Tanuki Inc. Japan – RR1 two month update

About time for a quick update on the Tanuki Inc. RR1 jeans. I’ve worn this pair faithfully for the past 3.5 months, apart from the month or so when they were with Anthony at Anthill Workshop for some alterations and the occasional Saturday when I swap my Oni 1001HM in for the day.

These photos are from just before Xmas 2016, so about 1.5 months of effective wear at the time of taking these photos:

A few thoughts so far:

  • These jeans are well made – everything remains intact and aligned.
  • The denim is rather responsive, with the colour lightening quite significantly in high-stress areas. The Retro fabric begins inky dark with indigo, then shows a grey cast after shrink-to-fit, which quickly transitions into shades of electric blue as the indigo crocks. The initial impression of a green cast passed pretty quickly…maybe it will come back at some point?
  • The weave of this Retro fabric is much denser than other low tension fabrics. The Retro fabric is tougher and more durable compared with every other low tension fabric I’ve come across.
  • Creasing sets in rather easily, and crocking of the indigo around the whiskers are already apparent at this early stage.
Retro fabric. New vs. one month.

So far so good; I’d say there is much to like from this new Japanese denim maker whose focus on fabrics rivals even that of Oni’s.

Apart from the Natural & IDxID fabrics, there are apparently a black denim and a red-cast denim in development too. Exciting times~

R atelier & Co. – Tochigi natural leather sandals review

We’re right in the middle of summer here in Australia, though regardless of the season or the weather, for many years I have only worn heavy leather shoes & boots. Some may find it strange – and certainly my family does – but I am loathe to wear flip flops or sneakers unless I were to go to the beach or engage in athletic endeavors…

“Maybe you could wear leather sandals? What about the natural leather that you keep talking about?” said a friend of mine.

Indeed, why not?

So it is I started looking for a pair of sandals which might fit the bill: hand made with good quality leather. It started off as a surprisingly difficult hunt!

A few days into my search, I was lucky to come across a little leather studio in the Nakameguro district of Tokyo. Based in his atelier by the name of Art Atelier du Travail, leather craftsman Ryosuke Obana has a brand of hand-stitched sandals and other leather goods – R atelier & Co.

Reviewed today here is the Phra Kaew sandals of R atelier & Co.

Shape & Fit

R atelier & Co.’s sandals come in five sizes, in ascending length: female S, female M, male S, male M, male L. Given that I am a US9/UK8, and these male L size sandals fit just right, I’d are very much made for the size of East Asian feet!

In terms of width, these sandals are between a D & an E as per Brannock’s device.

These are toe-pinch sandals, and the thickness of the straps does mean that these sandals have a break-in period. Initially, it is a little awkward moving at a fast pace with these sandals, as they tend to slide off…this improves with breaking in the leather and as your brain becomes acclimatised to grasping the straps with your toes.

Leather

One of the remarkable aspects about this sandal is that it is made with Tochigi Leather Co’s famous natural vegetable tanned leather!

The colour you see here is darker than natural tan, due to leather conditioner applied to the sandals before they are finished at the studio, and the fact that Tochigi usually curries it’s veg tanned leathers.

Tochigi’s natural leather has featured previously on this blog, but to recap:

It is a 1.5 month pit tanned leather with extra oils curried in. There is a moderate amount of growth, which is combined with a gentle shine. All in all, a superior leather compared with many of the commonly seen natural leathers. Though still not as nice as Village Work’s saddle leather or Baker’s oak bark leather, as footwear leather it’s pretty bombastic!

Construct

These sandals are made like belts and wallets!

Every aspect is done by hand, from the cutting to the saddle-stitch.

The linen cable hand-stitch, in particular, is a highlight of this sandal.

The straps are built into the layers of the body, and securely held with saddle-stitch.

Below the surface layer is a double mid-sole! The three leather layers add up to a pretty monstrous sole unit:

Of course, in line with the rest of the sandal, the sole unit is executed well, with the burnish looking impeccably smooth.

