You might remember Mike and Chie from Wild Frontier Goods in Tokyo who have been featured on the blog a couple of times last year, and who also crafted this blog’s most recent collaboration project – the Australian Aomushi bracelet.
I’ve kept up with Mike pretty consistently via Instagram over the past year, and it’s been fascinating to see how his crafting has evolved and the new techniques he’s been trying out.
Mike’s been working on a couple of things with Moto, and recently he’s developed an interesting twist on indigo painting through these projects.
I knew I had to see his fascinating indigo painted leather in person, so I asked Mike to craft for me a bifold which will showcase this painting process.
The result is an one-of-a-kind workstyle bifold wallet, blending Japanese materials, Japanese inspired crafting techniques and Americana leather styling.
Let’s have a look at this unique bifold.
Wild Frontier Goods has gone all out with the packaging for this wallet. Wrapped in a super cute bandanna and stored in a hand-made selvedge denim pouch.
The candy was nice too…
Did you know Smokey the Shiba is the official Wild Frontier Goods mascot? The shiba inu bandanna is awesome~
Let’s see what’s inside!
This is a proper work-style bifold – there’s not many around – and this Wild Frontier Goods wallet has the dimensions to match.
When folded, the wallet is 9 cm tall and 11 cm long.
Depending on load, the wallet’s thickness is a minimum of 1.5 cm and could increase to 2 cm when fully stacked with cards and cash.
This bifold has a traditional 6 card, horizontal layout.
The top three inner panels and the outershell consist of the indigo painted leather, whereas the rest of the wallet features the natural leather without the indigo dye.
3 quick access slots per side – very user friendly.
Additional storage compartments are located beneath the card slots on both sides.
All in all, with one card per slot, the wallet overall will very easily accommodate a minimum of 10 cards.
Of course, a full-sized notes compartment is found between the outshell and the inner panels. Notice the lining, which we’ll explore later.
As a full sized bifold, this wallet is incredibly user friendly, and is definitely the easiest type of wallet to carry for people who use cards or bills frequently. There nothing quite like a good bifold – it’s my favourite type of wallet by a long shot.
The main character of this bifold is Tochigi Leather’s natural saddle leather, hand-painted with a mix of natural and synthetic indigo.
The indigo dances and shifts as viewing angles change, and the tone also varies quite dramatically depending on lighting. Words cannot capture its ever changing beauty, though thankfully this blog allows me to upload all these photos!
Truly, a stunning display of the indigo dye. A better showcase compared with leather that has been dyed in indigo…this painting method gives the grain so much life.
Mike’s technique was imparted to him by a very well known Japanese craftsman, but the result you see here is due to his own variation on traditional painting methods. Trade secrets and all, I don’t know the details…
As you might expect, under warmer tones of sunlight, the colour appears to contain greens as well as blues.
Examining the leather closely, you might guess that there are many layers and multiple directions of indigo paint applied.
The painting process also stiffens the leather, hardening the grain to a degree and making it a little dryer than usual, but also very textural and scratch-resistant.
The colour has such depth, and seems to shift within itself.
The tonal differences are most pronounced in slightly colder natural light.
The painting process does bring out the pores in the grain a little more… almost aging the grain somewhat. At angles closer to horizontal, the definition in the grain is clear and pronounced.
I especially love the view of the leather from sharper angles, such as in the three photos below. The tonal difference really pops!
Tochigi’s saddle leather is a very nice leather without further processing, being rather oily and having good evolution potential. You’d probably have seen this leather a couple of times on this blog already, and I can tell you from personal experience that this leather ages nicely.
Now, combined with indigo painting, it truly becomes a top tier hide as far as our leather and indigo hobbies go.
What about the lining!?
If you’ve kept an eye on my Instagram, you might have noticed I’ve recently received the Saunter Hood Jacket from Pallet Life Story, which features their own sashiko (rice grain) fabric. Well, apparently Mike and Chie at Wild Frontier Goods really like this sashiko fabric too…
So, stocking this particular indigo-dyed fabric, Mike was able to incorporate it as lining for this wallet.
This is true blue sashiko. Indigo dyed rice grain fabric, woven on vintage looms.
Simply a beautiful cotton fabric… I may actually like sashiko better than denim, as it showcases indigo much better than denim does.
