Niwa Leathers

Another very exciting guest post by Rocky Taniran of mill handmade.
All writing & photography by Rocky, formatted by Indigoshrimp.
See Niwa Leathers’ website here.


When Niwa finished his degree in finance he knew that his path was destined elsewhere. After constantly seeing passionate people coming in and out of the small craft shop where he worked it became clear that he too wanted to work with his hands. Fast forward years later and there lies Niwa Leathers in a small town of Kashiwa.

Niwa worked alongside United Arrows for two years before moving onto bespoke. It was a memorable fork in the road. Many of his peers suggested otherwise, that he should head towards production and scale but this didn’t stop Niwa from pursuing his dream. When the work became just work it was no longer enough and the challenge of going bespoke was just too alluring.

It hasn’t been easy but when it’s fun you tend to defocus from difficulties. Niwa has for a long time been taking orders exclusively face to face. It usually starts with a brief and the client would choose the leathers while allowing Niwa’s creative expression to figure out technicalities and design.

By continually pursuing challenging projects Niwa has been able to gain international recognition with his meticulous details and a unique blend of aesthetics. I asked, if he could give one tip to an aspiring crafter what would it be? “Stick with the basics”, meaning that he respects the importance of them to every last detail. Sharp knife for clean cuts, marking lines accurate to microns, clean workspace and the list goes on. They’re easy to overlook but if you get them right you’ll have a much better finished product. The accumulation of these details is what differentiates the upper echelon of craftsmanship.

But not everything is all so serious. Niwa is a very whimsical person and is quite relaxed at work. His fluidity of concentration is perhaps the reward for decades of practice. To feel free while producing the highest tier of quality goods. He enjoys a variety of hobbies such as photography, design, historic arts, horology and many more. I would hear him talk passionately about these subjects while focusing and struggling to keep up with his precise knife skills.

My first encounter with Niwa was quite impromptu and I’m honoured to have a second audience with him. His cabin inspired atelier is like something out of a Ghibli movie and seeing the clean execution of his work was an absolute delight. Towards the afternoon his daughters would occasionally visit the atelier to work on their own crafts. A surreal scene to see different generations of creatives working in this charming workshop.

Duing my stay I was inspired by Niwa’s discipline and passion for his profession. He has many tools in his workshop and more than half of them were personalised. The knives, awls, containers and many other things had its own unique character. Its easy to see that he treats the atelier as more than just a workspace, it is a home he built in the pursuit of his dream.

Behind his workshop lies his library where I would spend hours reading through a wonderfully curated collection of books. We would have lunch there where he likes to bounce ideas. I was curious and asked him where he finds his main source for inspiration and without hesitation he answered that it’s from all the little things around his hometown Kashiwa. With his keen eye he’s able to find delights from nature and everyday scenes.

Many people are curious to know what secrets are hidden beneath his work but the truth is the level of his finish is achieved through his passion and attention to detail. Cuts were dead clean without hesitation, his creasing irons are custom filed for perfect consistency, edges are hand shaped no matter how difficult the curve or angle and the list goes on. Many crafters would pass on such laborious demands but he delights in these small but time consuming processes. Anyone who visits the atelier can also see this continuity of discipline through his old goods on display, some of which goes back to as early as the start of Niwa Leathers.

Despite his limited English Niwa enjoys having foreign enthusiasts visit his atelier. “Please understand that it is difficult for me to write in English so I cannot always reply”. Though his English isn’t quite fluent he is naturally receptive and you’ll find warm welcome in his atelier. I couldn’t leave without asking him what is your dream? “My dream is to continue my passion and love my work more each day” , something he also wishes for fellow crafters.

See Niwa Leathers’ website here.

Warpweft Company – EX-101 jeans review

The vast majority of denim jeans I’ve reviewed on this blog have been Japanese, and with good reason: at this point, and for the past many years, Japan has been producing the best quality denim and the best quality jeans. Not many people in our hobby will debate this point anymore, especially now that the White Oak plant is no more.

However, as modernization continues in the rest of Asia, the jeans from other Asian nations are catching up in quality. I’ve reviewed a couple of pairs of Chinese jeans previously, and today I’m very happy to be looking at my first pair from Indonesia.

I’ve been keeping an eye out on the denim scene in South East Asia since 2011, and certainly Indonesia has produced a large share of denim brands. To be very honest though, I’d been a little hesitant to try a pair, as I’ve heard some negative experiences from other Western hobbyists regarding some of the popular Indonesian brands (mostly poor construct).

Yet, the maturity of Indonesian denim products is surely improving as the years have gone by. So, when WARPWEFTCo popped up on my radar, I knew it was time to test the waters and have a good look.

WARPWEFT Company was created by a true denim enthusiast. Herman, the man behind the brand, has been obsessing over jeans for some years now, and has taken inspiration from how brands like Pure Blue Japan have transformed the American denim dungaree. As such, WARPWEFTCo aims to produce the best possible pair of jeans within the Indonesian industry, and while focusing on vintage-style detailing, the aim is very much to create a versatile, modern denim garment.