Sole Unit & Misc.

The outsole is an easily replaceable Vibram sole.

As you can imagine, the chunky body of the sandal does require breaking in, and, in the first few days, will squeak as you walk.

Opinion

These sandals are freakin’ awesome!

Not for everybody, I know…but, as another leathercraftman aptly commented: “I appreciate the fact they exist.”

Ryosuke’s work is that of a professional, of course, though it is the fact that such considered crafting had been applied to a pair of sandals which makes it that much more special.

At 17, 000 yen they are expensive as far as sandals go, but factoring in its hand-made nature, the country of origin, and the expensive Tochigi leather, I think they are actually very good value. For example, they compare well with the superb sandals by Tokyo Sandals, which cost around twice as much.

Conclusion? A completely unnecessary luxury to be sure, to be appreciated only by true leather enthusiasts. That said, if you have an interest in natural vegetable tanned leathers and quality craftsmenship, these could be an extra excuse to carry another natural leather item on your person!

The friendly folks of Art Artelier du Travail are able to communicate in English, and purchasing from overseas is very easy. Definitely check out this leather studio!

Tanuki Inc – bifold wallets

Not a full review today, but I came across these bifold wallets from Tanuki at Godspeed Store just before Xmas.

Very interesting to me because the craftsman behind these wallets may be further featured on this blog at some point this year!

Let’s have a look at these first:

Probably the nicest packaging for a bifold wallet I’ve seen!

Entirely hand-made in Japan, with Japanese pit-tanned natural vegetable tanned leather & chromed loop for lanyard/rein attachement.

The wallet features one notes compartment, one coin compartment, one card compartment and an additional hidden card compartment below the coin pouch.

As you can see in the photo below, this wallet has been stitched with a roller-foot machine – the tracks are imprinted onto the leather.

Very nicely put together, with every edge hand-burnished to a smooth lustre and all the pieces assembled precisely.

The leather itself has nice grain growth, and is much more supple compared with the average veg tanned natural leather.

There’s even a brown version that looks like it’s been hand-dyed.

Tanuki is even coming out with some long wallets, though I’m unsure as to where or when they’ll be available.

Check them out at Godspeed.

mill – watchstrap in Baranil (Barenia) leather review

Going into this new year with some new raiment & new leathers.

First up let’s have a look at the new watchstrap that Rocky at mill has made for my Archimede deckwatch.

Design

This one is a classic two-piece strap, fully stitched, edge creased and edge sealed, with one sewn-in loop and the other loop free.

This strap is lined but unpadded (as per my request).

Leather 

The star of the show here is the re-tanned (double tanned) French calf leather from Tannerie Degermann, called Baranil. It is very similar to the Barenia/Novonappa leather produced by Haas…so similar, in fact, Hermes uses them interchangeably for their carry-goods.

 

This leather is similar to CXL in many ways, being finished with a vegetable tannin mix after chrome tannage and subsequently stuffed full of oils. However, Baranil/Barenia is more refined compared with CXL – a finer grain, superior consistency and more elegant creasing.

Surprisingly, given the high oil content, this leather is not too oily to touch does not give too much “pull-up”.

The back of the strap is lined with natural vegetable tanned kangaroo leather – superior in resilience and strength compared with other leathers in the context of the thickness require for watchstraps.

Construct

This is an entirely custom hand-made strap.

Rocky’s linen hand-stitching combines elegantly with the edge creasing.

The regularity and evenness of Rocky’s work creates a feeling of harmony despite the contrast stitching.

The small details are completed accurately, and as a result I encountered no difficulties in the attachment of the strap. The strap fits securely, without excessively rubbing up against any of the hardware.

Even the loops are carefully edge sealed, blocked and creased – looking like miniature belt loops with incredible neatness and detail.

Rocky utilises a four step process in his edge seal, resulting in a finish that is both smooth and durable.

