This guest post is by Sophie Lloyd, owner of shop-buenosaires.com that provides customised shopping tours and experiences, and personal shopping services in Buenos Aires. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org
At the top of most people’s shopping lists when they come to Argentina is leather. And for good reason. As one the world’s biggest producers of meat, Argentina has also got its fair share of top-notch leather and Buenos Aires is a leather shopping mecca. But with an overwhelming number of leather shops at your fingertips, it’s hard to know where to go to get the best hide for your money. Here’s my top ten tips for buying leather in Buenos Aires.
1. Quality Control
A lot of Argentina’s best leather is unfortunately exported overseas so you do need to exercise a bit of quality control and be selective when shopping for leather in Buenos Aires to ensure you’re getting first-grade leather for your buck. Check the stitching and seams on all of your leather goods: if they are a different color than the actual item then the leather might only be surface-dyed and the color may fade pretty quickly. If the leather feels very stiff and rough then it’s likely been treated and coated to hide the imperfections. While all leather contains natural marks, there shouldn’t be any large blemishes on first-grade leather and it should feel soft and smooth to the touch. Leather should also smell like leather so if you can detect a hint of chemicals, put that leather item back where you found it and keep on shopping.
2. Leather on a budget
A lot of Buenos Aires travel guides will recommend Murillo street as the place to go for leather shopping. While the street is lined with outlet stores selling a colourful array of leather jackets, bags, shoes, belts and other leather accessories, some of the styles and designs are a little outdated and the quality of leather varies greatly. Hunt around and you can find some good deals but this isn’t the place for on-trend leather goods or that much-sought-after buttery soft leather.
3. The perfect leather jacket
A leather jacket has become a timeless wardrobe staple for its versatility and ability to carry you through all four seasons and so it’s an item worth investing in. Your best bet would be to go down the made-to-measure road and get a tailored leather jacket (or indeed any other leather garment) from one of the city’s talented leather tailors such as Bettina Rizzi who will measure you up and turn around a leather garment that fits like a glove in the style of your choice within 24 to 36 hours. You’ll find prices on a par with or even cheaper than an off-the-rack jacket from one of the leather boutiques around Recoleta or Palermo. Otherwise, Rossi & Caruso has a good selection of classic leather jackets for men and women while Doma and House of Matching Colours offer more edgy styles, the latter’s fringed biker jackets are currently highly coveted by the city’s fashionsitas.
4. Know your leathers
When shopping for leather jackets, it’s important to know your leathers. Calf skin is the most common and economical leather. It’s durable and works best for structured, casual jackets. One up from that is baby calf which is slightly more lightweight and softer to the touch. Smarter, more expensive jackets are usually made from lambskin, which is softer still and more lightweight and supple. It’s finely grained in appearance and moulds well so it will fit, flow and drape in all the right places. Then comes goatskin, which is generally the most expensive, thinnest and softest of the skins.
5. Carpincho: the Gaucho’s leather
Argentina also boasts a very special kind of leather which has a more rustic, traditional appeal. It’s known as carpincho leather and it’s the leather of choice for the gauchos. This signature Argentine leather doesn’t actually come from a cow but the world’s largest rodent, the capybara, that resembles a giant mouse and is native to Argentina. The skin resembles a soft-grained, brown speckled suede and often features natural markings and scars from fights between capybaras.
6. Handbag heaven behind closed doors
Much like the closed-door dining scene, Buenos Aires also has a popular closed-door shopping scene and it’s currently the in thing for smaller brands and up and coming designers to sell their collections out of private studio spaces or their apartments rather than shop spaces. Appointments are often required to visit these showrooms so check ahead of time. B:Lit Bags tucked away in an apartment building in Palermo Soho has a solid collection of affordable handbags in all shapes, colors and styles.
7. A one-stop leather shop
Prune is Argentina’s biggest-name leather goods brand and it’s the choice arm candy for many an Argentine woman, offering a wide selection of fashionable handbags, wallets, shoes, jackets and other leather accessories in the colours of the season. You’ll find a Prune store in pretty much every mall around the city. Just beware that Prune also offers a synthetic leather line so don’t make the mistake of picking up a bag from the wrong section (the price tag should be a giveaway of what’s real and what’s not). If you don’t care about purchasing items from seasons past, pay a visit to the Prune outlet in Villa Crespo’s outlet district where you’ll find some great deals.
8. Shoes made for walking
After wandering the streets of BA for a few hours, you’ll quickly notice that the trend in womens’ footwear is for large, clumpy platform shoes. If that floats your boat, you shouldn’t have too much trouble shoe shopping as a woman. For men, the choice is wide-ranging. The focus is always on handmade leather shoes but beware as the handmade prefix doesn’t always mean good quality. There are also a number of workshops and showrooms offering bespoke leather boots and shoes, including the must-have customizable polo and riding boots at La Casa de Las Botas.
9. Cowhide for the home
Cowhide rugs are another leather must-have in Buenos Aires if you have room in your suitcase. Try the Feria de San Telmo on Sundays or Calma Chicha. The latter will vacuum pack your rug for easier packing and transport.
10. Tax Free Shopping
If you’re shopping for leather in the boutiques and malls, look out for the Global Blue Tax Free sticker in the window as that allows you to claim your 14% tax back on your leather goods purchases.