As far as materials go, this wallet features a world-class Japanese cast: Indigo, leather, sashiko. If only I could have this combination of a pair of boots too!
This wallet is a custom pattern – I’d asked Mike to create a bifold with sashiko lining, and as such the inner paneling required a bit of tweaking, which I feel turned out fairly well.
Mike has hand-cut and hand-stitched this wallet, and overall the style of construct is very work style and rugged.
The layering of panels is nicely done, with both sides of the wallet being symmetrical.
Notice the handmade saddle-stitch is sewn with large caliber Japanese polyester thread in white. The stitch density is 5 SPI.
The sewing is fairly regular and consistently spaced from the rounded edges.
The balance of stitching from left to right and top to bottom is very good.
There are one or two spots on the wallet where the stitch width is not entirely regular, but this does not stand out in a glaring manner as the overall construct is deliberately skewed towards a rugged and heavy duty aesthetic.
Wild Frontier Goods acquired a logo some months ago, and many of their current products feature this mark, which here has been nicely stamped.
It’s a pretty cool logo.
The edge-work is simple but neat. There is no creasing, but the edges are nicely rounded nevertheless.
Further, Mike has been using a new edge burnishing method which involves multiple steps, aimed at producing a translucent, natural but hardy finish.
I quite like this new finish, as it allows a nice sandwich effect when the wallet is viewed from the sides, and it is a little more slippery compared with simple wax finishes.
Some indigo paint have been deliberately left along the edges for visual interest.
Overall, the construct of this bifold is tough and rugged. The thick polyester threading creates a nice contrast with vegetable tanned leathers that really pulls together the Japanese work-style aesthetic. Considering the layers upon layers of thick, hardy leather, the overall smoothness of this bifold is pretty admirable.
I feel this custom bifold from Wild Frontier Goods is one of the most interesting and visually pleasing indigo pieces I own. I’m always on the lookout for materials and crafting methods which realize the potential beauty of the indigo dye, and Mike’s technique of indigo painting on leather has got to be one of the most beautiful showcases of indigo I’ve ever seen.
This is not to mention the use of Pallet Life Story’s indigo sashiko as internal lining; I don’t believe I’ve come across another wallet that has been infused with so much indigo goodness!
Truly, this wallet is a faithful homage to indigo.
Further, this wallet features some of the nicest materials native to Japan. Everything from the Japanese poly thread to the Tochigi vegetable tanned saddle leathers, Mike has chosen to utilize very high quality components that complement his Japanese crafting techniques.
Combine the Japanese ingredients with the work-style aesthetic, this wallet can truly be considered a denim head wallet. The vast majority of leather craftsman I’ve featured on my blog over the years have not been hardcore denim hobbyists (which is perfectly OK, we can’t all like the same things), and so it is very exciting to see leathercraft made by a fellow indigo fan. Mike’s wallets are, at their core, extensions of our denim and indigo hobbies, so they complement jeans and Japanese style Americana in a fundamental way. Perfectly exaggerated thickness and sizing, with dimensions and ruggedness that matches this wallet with the back-pocket of my jeans.
To be a harsh critic, in terms of precision of sewing and panel work, this wallet is not yet at the highest tier – Faler’s bifold remains my gold standard for assessment so far – yet, the focus here is perhaps less on saddle-stitching perfection than the incorporation of Japanese indigo techniques and the creation of a work-style, indigo-influenced wallet that will complement our Japanese denim.
I would also like to acknowledge that the creation of this wallet consisted of many, many hours of pure hand labor. Every aspect of its making, from hand-painting the Tochigi leather to the multi-step edge burnish, incorporates complex and time-consuming techniques for which there are no short cuts.
Given this is a one-off and completely custom piece, I won’t discuss the actual pricing of the wallet here, as value-for-money was not a consideration – needless to say, for what is pretty much a bespoke piece, Mike bartered a fair price.
Would I recommend this wallet?
Recommended of course – just look at that indigo, absolutely stunning!
If you are a work-wear fan, an indigo lover or a denimhead, then I really feel you need to check out Mike’s amazing indigo painting technique, which showcases the different hues and tones of indigo much more readily compared with simply dyeing the leather. If you have any interest in indigo at all, you’d definitely want to look into getting your own indigo painted piece from Wild Frontier Goods!
Contact Mike & Chie here.