Opinion

It’s like I have a brand new watch!

Love this new strap – nicely made, cool leather and lovely colour – not to mention the strong potential for further patina development on this French calf.

These go for $160 AUD and up, depending on the leather chosen. Certainly a fair price for a hand-stitched strap with all the bells & whistles.

Have a look at the other options available at mill’s webpage.

Happy New Year 12017 !

Happy New Year!

Thanks for your attention so far in round 2 of the indigoshrimp blog.

For the blog, I’m hoping to focus, as much as possible, on the quality of content next year. For more frequent updates, check my instagram at @indigoshrimp.

Please feel free to contact me via the blog menu with interesting things related to denim, leather, workwear & indigo!

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P.S. As to why it’s 12017? Check out this fantastic video by Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell.

Faler Leathers – bifold wallet review

Around 2011/2012, as this blog was slowing down and eventually becoming inactive, there seemed to have been an explosion of interest in leather crafting – with handy folks taking up leatherwork, and part-time crafters turning their hobby into a profession.

One of the many American craftsmen to launch their brand at the time was John Faler of Dayton, Ohio. His work had been introduced to me on Superfuture back in 2011, but it wasn’t until recently, via Instagram, I learnt a little more about John and his brand, Faler Leathers.

Though not aggressively curved or flamboyant in details, John’s crafts interested me greatly – there is a signature styling that I found to be very new and exciting to me, having recently started to re-explore the leather crafting scene. Featured today is a sample bifold wallet that is not yet part of John’s online webshop offerings, but could perhaps be representative of his craft in general.

Let’s take a closer look!

Design

This is a bifold (or billfold) type wallet in basic design, with one notes compartment, six card slots and two storage compartments under the card slots.

It is, however, slightly larger than the average bifold, measuring 13 cm long and 9.5 cm wide when folded.

From the side, when folded and compressed, the wallet is 12 mm thick – you wouldn’t mistake this for a bifold that you can find in a mall shop!

The leather used is 1.5 mm thick, or approximately 4 oz.

This wallet differs in a small way from some of John’s more recent work, having the top edges of the inner and outer matched at the same height, and having the inner panels rounded on the outer corners both at the top and the bottom. This creates, in my opinion, an even more streamlined look on what is already a very clean bifold design.

As per what I understand to be John’s signature style, the wallet features extensive edge creasing, straight card slots and hand-stitching that frames not only the outershell, but also the left & right internal panels. There are seven layers in total, with the thickest portion containing five such layers.

Closer to a mid-wallet in size, this bifold is easy to use. The slots hold cards securely, yet the insertion and removal of cards is very smooth, due to the larger than normal width of the slots.

The notes and storage compartments are very spacious, lending to an excellent holding capacity as far as bifolds are concerned.

This is very much a wallet for the denim/workwear/heritage-wear enthusiast, definitely not something that’ll fit in your shirt pocket  😀

Leather

The bovine leather used to construct this wallet is Wickett & Craig’s (W&C) vegetable tanned natural leather, which had been initially developed for tooling and carving. Originally a Canadian tannery, W&C is now one of the only two American tanneries which continue to operate true vegetable tanning (the other, I believe, is Hermann Oak).

The mixed bark tanning that W&C employs is a quick and high-tec process. The hides spend an average of only two weeks in the tanning vats, and, as opposed to traditional bark tanning where the pits are kept minimally disturbed, here the tanning liquor is cycled and flows through the vats.

The difference, compared with a very traditional single bark slow tan, is that the grain growth is more shallow and the leather fibres are firmer and more compacted.

The colour is initially quite pale, with an interesting yellow tone that I tried to capture in some of the photos. However, with one feeding and a couple of wears, the leather quickly turned pink and developed a strong red tinge.

This leather is a little bit shinier compared with other W&C natural leathers I’ve seen, maybe due to John manually brushing and cloth polishing the leather in his workshop.