After being active in its local market of Indonesia for many years, WARPWEFTCo has decided to implement a full scale international launch. As part of this launch, today, I’ll be taking an extra close look at the EX-101 jeans from WARPWEFTCo’s Exquisite series.


Design & Concept

To speak very plainly, the Exquisite series is WARPWEFTCo’s formal effort at producing their first export-oriented jeans, aimed at the Western market. Previously, they have done small runs through platforms such as Massdrop to experiment with creating jeans for Western hobbyists, with most sales over the past years restricted to the local Indonesian market. Now, the Exquisite series officially launches WARPWEFTCo as an international brand, 6 years after the creation of the company.

At launch, their slim straight fit is produced in three denim fabrics: EX-101, EX-201, and EX-301, being 14oz/18oz/21oz denims respectively. All of these denims are from Okayama in Japan, where much of Japan’s denim is woven.

The Exquisite series is not only differentiated from WARPWEFTCo’s other lines by the superior fabrics, but also the fact that the jeans are constructed to a higher level of specification using better machinery by some of the best tailors in Indonesia.

(Interesting point too is that the fabric flasher that come with each pair of jeans is actually a heavily washed version of the denim fabric used for that model.)

All in all, the Exquisite series is meant to compete with the usual suspects popular in the Western market at the $150 to $250 price range. I’ll further comment on this in my concluding thoughts.



The fit of the jeans is always a major point of concern for me when I purchase from Asian brands. I’m Australian, but I have Asian ancestry of course, yet my build is fairly large, more so than even many Australians. Therefore, the slimmer fits coming out of places like Japan, China and Indonesia are simply not designed for someone of my build – larger muscles in the upper legs and in the glutes. The Japanese are only recently cutting their fits for the Western market – a big reason I’m a fan of Tanuki Inc. – but South East Asian brands mostly haven’t done so yet, simply because they largely remain domestic operations.

WARPWEFTCo’s slim straight cut, however, is a bit different from other Indonesian cuts. Specifically, the slim straight fit here has a higher rise and wider thighs relative to waist size. This makes the fit much more friendly to larger built folks and most Western hobbyists.

The ideal fit for this slim straight cut is a narrower stove-pipe fit, but this is not true when worn by me. The thighs are relatively tighter than ideal (but not uncomfortable), resulting in the lower portions of the jeans looking comparatively wider. This is not a big problem however, as most people are not as chunky as me, so the slim straight effect of this cut should still hold true for most people.

This slim straight cut fits me very well in the hips and waist at true to size (TTS), and the thighs fit nicely too (better than most Japanese slim straights). The crotch has been cut very well, and there is no awkward sagging or creasing in this area.

Most Asian brands cut their rise much too short on their slimmer fits, but WARPWEFTCo has designed the rise very nicely, being taller than most, giving a true medium rise that is comfortable for everyday wear and does not leave me feeling ‘exposed’.

Further, the inseam comes at a post-soak length of approximately 35″, which is great for taller people, and allows me to double cuff!

I would recommend ordering TTS. Check the WARPWEFTCo website for measurements.



The EX-101 features a 14 oz unsanforised denim from one of the smaller mills in Okayama. The selvedge ID is pale pink.

This particular denim is made very interesting by a curious combination: heavily twisted American cotton yarn + short slubs + extra low tension weaving.

The result is a denim that is very slubby, featuring moderate sized slubs, with a variegated texture that is full of loom-chatter and a very unique feel, best described as crispy, almost……crunchy.

It is moderately knotty and mildly neppy, the texture created mostly by variations in slubbing.

The denim is also quite hairy, having a fuzzy appearance on the warp side, prominent when look at the fabric side-on.

You can probably feel the crunchiness of this denim by looking at how the fabric is sitting in the fit pics above. This fabric will take some breaking-in before it will settle down. The hand-feel is amazing; this denim won’t get boring anytime soon – certainly, the #6 super short slub yarns in both the warp and the weft have been integrated to good effect.

The warp is indigo rope-dyed to moderate depth. This is not a light coloured denim by any means, but neither is it inky dark. The indigo here is darker than Oni’s secret denim and Tanuki’s Z-denim, for example, but not as dark as, say, most of Studio D’Artisan’s offerings. I would say the blue is pretty pure, evidenced by the slight purple/red tinge.

This denim actually reminds me of some Nihon Menpu denims which Sugar Cane had used in the previous decade – I think it’s that interesting combination of variegation, slub and crispness that’s bringing back old memories.

Further, the denim really comes alive after the first soak!

I did a warm water soak and multiple warm rinses, trying to get some shrinkage out of the way.

The hairiness of the fabic is increased, and the variegation in slub is even more intense and concentrated.

