Category Archives: The Owner’s Journal

LEATHER ISN’T LEATHER, WHEN IT COMES TO AUTOMOTIVE USE!

Automotive Leather - Keleen Leathers Blog Icon

The pendulum has swung back and forth when it comes to the use of leather in automobiles. Years and years ago the use of leather was predominant throughout an automotive interior.  Seating, door panels, and even headliners were all in leather.  In the ’50s it became a combination of some leather, some vinyl.  In the ‘60’s and ‘70s manufacturers went almost totally to vinyls for their upholstery materials, attempting to keep costs down, into the ‘90s, it is back again to leather, the miracle product of nature.  Strong, rough and rugged as a bull, yet breathable, soft and supple as baby’s butt depending on how it is tanned, nothing manmade can even approach the features of the incredible product – leather.

The long molecular chains in the leather’s makeup create a product that wears out razor blades after just a few cuts, demonstrating its truly unusual strength and durability. Yet these three-dimensional chains are what allow it to drape and mold to any contour, offering a look when upholstered nonexistent with any manmade material.  The porous structure of the natural skin provides a very desirable breathability and absorption of color creating a beauty only Mother Nature can offer.

But leather isn’t leather! Vast differences exist in leather when tanned for different end uses.  For the purpose of this article let me limit the discussion to the differences between leather tanned for furniture versus lather tanned for automotive end use.  Generally, when tanning leathers we look to accomplish three goals.  First is to make the product inert.  It is initially a living substance and we must stop what would be the process of decomposition.  Then we want to both color and soften the material for upholstery use.  The hides are placed in very large drums and rotated with numerous chemicals to impart desirable features we wish to have in the finished product.

Four major differences exist in tanning skins for automotive end use versus furniture use:

  1. 1. The split or thickness of the leather should be greater. Automotive end use demands far more “use and abuse” than furniture. Heavier threads are used in sewing, and more sliding across and bouncing up and down are encountered as one rolls down today’s not so terrifically smooth highways.
  2. 2. Because of the above sliding and bouncing, automotive leathers require a little “harder” finish in the final stages of tanning to insure long-term wearability.
  3. 3. Automobile leathers are exposed to much more ultraviolet rays (sunlight) than furniture leathers and require more ultraviolet resistance or rapid fading and overall degradation of color will ensure.
  4. 4. Automobile leathers must be tanned to withstand more temperature extremes. Some cars wind up in northern Minnesota and others in southern Texas. Some cars go from one place to the other during their lives, and the owner expects the leather to hold up, and rightly so.

Therefore, be aware of these differences. Choose a reliable supplier and ask about how products being offered for sale are tanned. You will be the wiser and happier for it. Your investment in properly tanned leather will pay dividends as the years go by.

What’s In Your Resource Library

Keleen Leathers Shearling Hides

What’s In Your Resource Library | A Blog Entry From The Corporate Offices of Keleen Leathers, Inc.

 “That Ideal Sample You Seek Isn’t In Your Resource Library, It’s  In Ours!”

Best explained by a true story of two clients’ quick phone calls to Keleen Leathers, Inc. for that elusive item they had in their heads, but not in their hands, and not in anyone’s leather boxes. Shearling hides have become a mainstay of our offerings.  We sample them in natural colors for obvious reasons.  However, we enjoy associations with more than forty tanneries worldwide providing us with truly tens of thousands of stock leather items in our master library which is merely a quick phone call away.

I have an interesting example I can share with you. One day we received a call from Lincoln Motorcars, Concept Car Division, and the question we were asked was; “Might you have your shearling available in a navy blue color?” Maggie went back to our master library and sure enough there lies a gorgeous navy blue shearling sample she sends on to the customer.  A week or so later we received a very nice order for about 30 navy blue shearlings we quickly shipped out.

The 2016 Lincoln Continental Concept Car

Keleen Leathers Shearling in the 2016 Lincoln Continental Concept Car

If you lookup 2016 Lincoln Continental Concept Car, up will pop up a gorgeous blue vehicle and the interior images will show this gorgeous navy blue shearling skins throughout the interior of this magnificent vehicle!!!