To nit pick just a little, the backside of the leather, whilst smooth, could perhaps be further finished to facilitate easier insertion of bills in the notes compartment.

Unlike the Village Works natural pit-tanned saddle leather that featured on this blog recently, this W&C leather is unfinished – starting with a much lighter colour, lower oil content and firmer temper. A true blank canvas for patina development, but not as beginner friendly in that there are likely large variations in how this leather might achieve patina depending on how it is used and treated. There is potential for great colour development, but could possibly look very average if not properly fed – all a matter of individual taste, of course.

Construction

It is in the construct of this wallet that much of John Faler’s signature is revealed. Despite the heftiness and ruggedness of this bifold, there is an usual level of detailing and precision that is, at first glance, difficult to pin down and only apparent with use and examination.

Over the years, there has been a handful of precisely crafted wallets shown here on the blog. Believe it or not, John’s work takes it to the next level!

First, look at his hand saddle-stitch. Precise, regular, evenly pulled and symmetrical on both sides of the wallet. The natural Lin Cable thread sits extremely close to the surface without cutting into the leather, and should provide great contrast as the leather darkens.

I caught myself looking over every stitch on this wallet, even the ones hidden beneath the card slots, thinking there must be a wonky stitch somewhere. There were none to be found  🙂

Second, the hand burnish utilises organic beeswax sourced locally in Ohio and is applied to all edges. The finish is superb – no further words are necessary, just have a look at the photos above!

Third, the precision edge pressing & creasing are notable too – the width and depth of creasing being remarkably consistent despite the extensive application, this regularity adding to the clean and streamlined aesthetic of the wallet as a whole. The pressed edges give the wallet very neat profiles from all sides, despite the thickness of the leather.

Finally, whilst not immediately apparent in these photos, this wallet has been very neatly and precisely put together. The panels are not only carefully matched and stacked, but skiving is done where required to keep the thickness of the wallet consistent from the top down. The left and right look identical, and the “error” in paneling between each side is less than 1 mm! Especially impressive considering the overall thickness of the wallet – it is a beast of a bifold, though a very elegant and symmetrical beast 🙂

Opinion

I have shown photos of this wallet to a few different leather craftsmen whose opinion I trust, and they all remark that John’s work is superbly clean.

This is certainly also my own impression. I think John’s precision and consideration in crafting, especially given the heavy, Americana style of this wallet, is extraordinary. Remembering that John is working with layers upon layers of 4 oz unfinished veg tanned leather – not some chrome tanned goat or oily calfskin – I can only imagine the intense focus required in the creation of this wallet.

I have seen and handled many workwear/Americana style wallets made by different crafters and workshops from across the globe, and it is only in less than a dozen instances – mostly bespoke Japanese wallets that cost as much as bench-made boots – where the precision in detailing and finesse in handwork were in the same tier as this Faler Leathers wallet.

However, unlike many high-end Japanese pieces, John’s work is neither exaggerated nor ostentatious. Again, clean.

The many straight lines of the wallet are balanced by the corner curves, and I do think that this new/sample design is a little sexier compared with some of John’s earlier work. Perhaps a couple more curves on the inside might make a monogamous wallet-user out of me.

In practical terms, this wallet is sturdy, spacious, user friendly and very compatible with denim and other workwear fabrics.

The W&C natural vegetable tanned leather that is used might not be at the same level as Baker’s oak bark leather or Pailot River’s Himeji pit-tanned leather, nevertheless it is probably as good as it gets in terms of an unfinished North American leather, and I do prefer it to most of the Italian stuff. I know that John is able to offer additional finishes with this particular leather, such as hand-glazing. Though, in the raw state, this leather is a remarkable blank canvas on which to produce patina. Hobbyists who have a basic idea regarding the care of vegetable tanned leathers (if you’re reading my blog there is no excuse for ignorance :P) should be able to derive much enjoyment out of this leather.

