My Leather Journey

Tanner Leatherstein introduces himself in the very first episode of the Leathertainment Podcast! In this video, we’ll answer the following questions:

  • What is this podcast about?
  • How is Tanner Leatherstein qualified to talk about leather and the leather industry?
  • What’s his story on how he started PEGAI as his brand?

    Let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments section below. We always read your comments! We’ll see you again next time. A quick reminder to be authentic, be leather-savvy!

      Video Format

      Audio Format


      Hello, everyone! Welcome to the Leathertainment Podcast Show. I’m Tanner Leatherstein and in this episode, we’re going to introduce the channel, the idea, how this channel is supposed to help you, and how we came about to be qualified to talk about leather. So, let’s get started with our intention with this channel.

      As my involvement with leather over the past three decades, I realized people don’t know and understand enough about leather. Yet, they love leather. They love leathercrafts. Everybody wants to carry around a nice leather bag or wallet, but when it comes to shopping for it, they’re kind of uneasy because they don’t know enough. The industry is, unfortunately, a little bit tricky, misleading, and somehow, scammy. So, because of that uneasy and stressful feeling when you’re shopping for leather, you are trying to trust the bigger brands and they, unfortunately, abuse that trust and the leather, in my opinion.

      This channel will be all about that. How bigger brands kind of have to abuse the nature of leather and come back to tell you how good their leather is. On the other hand, where are the small craftsman, those passionate people who do justice to the leather and create really good work, but don’t get enough attention because of their limited access, budget, and all that stuff? This channel will be all about bringing the beauty that small and passionate craftsman is doing for leather and doing for you versus the bigger brands who have been ruining the leather and leather experience over the past five to six decades, I would say.

      We’re going to try to find and feature great artisans, and great products all around the country, and all around the world. We will get their products and review them in front of you from a tanner standpoint– tannery, tanning standpoint, the quality, the craftsmanship. And we will invite them to be a guest in the show to discuss leather, how their involvement with leather started, what are they trying to do with their business, their brand, and their craft. And even maybe small hobbyists, not on the commercial level, working with leather, creating really, really good art pieces with leather. We will like to feature all that stuff and bring this beauty out of this natural material in front of you so the community of small craftspeople has a better chance to reach a bigger audience with this channel: Leathertainment.

      We call it “Leathertainment” because we would like to present leather information in an entertaining format. Hopefully, we’re going to have some fun together while getting leather-savvy. You will elevate your leather experience and carry around some really, really cool and awesome leather crafts moving forward.

      Taking a step back, who am I? I’m Tanner Leatherstein. This is my personal brand and I’m all about leather. I live and breathe leather. It has been in my life since I was a child and I’m gonna go back to that in a little bit – my involvement with leather, my entire life, what I’ve been doing around leather, tanning, tannery craft, and why am I so passionate about telling this story to you, creating this channel, this podcast, and how am I qualified to talk about leather as well.

      The story began when I was born into a family that owned a tannery in Turkey. My dad loved to get me involved in the business as early as about eight to ten years old. I loved going with him, trying to help as much as I can. You know, the tannery is a chemical experience place so you play with leather, you get the raw hides, you process it with chemicals, and then you create a fabric that’s going to go into a crafting project later on. I started playing there in my free time when I was a kid.

      At the age of 11, my dad told me one day, “Hey, here’s a pile of sheepskins. Pick five for yourself and you’re going to tan it by yourself to make your very first leather jacket.” It was a bit of a shock and a challenge to me at that point but hey, it’s a game. It’s a play at the age of 11 so I took it and I ran with it. I did my first five sheepskins. I got my leather jacket. It wasn’t the perfect piece, of course. But the experience was so much fun. I enjoyed it so much and it draw me into the craft very, very deeply. And since then, I just can’t leave the process.

      Starting like that, I grew up in that tannery, building my knowledge and tanning recipe side of things. I’ve been around the world with my dad making leather business. I ran a tannery in Turkmenistan for about a year in the Middle East. I ran a tannery in Armenia for about six months, right before I came to the States. I’ve been in China sourcing for leather companies for about six months as well. Again, wherever I’ve been in the world, it was never for tourism or fun. It was all about leather, trying to buy raw hides, trying to run a tannery, or sourcing some crafts from other makers around the world which were fun, at the same time, I’m learning and doing business.

      So, anyways, around 2009 or 2010, I got a green card out of the lottery and I ended up moving into the US as a fresh, new immigrant and I didn’t know where to start. So, I had to build my life here again and leather is not a huge business. The tannery side is not a huge business in the US anymore. So at that point, I had to go back to do some other stuff. I was a cab driver in Chicago for a good while. I also decided to get into the corporate world, seeing the consultants in the cab-driving business. I went back to school, got my MBA, and got a consulting job in a very nice company. It was a beautiful job actually, very cushy, with nice pay, easy work hours, and very good benefits, but it was my first corporate experience. My first experience out of leather overall. And I didn’t like it. I didn’t fit into the corporate world. It just didn’t fit right, and I literally quit without knowing what I am going to do next.

      I had leather at the back of my mind, and I went back to driving Uber after that point since I know Chicago as a cab driver anyways. I started experimenting with crafting leather this time because I wanted to do something with my hands. I wanted to do something with leather again. At that point, I started watching some YouTube videos to design wallets and make leathercrafts from a material that I’m familiar with. I went back to Turkey to source some really good leather using my network in the industry and started an Etsy shop with a brand name called PEGAI.

      I got great responses from my customers. I did this side business in my bedroom with my wife, and with my brother in Turkey. In the past five years, it has been a good success for us – a profitable business. Very soon after starting that five years ago, I quit driving Uber because I had to turn into full-time leathercrafting now with PEGAI. I was really happy. I kind of don't have work anymore. I’m having fun with leather again and now, this is supporting my life, too. It’s all great.

      Five years passed by, and now, we have served over a hundred thousand customers through Etsy, Amazon, and our own website. We got great reviews all over the place so that makes me really happy. And also, I start realizing that there are much more craftsmen like me starting these small brands online, and they do great work with leather. Now, there’s this notion in me still not happy with the big brands’ treatment of leather and the standardization process they go through. They kill nature out of that beautiful material and then they come back to say, “We’re a big brand. This is expensive so this is the greatest leather.” which is not the case from a tanner standpoint. It’s just standardized and plasticized material. It lost the touch that we were looking for in the first place.

      So now, I wanted to create this channel, the Leathertainment podcast, to feature this fellow craftsmen like myself and their beautiful work to get it in front of your attention and highlight all the good and bad in it and hopefully, make your leather shopping experience a little bit better so you get to carry around better leather goods. You pay fair prices for really good items instead of fluffed-up marketing stuff.

      So, that’s the overall intention behind this channel. That’s the passion I’m running with. Hopefully, this will be beneficial to a lot of people, craftsmen, users, and leather hobbyists. We’re going to have a lot of fun together, diving deep into different aspects of leather each week with different craftspeople. Sometimes, we’re just going to dive into one aspect. Just me, talking and experimenting with you guys to try to figure out the features of leather, finishes, the types of leather, colors, the chemical processes, and how the raw hides come about from the slaughterhouse to the tannery. We’re going to get to try everything.

      It’s going to be a fun journey together. So, join us, follow us, and get notified every week when we publish our new episode. Let us know how we’re doing and if there’s any specific question that you would like to hear or learn about around the leather subject, please let us know so that’s a great material for us for future episodes. Again, hopefully, this is a good introduction and welcoming you to this podcast. Let’s have fun together while getting leather-savvy.

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