Tanner Leatherstein explains his frustration with luxury leather brands and how passionate he is to help people understand leather better. In this video, we’ll answer the following questions:
- Why should you support small craftsmen instead of big luxury brands?
- What are some examples of brands that offer good quality leather for a fair price?
- What’s the difference between the leathers used by big brands and small craftsmen?
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!
TRANSCRIPTION / WRITTEN ARTICLE
I would like to rant about my frustration with the high fashion leather brands. Basically, that’s the whole idea that made me start this Tanner’s Club channel to try to help people understand leather better and answer the questions such as what is good leather and what is bad leather. As opposed to what marketing tells you in today’s environment about what’s the greatest leather, I want to answer why some products are so expensive which is, in my opinion, all lies and marketing fluff. So, I want to go into detail with some examples that I’ll show you on my screen here with some experiments that we did and we have some leathers right here with me to illustrate what I’m trying to tell everybody.
Actually, I’m very happy that so many people today are trying to get into leathercraft either as a hobbyist or aspiring craftsmen trying to create their own designs and brands. That makes me so happy. Hopefully, this video will be helpful to some of those folks who are passionate about leather either as a user, hobbyist, or craftsmen.
The core concept of my frustration is that these big brands with their massive production needs cannot use leather as authentic as it is because they need so much of it. Leather is not a standard material. They have to take it and standardize it. I have two examples here and I’m going to try and show you as much as I can.
This is one of the standardized leather examples. This is one of the most typical leather that you will find in those big brands. This is embossed on the leather grain and has a very uniform pattern. It’s painted with heavy pigments and plastics so you don’t actually get to see the leather grain anymore. There’s a thick layer of finish covering it to make it very uniform and very easy to work with. Of course, when you’re making hundreds and thousands of leather bags or wallets, this is the material you’ll need when you’re a big brand like that. This is the only thing that you can use.
As opposed to it, small craftsmen who are making these as passionately as we do here, get to enjoy the luxury of embracing leather’s imperfections. This is an example of the leather that we use. It’s absolutely minimally finished. There’s nothing to cover the imperfections of that hide coming from its lifetime. We will see scratches, blemishes, bite marks, bug marks, and everything that makes each piece crafted with this leather unique. This is actually what gives you an authentic item made out of leather using its most unique feature being different each and every time.
When you get a leather craft or any item per se, it comes to you at the perfect peak of its lifetime, and then once you start using it, it starts to fall apart and get uglier than it was when you first touched it. That's when you know you got a made-up item. But, if you got a craftsmanship statement piece item that comes to you at not its peak of its lifetime, it will get better as you use it. These types of leather will age into beautiful pieces and will not deteriorate from the point that you touch your hands on it on the first day.
A couple of examples that I would like to show on my screen here are from very known big brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Chanel, and some other brands that I actually like. They’re big but they try to do a good job of using very authentic leather selections for their designs and charge a fair price. Again, I understand that there’s a status piece that you’re buying with some of those brands but as long as I understand that, I don’t have a problem with it. Let’s take a look at some of those websites together.
First is the Louis Vuitton website here. Actually, you might remember in one of our videos, we actually got this bag to illustrate to you how much of it is actually leather and how much of it is the canvas. To be fair, they sell this as canvas but a lot of people who buy this bag may still think they’re buying a leather bag since it’s Louis Vuitton. It’s very associated with leather, being a leather brand. This is one of the cheapest items in their collection by the way. We took this bag apart and obviously, this was printed canvas (coated canvas). We still have the little pieces that are left over from it. This is the bag we took apart. It’s technically fabric covered with plastic with their signature logo. What people buy here is the logo. That’s the status. It’s kind of saying that “I’m accomplished. I can afford to pay $2,000 to $5,000 for a leather bag and I can walk around with it.” That’s what you’re buying. Even if they’re leather bags that you’re looking at, it’s much more expensive but it’s all that standardized leather we just talked about.
The other brand here, the Michael Kors, I think they have a very similar item to that Louis Vuitton bag and as they say here, they have 70% coated canvas which is the body of the bag and the trim is 100% leather which is the little details. This was the case for the Louis Vuitton bag as well. This is the leather selection they used and for me, this is mediocre (at best) leather. It’s completely covered up, made up, and standardized leather. I wouldn’t touch this as a small craftsman. Most of the small craftsmen I know would have nothing to do with it. Michael Kors is fairly affordable compared to Louis Vuitton. They’re at $600.
There’s another option here which is Chanel. They have aged calfskin. I don’t know what that means. I think it’s marketing stuff. I would be very interested to go ask a salesperson at Chanel what those aged calfskins mean and hear what they have come up with. So this is a $4,400 mini handbag. At least, you’re getting a calfskin here. It looks pretty good. I’m sure it’s good leather but not worth $4,400. Again, you’re buying a status here. As long as you understand that this is not that natural item that’s going to age as you use it, this is an item that’s going to start getting old because it comes to you at its peak look.
On the other hand, there are big brands that I pretty much love because they use leather in most of their products. Cole Haan is one of them. They use pretty standardized leather. To be fair, it’s not the authentic leather that I was talking about. But their items are pretty fairly priced. This is a backpack worth $328. This is a fairly well-priced leather bag and most of their shoes are also pretty good.
Another favorite brand of mine is Johnston & Murphy. I actually saw this bag in their store. This was really, really good. This is a full-grain, very oily, pull-up finish leather. I really liked the leather. I was about to buy it but they didn’t have one in the box. They offered me the one on display. I didn’t want to take that one due to some scratches and I can see that it’s back ordered until May for good reasons. This is an insanely good price, $259. I think this bag deserves every penny that you pay for it.
This is the kind of knowledge I want to communicate when people are trying to shop for leather goods online. Just have an eye for it. Try to look for those things. Those authentic marks tell you it’s a leather that‘s not completely standardized. It’s actually still keeping its features of what makes it leather, what makes that living material. Not a fabric, not completely plastic makeup stuff. You look for imperfections and you can find these things by going with a small craftsman brand.
A lot of people like myself, they’re passionate about (good) leather nowadays. They use these unique and authentic artisan leathers that the bigger brands don’t have the luxury of using so they offer you a product that comes at its prime but it will only get better as you use them. They age so well. They’re not fully polished, uniform, and standardized items and are not going to start falling apart as you start using them. That’s the whole point.
I’m very excited of seeing that passion and a lot of people going into the craft and I’m so passionate about trying to help these people understand leather and have access to good kinds of leather. So we, as small craftsmen, as a community, come together and put our design, talent, and mind together to use the best of the leather’s potential to improve the world’s leather experience versus the control of five to ten big brands five to ten years ago. But nowadays, it’s changing. I’m so happy to see that change and be part of and support that change.
If you like leather, if you love to work with leather, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel. Follow us and let us know what you like to know about leather. This is all that we’re about. We would love to make content with it to try to help you understand it better. Hopefully, we’ll improve leather better together.