The pocket fabrics and yoke linings are made of a very cool batik malam (starch resist dyeing) twill fabric. This twill cloth weighs in at 8 oz; it is hand-woven and also hand-dyed with natural indigo. Moderately thick and slightly crisp, these pocket-bags are some of the most unique I’ve seen.



It is in the details of the EX-101 that WARPWEFTCo differentiates itself further from other Indonesian denim makers. I’ll let the photos do most of the talking here.

The deer skin patch is embossed with the cotton flower, from which the denim production process begins.

The hardware, buttons and rivets, are all completely customised through YKK Japan.

The level of detailing is pretty amazing – I honestly didn’t expect this depth of customisation given the price tag.

All the hardware are solid copper, coated black. The filled buttons are especially nice, and feature the cotton flower motif:

The external rivets feature similar, but reversed, customisation. The cotton flower motif feature again on the backside.

Even the hidden rivets are customised.

The underlying copper peaking through the black coating is a really cool effect.

A black woven tag features on the coin pocket! 🙂

Here you can see the peekaboo selvedge too.

The continuous selvedge fly is one of the main construction features – this makes the fly incredibly resistant to wear, and also reduces bulk. The execution here is incredibly neat.

The yoke lining features the batik malam indigo fabric, which adds to the visual appeal. Yoke lining, whilst not essential by any means, is one of my favourite features on jeans, as it really adds to the styling of the jeans as a whole, from the owners perspective of course (given it is not visible from the outside).

The front pockets are made with the above mentioned twill cloth, and cut relatively deep, so that these pockets will easily accommodate a smart phone or a billfold wallet.

WARPWEFTCo’s back pockets are adorned with their signature arcuate, constructed with multi-stranded threading and sewn in one continuous motion.

This is a nice and balanced arcuate, and works to centre the pockets quite well.

The back pockets are also sized well, and will accommodate work-style wallets easily.

I did notice one flaw in that the cutting of the left and right back-pockets are not quite the same, at the bottom of the pockets.

The stitching throughout the jeans is very well done.

5 different main colours of threading in at least 3 sizes feature throughout, with a good mix of lock and chain-stitching.

The threads are poly-core cotton.

The chain-stitching is beefy where it counts, adding vintage character.

The lemon and tea colours of thread are mixed nicely.

Along the seams, there is also a very nice combination of blue and purple threads.

The inside of the jeans is clean and tidy. Threads are nicely tucked or snipped, and there is no clutter.

Even in areas where the sewing is dense and busy, the construct remains neat. Take the fly reinforcement, for example:

Or the waist-band:

The button-holes are densely sewn on both sides.

The belt loops are well made, and raised at the centre, facilitating some vintage-style aging down the track.

The top edge of the back pockets are raised also, which is a nice touch.

The chain-stitch at the hem is dense and evenly spaced from the rolled edges.



I will preface my discussion by stating that, for a $150 RRP pair of medium-weight jeans, the EX-101 from WARPWEFTCo has exceeded my expectations. The EX-101 features better construction, better materials and, dare I say it, more considered detailing than the vast majority of Japanese or American jeans at the $150 price point.

The construct is not yet at the standard of $300 Japanese jeans, evidenced by the slightly unequal back-pockets, but that would be an unrealistic expectation for the current price tier. I would say the EX-101 is better made, and represent better value, compared with general offerings from brands such as Naked & Famous or Japan Blue.

The denim fabric from Okayama utilized here is also much nicer compared to most lower tier Japanese brands and almost all American brands – it’s not a custom-made denim like Oni’s and Tanuki’s offerings, but does represent the very highest end of stock denim available anywhere, and is more interesting than most “proprietary Japanese denim” offered by most Western brands.

I must say, I came into this review with some prejudiced thinking against Indonesian denim brands. Happy to say, WARPWEFTCo has managed to prove me wrong.

The detailing of the EX-101 is surprisingly considerate, and I could tell that the designer of this pair of jeans is someone who has been studying Japanese jeans for some time – much of the detailing that differentiates top tier Japanese brands from lower tier brands or brands from outside of Japan are present, to a degree, on the EX-101. The EX-101 features no glaring aesthetic problems from my own perspective, and is certainly much more sleek and understated compared with most Indonesia jeans I’ve seen.

Indeed, the EX-101 does not look out of place in my denim collection, which is mostly Japanese. I am also going to say, controversial as this opinion may be, that WARPWEFTCo are doing the details a little better than most Chinese brands I’ve seen so far, in terms of Western preferences anyway. (To be fair, the Chinese brands don’t need to cater for Western hobbyists given the size and purchasing power of their domestic market.)

I’d recommend WARPWEFTCo’s EX-101 to quite a lot of folks. Unless you’re American and really want to buy American jeans, I’d recommend giving WARPWEFTCo a go. Further, if you want Japanese denim with a budget of <$200, the EX-101 provides one of the very best Japanese fabrics – much better compared with the stock and wide-loom Japanese denims utilised by most brands. The EX-101 is a great choice for a beginner’s journey into Japanese denim too.