A few days later we receive a call from a New York architectural firm expressing interest in our KLAD leather wall tile offering, asking if we can fabricate our KLAD tiles using our shearling skins? We respond, “Absolutely”.  The next question was, “Might you have a nice navy blue in your shearling collection?”  We respond, as a matter of fact, yes”.  Out goes this same sample to the architectural firm.  About a week later we open the mail to see a nice order for 260 KLAD tiles; 20″X 16″ for a Karaoke room in a home in the South Hamptons, New York!!!

20″ X 16″ KLAD tiles

Keleen Leathers KLAD leather tiles in Navy Blue Shearling

So the moral to my story is, please call us with your requests as I believe the above noted two projects, oddly for the same item, reveal how our vast inventory of samples can prove of value to you. Truly there are many stories of “odd”, “very odd” items we have been asked for where the caller was extremely surprised that in fact we had exactly what they were seeking!!!

A few other examples where we came through for customers seeking items not in most leather boxes…

Genuine Skins

Keleen Leathers Genuine Skins Specialty Order

  • 17 giant genuine premium alligator skins to be made into placemats for an Oscar winning movie star in Beverly Hills, CA

Capri  Collection

Keleen Leathers Capri Collection

  • 38 hides of our premium “Capri” leather to be skived down to a thickness of .8 mm as the hides were then used as leather curtains. We have access to the only whole hide skiving machine in the United States.

Shagreen

Shagreen

  • We’ve done 931 genuine Shagreen skins in five custom colors for one residence in Orange County, CA.

More unique projects we’ve received…

  • 23 Canadian Black Bear skins for a custom rug for a Ralph Lauren client
  • 200 cow hides of extreme size for California King Headboards for a luxury resort property in Sedona, AZ. Here we used dairy cows offering hides of extremely large size so cuts could be secured without requiring seams.
  • 36 Genuine cognac colored eel skins for a residential client.

I was asked about cladding an entire giant winding staircase in our leather floor tile hides for a client in Greenwich, CT. We had a fabricator picture frame stitch each stair step, edging and facing panels in this incredibly beautiful leather.  After installed the client loved it so much they did two more staircases in two of their other homes.

We’ve also completed orders for many wild metallic brilliantly colored leather hides for national award winning custom street rods.  So, we hope you check out our leather collections for your unique and custom orders too! Thank you for considering Keleen Leathers, and thank you for reading.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

There is one time a year in my crazy life where I get a real guilt free break from all the stresses of this wonderful company, and the hectic schedule my family keeps at home.  When school is closed and hockey, gymnastics, and everything else are not in session.  The phones quiet down and the warehouse isn’t open.

“Some people wonder why I love the Christmas break so much.”

For me the answer is so simple. I love it because I finally get to sit down and just be home with my hubby, kids, and dogs.  I am not at work, and I don’t have to be anyone’s boss.  In fact I then become an employee answering only to my wonderful children.  LOL!

Other than the holiday break, the only time I sit on my couch and relax is when I am ill.  Sad, I know, but so true for so many of you hard workers out there.  Until that holiday break there are still gifts to buy, things to wrap and school concerts to attend.  Quotes to do, and samples to send.  So we wait and we dream.  3 workdays left everyone, 3 days!

“So thank you to the wonderful designers and their amazing clients.”

You seem to really slow down for just a moment so I can empty my very full DVR 😉 I wish everyone a very relaxing, and calm little break!

Happy holidays from Keleen Leathers!

 

Specifying Leather With Confidence

keleen+leathers_hide+inspection_2

Keleen Leathers, Inc.‘s multiple hide inspection procedure assures that you are guaranteed quality when specifying Keleen Leathers, Inc. leathers. There is no question that our “product of Nature” has elements and issues different than that of synthetic and manmade materials.

The Grading System.

Leather hides go through many processes wherein at each stage the quality of each hide is reviewed and sorted generally on an A, B, C and D grading system. As hides proceed through production at each stage these elements progressively show themselves. Elements not seen in the very early stages become more visible and apparent as the processing continues. Truly many hides initially felt to be A or B grade wind up C and D as they near the final production processes.

The Only Grade For KL is “A”.

At Keleen Leathers, Inc. we only seek “A” grade, “first selection” hides. I can comment, after now thirty-eight years owning Keleen Leathers, Inc. as I have visited other suppliers they will fill orders by pulling “A” grade bundles and merely seeking to equate an order to the requested square footage ordered. This is not good enough for us when filling your orders. We always unwrap such bundles and complete a thorough final inspection of these so called “A Grade”, “First Selection” hides to absolutely insure that the hides we ship are all both truly premium “A Grade” hides.

