics such as alligator and ostrich) that’s been preserved for use. There are two sides to a piece of leather: the “grain” side (the outside) and the flesh side (the inside). The grain side is essentially smooth, but shows pores and wrinkles; the flesh side can be buffed to produce a nap (a sort of furry surface), and that is what’s called suede.

“Full-grain” leather means the hair’s been removed from the hide, but no other alterations have been made. (Alterations yield “grained” or “embossed” leather, which means the grain isn’t natural but placed onto the leather mechanically.)

Split leather is just what you’d guess: Leather that’s been divided into two pieces (like taking bark off a piece of wood), one keeping the grain side and one the flesh side.

To confuse matters a bit more, the grain side can be “sueded” or “snuffed,” which means it’s treated to raise a suede-like nap: That’s what’s called nubuck or grain suede.

Next time: Non-leather leather and suede – it’s everywhere, and there are lots of options. (Hint: Not just Halston-famous Ultrasuede, but fish skin! Also, in the interim, see Stella McCartney for a high-profile designer committed to using no fur or leather, and this from last year, from the Vegetarian Resource Group.)

Readers talk back: A collection

On seeing more women 55+ in fashion media and ads:

“As a woman well over 55, I still purchase some fashionable clothes and personal care products, hopefully appropriate for women like me, each year. It will make a difference to me seeing older women in advertising. This is especially true if they are like some of my amazing friends: Silver sisters who not only exude a kind of joy of living, but also appear unafraid to care about themselves,... At the end of the day, I would appreciate seeing featured a lot more beautifully diverse combination of models in age (and) body types overall!” Christy Kluesner

“In response to your question – and coming from a woman of 47 years – I would love to see people of ALL ages in advertising. H&M already leads the way in their catalogs with great attention to race and gender, and several designers, you mentioned Kate Spade, have folks of multiple ages in their ads. The current March cadre of fashion magazines are pulling more and more attractive models of different generations ...We are headed in the right direction.” Anne Marie Radke

“At age 75, I have the challenge of wandering through department stores trying to decide what is ‘age appropriate.’ I’d like to also point that there is a very large span from 55 to 75, 85 or 95! Clothing style will therefore vary in these years. We are all living longer! Let’s see more of this topic and perhaps begin to influence the designers to dedicate a line for seniors.” Simone Guenette

“I am 72 ‘years young’ and I feel and look younger than my age... Not taking advantage of women like me when planning shows for clothes, makeup (and) hairstyles is missing out on a market that has the extra time and money to influence and help young girls and women realize there is style and life after 60/70.” Sera Callif

On perfume:

“I am very sensitive to scents ... It’s not a matter of whether or not I like the smell, it’s that perfumes burn my sinuses and make my nose itch. ... Honestly, for most people just maintaining good hygiene is all it takes. And when you want to feel extra special, please go light with your perfume – the scent should only be detectable to those hugging you.” Deanna Wilson

“I have asthma and allergies. My condition is severe enough to require a corticosteroid inhaler, nasal spray, and pills.... Others can function normally at work without wearing/using scented products. They can still use those products at home or on a night out.... I realize I am one person among many and asking for such a change in behavior on the part of others is huge. But if they could experience for just one day what I do every day, maybe there would be more compassion.” Krista Barnett

“I always wore Red Door to work as it was part of my dress routine. This was until we hired a new employee who shared my office and could not tolerate my perfume. ... Of course, I never wore fragrance to work after that since I didn’t want to offend her. Nor did I wear it to the many functions our office gave.... At first I resented the fact that I could no longer wear perfume, but soon I grew accustomed to it as I really valued the new employee.” Pat Lebeau

“I tend not to wear a fragrance when I’m meeting with others out of consideration of people’s sensitivities ... (but) I personally found the smell of onions and cigarette smoke emanating from my neighbor’s office to be more offensive than any perfume!” Edith Crouch