However, if you have a huge legs or are too chubby, it might be better to go with a Western brand which focuses on fit, or to wait until WARPWEFTCo releases their tapered cut later this year. Also, if your budget is above $200, then WARPWEFTCo faces stiff competition from Japanese brands such as Oni (provided you purchase at the absolute cheapest prices from, say, Denimio), and I would venture that most hobbyists would want to stick with the tried & true Japanese brands.

Of course, my comment above regarding the $200+ price tier is a general one, as I believe that, at this point in time – unless you are purchasing from a maker like Roy or are ordering custom jeans – most people will be best served by buying from one of the better known Japanese brands rather than jeans from anywhere else.

I think, if you could see these EX-101 jeans in person, then most intermediate and advanced hobbyists would be able to discern that WARPWEFTCo’s EX-101 is superior in material & construct compared with most American, European and lower-tier Japanese jeans. Provided that people can overcome their initial prejudices against South East Asian products, then WARPWEFTCo would be a strong contender in the sub-$200 jeans market.

Moving forward, the major challenge I see for WARPWEFTCo would be how they’d compete with the mid-tier Japanese brands, jeans from which are usually priced in the $200 to $300 range if purchased directly from Japan. Developing better fitting cuts for the Western physique would be one avenue of approach, and indeed there is a tapered cut which is being developed by WARPWEFTCo as I type this review. Blending some more traditional Indonesian craft techniques into jeans making may be another point of differentiation, and certainly the batik malam indigo pocket cloth & lining used on the EX-101 is a great example of the potential of this approach.

All in all, if your budget is under $200 USD, you really must have a look at WARPWEFT Company’s EX-101 – you’ll be getting some of the very best detailing, construction and denim in that price tier.

Definitely check out their website here.


Lieutenant & Co. – Haberdashery

Lieutenant & Co. is the newest addition to Melbourne’s work-wear and denim scene, having opened its door for the first time a little more than two weeks ago!

This haberdashery isn’t your typical ‘denim store’ however…

Davy Zhu, owner, has set up what I would consider to be the most well curated work-wear garment store in Australia. Considered not only in the garments for sale, the shop space is a fantastic experience in itself.

At launch, Davy is already our local merchant for many niche Japanese brands – the kind of stuff that’s hard to find even on the internet – including: Attractions, Belafonte, Dapper’s, Heller’s Cafe, WearMaster, etc. This is not to mention the future inclusion of brands such as Clinch Boots.

It’s not necessarily the brands that draw your attention at Lieutenant & Co., however, but more the sense that you are stepping into another era.

Davy has sought to focus on the physical space, and to bring back a more intimate garment purchasing experience from decades past. Indeed, Lieutenant & Co. is modelled after the smaller haberdasheries from the first half of the 20th century – walking into the shop off the modern lane-ways of Melbourne, it is as if I’ve traveled back in time.

The store is very much a reflection of Davy’s interests and hobbies, with vintage Americana being central to the spirit of the space.

The focus is on fine American work-wear styles from the 1930’s to the 1950’s.

And yet, Davy is not primarily interested in selling clothes, as weird as that sounds… Rather, his aim is to share his passions for work-wear and vintage style with anyone who would walk into the store.

To this end, Lieutenant & Co. is packed with true vintage fittings and furnishings, and the garment styles being stocked represent the most authentic & earnest reproductions out of Japan.

Taking after the very best vintage and reproduction shops in Japan and the US, Lieutenant & Co. is lined with vintage rarities and collectibles, coming from Davy’s personal collection of vintage goods. The light fittings and lamps, for example, are true originals. That Montgomery Ward catalogue? Yep, an original too.

In fact, bar one poster, all the decorations & fittings you see in store are original vintage items which had been collected with great enthusiasm over the past decade.

Being a huge fan of the World’s Fairs of yesteryear, Davy has gathered various original memorabilia from the 1939 World’s Fair that had been held in New York. The tin trivets that he has managed to find are absolutely gorgeous!

Also very beautiful are the original post-cards from the same World’s Fair – can you believe these are 80 years old?

Various vintage bits & bobs and trinkets lie about. One could spend half a day looking through all the items.

Lieutenant & Co. takes inspiration from the early days of J. C. Penny and Sears, Roebuck & Co., when these former department store behemoths were still small haberdasheries. You’ll find hints to this inspiration scattered around the store, no less in the framed photographs.

Even the sales counter and the cash register are early century originals.

There’s no shortage of printed material either. Whether it’s true vintage advertisement pages or the latest Lightning compendium, Lieutenant & Co.’s got you covered.

There are future plans to set up a bookshelf dedicated to work-wear magazines.

Visual interests extend to Davy’s NOS View-Master too!

This is the first time I’ve had a look at one of these – so cool. It’s rather amazing how far technology has progress over the past century.

Another awesome display piece is a fully functional Industrial Art Desk.

Did I mention it was fully operational?

Or how about this awesome tool box?