We Shade Match Too!

We additionally shade match the hides insuring consistency unmatched in our industry. By “shade match” I refer to maybe going through perhaps 20 hides from the same dye lot to fill for instance a six hide order. Yes there will be color variations within dye lots so we take the extra step just prior to your order leaving Keleen Leathers to see that the hides are both “A Grade” and color matched insuring almost a zero complaint potential for your valued order.

No Worries With Keleen.

We have found over the years that our final inspection process makes for trouble free  delivered orders for our valued customers.

2015 Merchandise Mart DreamHome Event

DreamHome 2015 Area Rug
Keleen Leathers was very pleased and excited to become a part of the 2015 Merchandise Mart DreamHome event on the first floor of this amazing internationally recognized building. Mr. Frank Fontana, a nationally known interior designer, writer and talk show host challenged Keleen Leathers to fabricate a huge “hair on” bovine cowhide into a rug for his bedroom display. While we could easily have made a rug of any size in panels, he asked if we could somehow fabricate a rug in the natural styling of a cowhide, but in a size much larger than cows grow!!! Our artisans got to work and very cleverly affixed two hides in a fashion to exactly accomplish Mr. Fontana’s request. This area rug exactly fits to the area at the foot of the bed offering a softness and natural beauty perfectly fitting the width of the king size bed in this beautiful vingnette. Further, please note how perfectly flat this rug lays as our special backing material provides an exacting leveling element dramatically adding to the visual aesthetic of this very beautiful natural genuine leather rug.

If you are attending Neocon or have other reason to visit Chicago, do not miss the six amazingly beautiful rooms created by Chicago’s leading interior designers at the “Dream House” display on the first floor of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

Leather, Diapers, and Dogs = Insanity

Keleen_Leathers_Blog_Kelly_Mullen

I have been asked to write a blog entry for Keleen Leathers. That would, I guess, make sense since my name is Keleen. I have never written a blog entry before so here is my best attempt! 

I am a realist so I am first brought to a place that makes me wonder why anyone would want a glimpse into my little world. I do not need to sing the struggles of my life to anyone. My life is amazing. It is however, BUSY. Every day I somehow manage to get my three kids (ages 2, 7, & 8) and myself out the door in the morning.

A morning without a fit from my toddler is a successful one. I could care less that she usually wears her pajamas and a slew of non-matching accessories she has chosen to add to her outfit (or costume depending how you see it) for the day. Today I am blessed with being able to wear yoga pants and a high messy bun. At least I match! As I look around the house, 3 of my 4 dogs are chasing each other around the coffee table. Fiona (our KL “paws Project” ambassador) is actually lying down because she was spayed yesterday. Keeping her relaxed has been misery, but I actually need to get her back to the vet as the incision looks abnormal today. I don’t know how I am going to make that happen but I will squeeze it in somewhere. The kitchen looks like a bomb went off, but I have to go as I have 9 emails that need attention and I have to get into the office. How I would love to have a housekeeper and/or a nanny, but I know my three year old is my last baby and I want her with me. Did I mention my son has baseball practice today too!?

kelly_drea_at_work

Being a working mom isn’t easy. Having four dogs doesn’t make it any easier, not to mention a puppy (what was I thinking! LOL). If I could just get rid of my clean freak, OCD tendencies maybe it would be a little better? I am blessed to work for my parents who want the kids at the office even more than I do. Thank goodness we do not run a stuffy office. I could not handle that! We laugh A LOT at KL. Joke with each other, truly care about each other. Sharing too much information is very normal here. Aside from the “Mullen family” most people here somehow knew each other before selling leather together. That makes for a very interesting dynamic!

I guess maybe my life isn’t as boring as it sometimes seems to me. I have a great husband, three awesome kids, and a I really enjoy working at Keleen. Yes I don’t go out late on Saturday nights anymore. In fact I prefer not to go out at all. My idea of a good time is a great pedicure when I can squeeze it in. Having said that, my life is FULL, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Irish Luck Serves Keleen Owner Well!!!

