The Luxury Bag Dissection: A Journey to Craftsmanship

Making a Dream Bag for My Wife by Tanner Leatherstein (with Peter Nitz)

In the past year and a half, I've embarked on a peculiar hobby that has raised more than a few eyebrows – destroying luxury bags worth over $50,000. As you might expect, my wife wasn't exactly thrilled about it. Convincing her to let me chop up these pricey possessions took some serious negotiation. She's not particularly enamored with luxury labels, but she's financially savvy, a quality I've come to appreciate more than ever. Without her support, both emotionally and financially, it would have been really tough for me to start and succeed in my own business.

The Promise of Leathertainment

Amid all the bag dissections, there was a spark of hope - the promise of creating something truly special. I made a vow to my wife: to craft an exceptional bag, one that could stand side by side with the luxurious creations of big names like Hermes. However, there was a problem. Despite my excitement, I didn't have the skills needed to make this dream a reality.

As I connected with more people in the leathercraft community, chatting with different artisans, I had the luck of meeting Peter Nitz through my podcast. He's a master craftsman known for his custom-made leather goods. Discovering that he offered intensive courses, I saw it as an opportunity to improve my skills. So, with a sense of determination, I headed to Zurich, a hub of top-notch craftsmanship, ready to immerse myself in the world of leather.

Day One: A Dive into the Craft

Arriving at Peter's workshop, the weight of the task ahead hit me. With time constraints looming and ambitious goals in mind, we plunged headfirst into the project. Choosing top-tier crocodile skins and vibrant chevre leather, we set the stage for an incredible journey. The realization that each of these skins costs around $1,000 and we needed three of them for the project made me break into a sweat at the thought of mishandling these precious materials. Adding to the mix, my desire to use a striking red chevre leather as lining, a favorite among luxury goods, and selecting gold hardware to accentuate the luxurious look, intensified the pressure.

As Peter sketched out our plan, the aroma of tanned leather filled the air. With meticulous precision, we began cutting and shaping the raw materials, laying the groundwork for what would soon become a masterpiece. Despite my initial doubts, Peter's calm expertise reassured me. As the day drew to a close, I marveled at our progress and eagerly anticipated the next steps.

With materials in hand, we transitioned to Peter's workshop to commence the hands-on process. Peter emphasized that all procedures would be done manually, showcasing a dedication to craftsmanship rarely seen. Cutting each piece to size and meticulously preparing them for assembly, including using a box calfskin as internal support, further highlighted Peter's commitment to quality. Looking at how far we'd gotten, it seemed like we might not be able to finish the bag by Friday.

Day Two: Stitching Dreams

Day two began with an early start, despite battling a bit of jet lag. We wasted no time and immediately delved into our tasks. Peter's patient explanations of his techniques were invaluable, providing me with a deeper understanding of the craft than I had anticipated in such a short time. With each passing hour, the progress became increasingly promising as the various components of the bag began to take shape. 

My objectives for the week – mastering saddle-stitching, edge painting, and skiving – felt more attainable as the day progressed. By day's end, the sense of accomplishment was evident, offering a rewarding conclusion to a taxing yet fulfilling day of learning and craftsmanship.

Day Three: A Triumph Over Adversity

With renewed vigor, I tackled the challenges that lay ahead. As the main panels took shape, a sense of accomplishment washed over me. The once-daunting skiving machine became a familiar ally, paving the way for smoother progress.

Though my fingers were sore from hours of stitching, I improvised solutions to streamline the process, knowing there was still much work ahead. Each stitch brought me one step closer to my ultimate goal – a meticulously crafted bag worthy of its luxury origins. As the day came to a close, I felt assured in my ability to handle the delicate pieces, and the notable progress warranted a celebratory dinner. Despite the snowy weather, my brother and I ventured out to savor some delectable cuisine in Zurich, our spirits uplifted. Reflecting on the day's achievements, I marveled at the distance I had covered in such a brief period, filled with anticipation for the promising future ahead.

Day Four: Stitch by Stitch

On day four of our intensive crafting journey, our focus shifted to an extensive stitching session as we diligently worked to prepare the three main pieces essential for the bag's assembly on the following day. This intricate process involved meticulously completing the entire body panel along with two gussets, each stitch adding to the anticipation of the final masterpiece. Despite the inevitable discomfort that accompanied hours of repetitive motion, I gradually acclimated to the strain on my fingers, finding solace in the progress we were making. Encouraged by Peter's assessment of our progress, we were poised to complete the bag on our last day, with the possibility of enjoying a leisurely stroll around the lake to take in the sights of Zurich.

Day Five: The Grand Finale

The final day dawned with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. As the last pieces fell into place, a sense of awe washed over me. With the bag nearing completion, Peter and I took a moment to savor our accomplishment, strolling along the picturesque shores of Lake Zurich.

As we walked, I reflected on the journey that had brought me here – the late nights spent honing my craft, the moments of frustration and self-doubt, and ultimately, the triumph of creation. In the end, it was more than just a bag – it was a demonstration to the power of passion and perseverance, a tangible reminder of what can be achieved when we dare to dream.

Reflections: A Journey Worth Taking

As I bid farewell to Zurich and embarked on further adventures across Europe, the memories of this transformative experience lingered. From tanneries to workshops, each encounter deepened my appreciation for the artistry of leathercraft. And as I returned home with a tangible reminder of my journey, I knew that the lessons learned would stay with me for a lifetime.

Conclusion: A Promise Fulfilled

Exploring luxury bag dissection wasn't just about cutting leather – it sparked a strong love for making things by hand. As I returned home to my family, cradling the cherished gift in my hands, a swell of pride washed over me. With my promise to my wife fulfilled, I look forward to future endeavors with renewed enthusiasm.

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