If you look around carefully, there are select pieces of NOS garments laying about too.

This Carter’s dungaree from the 1960’s was a particularly nice piece, with its Talon zipper still buttery smooth.

Wearmasters is a garment line for Attractions, and features heavily in the store. These Lot. 230 jeans were pretty cool, and features my favourite Lee-style back-pockets.

Mainline work gear from Attractions is available too.

There’s also plenty of other denims.

Though, keep in mind that at this point, Lieutenant & Co. tends to stock mostly wider fit jeans and work pants.

Warehouse is probably the most ‘mass market’ brand in store, such is the focus on niche brands.

There’s denim shirting too. A particularly nice one was this work shirt by Dapper’s.

Or denim hats, like this work cap by Belafonte.

Canvas paperboy bag?

All leather Belafonte lunch box?

A major brand featured is Ace Western Belts.

According to Davy, Ace will continue to be a strong focus for Lieutenant & Co.

I’ll be interested in seeing if true Western belts might catch on locally here in Australia.

Cut n’ sewn & knitwear feature heavily too.

Particularly nice was the knitted T from Attractions.

None in my size unfortunately, but a very nice Belafonte loop-wheeled T fitted me quite well, so that was my pick-up of the day.

For fans of overalls and chore coats, Lieutenant & Co. has a very strong collection of some of the very best Japanese makes.

The detailing on these pieces are amazing.

Truly, no one is doing work-wear quite like the Japanese.

All in all, a pretty solid selection of work-wear garments, with surprising range, given the store has literally just opened.

A good half of the items in store are fairly advanced workwear, and would require a solid work wardrobe and an fairly intense interest in Americana to make good use. Yet, there are many approachable options too.

I think it’ll be interesting to see how receptive the different local customer groups will respond to these niche Japanese brands and true Americana work-style.

Situated in the fashion precinct of Melbourne city, very close the business districts, the store is a very interesting addition to the CBD, which is dominated mostly by fast fashion. It would be great to see a revival in true vintage styles now that Lieutenant & Co. is providing a physical space in which to immerse in our hobby.

Certainly, Lieutenant & Co. is a very welcomed addition to the denim and work-wear scene here in Australia. It’s very good to see a true hobbyist setting up shop too; certainly, Davy’s enthusiasm is contagious, and his service & theme focused approach will definitely help widen and deepen our hobby here in Australia.

There are no immediate plans for a webstore, and Davy is keen for people to come experience Lieutenant & Co. in person.

If you’re ever in Melbourne, Lieutenant & Co. should definitely be on your itinerary. For local work-wear and denim fans, Davy’s keen to meet and chat, so pop in and say hi!

See the website here.

Mill Handmade – Everett wallets review

In another installment of awesome leathers, I’m very excited to show you a couple more of Rocky’s creations via Mill Handmade.

Readers of this blog will have seen a few pieces from Rocky featured here since 2016, and I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear that there are a few more pieces from Rocky’s Mill Handmade atelier to be featured this year, plus there will be a special guest article from Rocky about his adventures in Japan coming up soon too!

Today, we’ll be having a look at Rocky’s new Everett wallets – a thoughtful and classy take on the double-outer styles of the folded wallet.

As this will be a photo and content heavy post, let’s cut the introduction short and dive right in.



The basic Everett wallet is a smaller sized, mid-fold wallet. It measures approximately 10.5 cm in height and 8.5 cm in width.

With work-wear style and minimalism as inspiration, Rocky has refined the double-layer outer style of work wallet into a very streamlined, one-piece outer design.

The standard double-layer outer wallet utilises two pieces of leather on the outer to create a bill compartment – rugged, but clumsy. Rocky has created the Everett so that one piece of leather forms the outer as well as the accent panels on the inner, with the leather cut and stitched as seen in the photos here to create the bill compartment.

The two Everett wallets here showcase the two basic inner layouts available – one with a coin compartment and the other with maximized card carrying capacity.

The brown Everett features snap closure for the wallet, as well as a snap closed pocket for coins. There is a card pocket on the opposite side, but also a quick access card slot just below the coin pocket.

And thus, with three pieces of leather, Rocky has creates four compartments.

The tan Everett is a full capacity card wallet, with one card compartment and one quick access card slot per side.

Similarly then, with four pieces of leather, Rocky gives us five compartments in total.

The basic layout is versatile and adaptable to suit different needs, making the Everett a worthwhile customisation project.



Being a smaller folded wallet, scaled down somewhat compared to the average bifold wallet, the Everett wallet is very easy to carry and handle.

Even when loaded and folded, the wallet is not too much thicker than 1 cm.

The quick access slots are rather easy to use, giving the option to retrieve one card per slot with a swipe of the thumb. The card storage compartments will hold multiple cards, but retrieving any one card will require a little more dexterity compared with, say, taking a card out from a traditional billfold wallet.

The bill compartment on the outer is functionally similar to that on a billfold, but doesn’t open quite as wide.