Irish Luck Serves Keleen

Irish Luck Serves Keleen Owner Well

I drive myself crazy as a “do it now” guy who never puts anything off, but for some reason unknown to me, I let seeking a new representative for San Diego/Orange County stay on my “back burner” for a number of months. Then, with no real intention of putting this off, I got around to the issue in early February truly by accident. Then all of a sudden Irish Luck comes into play. I got a referral to Becky Walker and Associates based in San Diego, also covering Orange County California. Momma Mia!!! I now come to find that Becky Walker has an amazing leather background, having sold leathers for about twenty years with Keleen’s two largest competitors, and days before my contact Becky had separated from our biggest competitor!!!

Let’s add to the story that oddly the temperatures in Chicago were hitting all-time lows while San Diego was at its normal range of right about 76 degrees!!! So a perfect time for me to trot off to San Diego early on a bitterly cold Sunday morning to arrive in CA mid-morning to blinding bright sunshine at an incredible Oceanside resort hotel. Well, someone has to see to this need for Keleen Leathers, right?

I thoroughly enjoyed this Sunday afternoon then Monday I was so delighted to be introduced to three very charismatic women at a gorgeous designer showroom in Del Mar, California. I then spent two days filled with enthusiastic excitement shared by all of us about this new association. All four of us felt as though this is one of those unexpected turns in life of a “marriage made in heaven”. Keleen Leathers, Inc. is truly thrilled and very proud to have Becky Walker and Associates as part of the Keleen Leathers sales network.

Then, “Icing on The Cake”!! Becky suggested to me that I should take the train going on up to Los Angeles to meet Matthew Caracappa, Keleen’s Los Angeles representative. What an unexpected amazing adventure. So incredibly beautiful is this slightly over two hour panoramic experience of one of America’s most beautiful vistas; ocean, mountains, agriculture, forestry. I have now told many to get this trip on their life’s “bucket list” of things to do while still on this earth.

So, my “Irish Luck” has provided both a great new representative group and a very fun experience, not to mention the 76 degree weather while Chicago shivers with wind chills well below zero!!! ( Pic here of me in the lounge chair in the sun)???

WGN Radio Features Rick Mullen Live On Frank’s Faves

WGN Radio Features Keleen Leathers Rick Mullen

WGN Radio Interview

December 28, 2014 – For this New Year make sure you do your Leather right!  Keleen Leathers offers a wide range of products ideal for any and all projects. With over 38 years experience it is no wonder we have developed such great relationships with clients. We will always make certain we take care of you! That is why it is no wonder our company owner was featured on WGN Radio. Frank welcomes Rick Mullen from Keleen Leathers to discuss the simple luxury of fine leathers in your home. Rick also discusses KLAD™ Surface System!

Take a listen: http://wgnradio.com/2014/12/28/franks-fav-keleen-leathers/

Move and Renaissance 2014

Move and Renaissance Keleen Leathers Photo

Move and Renaissance

Written By KL Owner, Rick Mullen

I have owned and operated Keleen Leathers, Inc. along with my wife Linda for over 38 years now. I can’t find a way to express my excitement that after this amount of time we have just moved into new headquarters, doubling our size. Hence the title move and renaissance. I’m feeling and believing it is as though we are experiencing a rebirth of this great company. I am so blessed that my daughter, Keleen and my son Frank, ages 32 and 30, are taking over the helm of a business along with Linda and myself as we have all come to love and continue to have great passion for both leathers and our mission.   What is our mission? It is to continue to bring amazingly beautiful and different leathers to significant interior designers and architects around the world.

How can a father know or plan that such a wonderful series of events could take place? I never thought nor planned for this great surprise to me. After I was blessed with children I assumed they would one day find careers in other fields of their choosing, never having thought it would be to continue in their parents pursuit of a passion for the miracle natural product, leather. I logically now conclude that they saw the fulfillment they could see in their parents work, along with an amazing staff of wonderful loyal employees. Obviously they then were drawn to this great opportunity for them and so now Linda and I can enjoy day to day the presence of our children along with our great employees. Many days too Linda and I enjoy seeing our small grandchildren playing in and amongst the beautiful hanging hides as truly they seem to find them elements of pleasure after school hours and during their summer vacations.

So in truth we have moved and grown, and I find the company going through a renaissance with the youthful spirit of my children. Keleen and Frank infuse their ideas and valuable contribution along with our younger employees which I can see provides a connection with our clientele that in some ways I will admit offer a vision that is now past for me.

I conclude merely by saying; a person, a father could not be more prideful than me as I see something Linda and I created over many years of dedicated work now moving on through our devoted children.

Richard Mullen