Given this is a sample wallet, it is impossible for me to judge its value proposition. However, looking at the pricing of John’s advertised crafts, I would say they are very well priced considering the calibre of his hand-craft and the quality of materials.

All in all, one of the most exceptional bifold wallets I’ve seen thus far. 

I have absolutely no hesitations in recommending John’s work, and in fact I’d say you really must have a look at his website. Order one of his crafts, and see how the rest of your leathers compare.

9/10 with unsanforised denim.

~

Thank you for reading this special Xmas post on indigoshrimp.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!

I’ll be back shortly in 2017 with more leathery and denim-y stuff.

Craftsmen’s Own – a collection of makers’ own wallets

Have you ever wondered about the craftsman who made your leathergoods – what kind of wallet does he use?

Has he made some kind of ultimate wallet for his own pocket?

Perhaps he uses prototypes or defective seconds?

Or, maybe his wallet was actually made by someone else?

Here with a special treat for the holiday season, I present a collection of leathercrafters and their own carry goods. Click on the headings to check out their websites!

(All photos belong to the individual makers; some have been edited by myself for clarity or usability on blog platform.)

 In no particular order, here we go:

The Blackacre

Ray’s signature curves and fine detailing are well known among leather nerds. Ray usually wears his own prototype wallets as part of the thorough testing process that his designs undergo. His current wallet is a pretty cool design made in preparation for the re-launching of Blackacre; brown latigo leather outer, Wickett & Craig American bridle inner, here at 3 months:

The Blackacre is soon to re-launch; I hope to have more information and perhaps even some cool stuff from Ray to show you next year.

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Don’t Mourn, Organize

If you’ve read my blog before, you are probably already familiar with Scott’s work – his crafts and many collaborative pieces have featured here over many years now. Working out of Utah, Scott specialises in honest, hard working leathergoods made with a variety of interesting leathers, and is especially well known for his belts, which he also makes for a couple of brands.

Scott carries a long wallet – whiskey shell cordovan outshell, veg tanned inner, #8 shell cordovan rein.

It doesn’t look like whiskey shell, you say…that’s because it’s been used everyday for 7 years!

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Hawkmoth Leather Company

Tom – the maker of the Natural belt recently reviewed here – specialises in crafting with Baker’s oak bark leather. His is a relatively young workshop based in England. Here is his wallet, which previously belonged to his father:

This wallet’s story is perhaps best explained in Tom’s own words:

‘The desperate clinging onto memories that become more distant as each season passes.
The wonder of a child’s eyes when fixed upon a crisp, clean, blue £5 note that sits tantalisingly tucked away .
It’s about knowing that this object was once in constant close proximity to someone who is painfully missed.
It’s a trip to the garden centre to buy a new rose.
Or a payment over the phone for a new orchestral Sebelius performance .
A spontaneous purchase of a catfish for the fish tank .
A pub lunch with the family eating prawns out of a dimpled glass on a sunny day.
It’s choosing a first squash racket at age 13.
It’s knowing the weekend is coming by it’s movement from suits trousers to camel coloured cords.
A chat about ‘ Hang ’em High ‘ whilst it rests up on a chest of draws.
It’s about letting go, but also keeping someone close .
A father’s parting gift that no one wants to receive .
It’s a few pieces of insignificant leather that are worthless to anyone else, but priceless to me.’

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Tim Leathers

Tim is a full time craftsman from my native Taiwan, and one of the finest makers I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.

A few hand-stitched pieces from Tim here. First is his now retired long wallet, used for 2 years, made of Italian veg tanned saddle leather and a coin case made with Tochigi stuffed veg tanned leather:

His current set, 2 years old, features his new work made with Sedgwick bridle leather outer and Italian veg tanned saddle leather inner:

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Hollows Leather

For the first time, and hopefully not the last, Nicholas’ work is featured here. Hollows is a perennial favourite of Superfuture and Denim Bro forum members, and with good reason too.