Without distorting the shape of the wallet, the version featuring the coin pocket could carry 3 to 5 cards and a handful of coins, whereas the card-carrier version will carry 6 to 10 cards easily, depending on your stacking preference (personally, I don’t like stacking cards.)

Overall, the Everett wallet is compact and versatile. Whilst minimalist in nature, it is easy to use and has enough capacity to meet every day usage or light travel needs.



These Everett wallets feature Rocky’s choice of leather combinations, but I think he knows a little something about my leather preferences…

The dark brown leather on the snap closed wallet is pretty amazing – it’s Shonan Leather’s brown saddle leather!

As I have mentioned in an earlier review of Mill Handmade’s Japanese wallet:

Shonan Leathers is a small tannery in Himeji, Japan.

…relatively small and low-tech tannery, being one of the few tanneries in the entire world that continues to pit-tan their hides. It was incorporated over 70 years ago as an amalgamation of several smaller tanning operations.

Top grade raw hides are imported from the USA, and tanned using wooden equipment in African Mimosa tannin pits for approximately 2 to 3 months. The saddle leathers thus produced could then be drum dyed (either black or brown) and even glazed – the result is a small catalogue of Mimosa tanned leathers available in three colours and a couple of different finishes.

…Such is Shonan’s quality and reputation for graceful aging, many Japanese craftsmen use only Shonan leather despite the high cost.

This is one of the very best leathers in the world, and probably my favourite leather on a wallet! The grain growth is incredible, and opens up even more with use. The leather is rather dense, and wears gracefully even when used as a back-pocket wallet.

First hand experience tells me that Shonan’s saddle leather ages very well. Whilst Baker’s pit-tanned oak bark leather may be thick, dense and tough (a great belting leather for sure, maybe the best), Shonan’s version is much more responsive and achieves patina more quickly & dramatically.

The brown version of Shonan’s saddle leather you see here is very interesting indeed… it has a blue undertone, giving the wallet is slightly purple shade.

For the inner base-layer of this wallet, Conceria Walpier’s Buttero leather features again. You’ll have seen quite a bit of Buttero on this blog over the past year or so. It is a modern style of veg tan and is a great choice for the wallet’s inner or lining.

Buttero’s relatively firm temper compared with other veg tanned leathers as well as its slippery finish means that Buttero can help a wallet hold its shape, and is very easy to keep clean. Buttero leather is quite uniform in grain, and comes in a bewildering range of colours.

The card carrier version of the Everett features another Italian leather, on the outer this time – Badalassi Carlo’s Minerva Box. You might have seen this leather on some special edition Japanese boots!

This particular iteration of the Minerva, as the Box version, is milled so that the grain is accentuated, giving quite a different aesthetic compared with the Liscio (smooth) version you have seen previously on this blog.

Minerva Box is a fair bit softer compared with the Buttero, but has a tough grain that wears nicely, developing a more prominent pattern in the grain as time goes by. Minerva is more responsive compared to Buttero, in that the colour becomes deeper and richer much more quickly.

The inner base-layer is made with the visually striking Pueblo, another of Badalassi Carlo’s offerings. Pueblo has a very variegated colour, almost marbled in appearance, which is rather notable especially on the darker colours of this leather. This is a vegetable leather of course, though at first the texture and the grain appearance is rather different from the more traditional finish on the Minerva leathers.

Initially, the grain has a slightly fluffy, almost suede-like feel, and there is no growth (pore structure) discernible. However, as the Pueblo acquires patina, the grain definition appears and the leather starts to take on a more usual “full grain” appearance.

Similar to the Minerva, the Pueblo is very responsive – tending to show scratch marks and card outlines rather easily, and it is a great option for those who prefer rugged aging in their leathers.



These two Everett wallets share the same basic construct.

What we have here are wallets that are hand-cut, hand-stitched and hand-burnished. Given the handmade nature, every one of his wallets can be customised in not just colours, but more importantly in layout and details. The differences between these two Everett wallets has illustrated this fact.

The first thing I noted was that, given how only one piece of leather forms the outer, the bill compartment and half of the inner, the precision required in cutting is pretty remarkable. Rocky has done this well, as both wallets demonstrate good symmetry and impeccable matching of the different leather pieces.

The handmade saddle-stitching has been executed very nicely too, with great regularity at a density of 8 SPI. The tension of the stitches is pretty good, with the threads sitting just a little above the grain of the leathers. The Lin cable thread used here is a high quality thread, and should last for many years of heavier use.

The crossing over of the stitching over panels is fantastically neat – the threads have not cut through the leather, testament to not only careful sewing but considered use of the awl.

Rocky has elected to edge crease all the edges too, a finer point in detailing which I do appreciate on more refined wallets. Here, the framing effect of the creasing combines well with the curves that Rocky has introduced to the inner layouts.

These curves not only give the wallet visual interest, but also helps to minimize bulk and grant quick-access potential to the top slots on either side.