Check out this wallet he has been carrying since 2012; natural Chromexcel outer, front-quarter horsehide inner:

Really nice patina developing – a perfect demonstration of leather goods looking better with age.

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Guarded Goods

Jesse at Guarded Goods has a focus on smaller wallets and gentlemen’s carry goods. His personal wallet is a hand-stitched money clip made of #8 shell cordovan. Here at 7 months:

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Voyej

Voyej is the leather dream of fellow mynudies forum (wow, takes us back hey?) member Lucas – after some years, now a well known name in SE Asia leather circles. Here is his Dewaruci bifold, made with an Indonesian veg tanned leather that was custom tanned for Voyej:

Can’t wait to see how this leather will develop. The lustre is very curious!

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mill

Rocky has just launched his own brand, mill, after a few years of part-time crafting out of Brisbane, Australia. His shell cordovan card wallet was recently reviewed here on the blog.

A couple of pieces from Rocky, along with his very impressive Imperial jeans. His old rider’s short wallet after 2 years:

Deciding to size down for comfort, Rocky’s currently uses a shell cordovan card wallet:

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Tempest Leather Design’s

Matsumura started his own brand after apprenticing in leather workshops for some years, though he is also the maker behind the leather goods from a few Japanese brands – one of which has recently featured on this blog. Here is his own hand carved natural saddle leather wallet after some use:

There’s something exciting in the works from Matsumura and a well known denim retailer – I will have more information for you in 2017.

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Hubb Leather

Ian’s own wallet has been made with off-cut, blemished leather that didn’t meet the his standards for Hubb products. I reckon they look pretty good though – English bridle shoulder leather outer and veg tanned shoulder leather inner:

Very interesting internal lay-out too!

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Sleeping Dogs Leather

Here is one of the few European specialists of the long wallet. Dominic carries his own work, made out of Lyveden leather – a British vegetable tanned shoulder leather with a waxy finish. Hand-stitched everything, even the rein & tag:

The red tone comes through at different angles too! A very unique wallet.

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First Settlement Goods

Oliver has an unique arrangement with the folks at Context, basing his workshop on the premises! Oliver’s own wallet is made of Nile crocodile, in a very cool translucent grey colour. The inner is a grainy vegetable tanned goat. Nicely tied together with a linen cable hand-stitch. Here at 2.5 years:

Here is the wallet on top of the same crocodile skin in original condition, to demonstrate the patina development:

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Borderstate Made

Matthew at Borderstate Made has an interest in leather currying, something that is not much done anymore. His own wallet is made out of Horween natural veg tanned horsehide that has been curried for 2 weeks using Matthew’s own alchemy recipes, while the inner flap is a vinegaroon dyed Chahin veg tanned leather:

That’s some good going patina!

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Simon Tuntelder – Leather Goods

Long time blog friend Simon is a full time craftsman based in Denmark. He’s recently moved into a new atelier, and perhaps we’ll see his new set-up soon on this blog!

Check out this card wallet – the outer is natural vegetable tanned cattlehide from Italy, the centre piece made with thick veg tanned pigskin, put together with 4-ply British linen thread. A very English combo of tan leather and yellow threading, and very mighty patina going on too…incredibly dark brown at the moment!

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Jake Burke

Jake (his brand formerly known as Made Supply) is based in Melbourne, Australia. He specializes in a finer aesthetic than the usual Americana inspired pieces, and his wallets are fine indeed. Have a look at his wallet, entirely made of shell cordovan from Rocado tannery in Italy.

Jake is currently transitioning to a new leather label – more info to come soon.

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Faler Leathers

Last but not least, here’s a wallet that John Faler had made for his father, and later on used as his own. Wickett & Craig vegetable tanned leather hand-sewn together with linen threading, here at 1 year:

I won’t say too much more about John’s work just yet, but please check back with the blog in a few days, as Faler Leathers will be featured in my upcoming Xmas special review!