An aspect of Rocky’s work that has received special attention from him recently is the edge finish. On these two Everett wallets, Rocky has burnished all the visible edges in such a way that the edges are smooth, but not too glossy, creating very cool ‘sandwich’ effects. 

The sandwich effect is a little bit more dramatic with leathers that have been dyed through, so with a Shonan outer it is not as pronounced. I love this look!

Of course, such an effect is only possible when the paneling and edge work are neatly done.

Additionally, where the outer leather has been cut, Rocky has terminate the cut with a circular punch to ensure that the leather does not crease dramatically with repeated opening of the notes compartment.

Finally, on the wallet featuring snap button closure, Rocky has utilized his usual stock of plated solid brass Prym snap fasteners, which are smooth operators indeed.

Overall? Well made with some of the finest materials.



The Everett wallet, I feel, is a testament to Rocky’s innovation in his leather work. Not only does Rocky make really beautiful pieces, through his Mill Handmade workshop he is also constantly developing innovative wallet designs which are sleek & functional. I think here in lies a major point of difference for Rocky and his brand.

The vast majority of what I’ve sees on the market in the last couple of years has been more of the same Americana with very little innovation and rather average workmanship – somehow rugged is now almost synonymous with roughly made, and most seem to be focusing on the same style of small card wallets which offer no visual impact and say very little of character or style.

Rocky, however, has been committing brain juice and elbow grease in starting Mill Handmade, resulting in his profile of work being many steps ahead of similarly priced competitors in the same Western markets, after just two years of officially launching his brand.

Further, much akin to myself, Rocky is interested in all sorts of strange and wonderful leathers, and finely studies each one he stocks. Hence, Mill Handmade wallets are available in the very best leathers from around the globe, giving the potential for some very unique combinations in colour, texture and grain patina.

Even though minimalist carry is not necessarily my cup of tea – as you know, I’m always up for a monster bifold or an exotic mid-wallet – I do think that Rocky’s Japanese-influenced aesthetic appeals to me quite a bit, and allows his more refined designs to work in well with my collection of mostly Japanese denim and work-garments.

Rocky’s work on these two Everett wallets blends work-style ruggedness with the finesse of a bespoke wallet. I’m aware that Rocky’s house-style tends towards minimalism and a sleek, classic appearance, and so in making goods for me, he’s taking a small step outside his comfort zone and tackling slightly thicker leathers and a more rugged silhouette.

The use of cards, cash and smartphones for payment varies across the globe of course. Many of my Chinese friends are telling me how the vast majority of their daily transactions in China now occur via the WeChat app on their phone, and as a result they don’t carry wallets anymore, but might simply carry one or two cards in their phone cover.

This is the opposite of my experience in Australia, where we tend to need many cards and a little bit of cash to get us through the day, necessitating at least a small wallet for daily use.

The Everett wallet is sized well to adapt to both situations: it can function as an accessory card wallet or my daily carrier, it can slip into my jacket or my jeans, and it straddles the line between work-style and gentlemen’s style, so that I don’t have to swap out wallets between work and play.

I do think that Rocky’s mix of varying influences allow his work, such as these Everett wallets, to be more versatile than most.

Consider, too, that Rocky’s work is ever improving. With each Mill Handmade wallet I own, the edges are getting smoother, the stitches more regular and the overall finishing closer to impeccable each time.

All in all, starting at $140 AUD ($110 USD), the Everett wallets from Mill Handmade represent not only great value, but simply fantastic design and great craftsmanship regardless of price considerations. Given Rocky’s continuing investment into craftsmanship and fine tuning of designs, his pieces represent even better purchase compared with when I reviewed his work for the first time in 2016.

If you haven’t already, check out his beautiful website (and amazing photos!) at his Mill Handmade website.


Heyou Handmade – Sailor belt review

You might remember seeing some photos of Heyou Art and Craft Department on this blog a little earlier, as part of a collection of photos taken during my trip to Taiwan last year. A small but very cool space full of vintage and vintage-style garments & goods near the centre of Taipei, Heyou is run by Jordan and Penny.

As I mentioned in that earlier post, besides trading in vintage and work-style goods, Jordan himself is a leather craftsman. He creates a variety of carry goods and accessories under the house brand of Heyou Handmade, influenced by early century work-styles.

Jordan’s belts, in particular, caught my eye whilst I was shopping for some Adjustable Costume work pants in his store. In particular, the belts utilise high quality and somewhat unusual buckles, with unique designs to complement to flavour of the hardware.

So once again, to continue this blog’s tradition of introducing to you high quality made-in-Taiwan leather goods, we’ll be taking a look at Heyou’s Sailor belt today!



This Sailor belt came nicely packaged in a solid box, further protected by plastic casing and paper shavings.

How the product is packed is not the most important aspect of the belt by any means, but these smaller details to give hints as to the level of craftsmanship.

I did appreciate the sturdiness of the packaging this time, as it was shipped to me by family members via SeaMail, and so the belt has spent a bumpy couple of months at sea – as you can see, no damage whatsoever!



Let’s take a look at the leather first.

The Sailor belt is available in many different leathers, the one being reviewed here is the waxy brown leather. Whilst I don’t have the exact details as to the origin of this leather, it does seem like a English Bridle type of leather to me.

Indeed, Heyou uses leathers usually either from England or Italy.

Measuring around 3.6 mm (9 oz), this is not the thickest strap, but the high density of the leather makes it sturdy nevertheless.

The colour varies from hazelnut to coffee, depending on the lighting, which works nicely with the waxy bloom on the grain. Like any English Bridle, the bloom is not permanent, and does fall away with heat and friction.

Direct sunlight gives a nutty colour.

The grain is very tight, and the pores are not visible to the naked eye. The strap is supple but not overly soft, with enough rigidity and weight to give the leather some heft.

You can also see that, under the wax bloom, there’s a fine variegation in the colour tone of this leather.

All things considered, this waxy brown leather is smooth and sturdy. Certainly, higher quality than what you might find on an average Americana style belt.


Styling, Hardware, Details & Construct

The Sailor belt has a very unique design; I don’t believe I’ve seen anything like it before.

There’s a curious combination of visual factors: huge hardware juxtaposing a relatively thin (32 mm) strap, vintage gun-belt style design, and well-framed edges.

The buckle is probably the major feature of the belt – a solid brass hook-buckle measuing almost 10 cm in length!

This isn’t just any buckle from the local craft store. This is solid, un-plated brass that will patina nicely with wear.

The hook opens with movement at a single joint, and is closed by slipping through a brass ring.

The lateral pulling force as the belt is worn secures the buckle by ensuring the the flared portion at the end of the hook secures the ring tightly.

The Sailor belt comes at a standard length which will accommodate waist sizes between 30 to 36 inclusive.

My waist size is between 35  to 36, and you can see here I’m using the final hole – no ice cream for me!

This juggernaut of a buckle is attached to the strap via a narrowing in the strap which passes through the ring on the buckle.

The resulting shape of the buckle fold is quite unusual but elegant nevertheless.

The buckle fold is secured by a solid brass screw.

The brass screw used here is much nicer and sturdier compared with the average Chicago screw.

The strap itself features full-length edge creasing, which is very neatly executed.

Edge creasing helps to frame and focus the leather, and creates a peculiar aesthetic on narrower belts.

The edge creasing also features on the secondary strap, which weaves through the main strap to create a series of looped holes which allow the buckle to be attached and secured.

The length of this secondary strap is carefully cut so that there is only enough extra length for one loop to protrude and be used as a buckle hole.

Precision in cutting and measuring is important here, as loose loops would make the belt look sloppy. Jordan has done fine work here.

Again, you’ll notice brass studs/screws securing this secondary strap.

The screw which will sit under the buckle is a flat screw rather than a stud, so as not to clash with the buckle when the belt is worn.

The tip of the belt is curvy and neatly cut – there’s good symmetry in the finish of the tip.

I like how the creasing runs off as the strap curves into the tip, creating a cleaner look.

Notice, however, that unlike conventional belts, the strap does not go over the buckle, and hence the tip of the belt is tucked below the buckle fold and cannot be seen when the belt is worn.

The flesh side of the leather is compactly finished and show traces of waxy bloom too.

Heyou’s logo is neatly stamped.

The edges of this belt is very nicely burnished, and features gentle beveling too, creating a smooth and slightly rounded look.

Overall, the detailing and finishing at the edges are very well executed, and certainly contribute to the elegance and refinement of this Sailor belt.

Keep in mind to that Jordan does a version of the Sailor belt that’s fully machine stitched rather than edge creased, if a stitched-belt is more your style.



In this hobby of ours, despite the proliferation of leather crafting in Western countries over the past few years, the top end of this hobby remains Japanese. However, if you’re a long time reader of this blog, you’ll remember that I’ve had many good experiences with Taiwanese leather crafters – guys including Angelos, Ken, Tim, etc, all offer well priced leather goods that are exceedingly well made.

Stylistically, the leathers coming out of Taiwan are very mature and the designs are mostly quite advanced – unlike rougher products that you might sometimes encounter coming out from other regions. One factor here is that leather craftmen from Taiwan have been, in general, inspired by the Japanese masters, who have elevated Americana and work-style leather goods to a level that has never been seen even during the heydays of American manufacture that inspired these styles of clothing.

The market in Taiwan for work-style leathers is small and competitive, and local hobbyists have been following Japanese trends closely for many years now, so in general you’re unlikely to find roughly or poorly made leathers in Taiwan. Jordan, who has entered the market relatively late in 2012, continues this fine tradition of excellent leathers being crafted in Taiwan.

All in all, I’m very impressed with my first Heyou Handmade belt. Not only is the belt very well made, but the design is spectacularly unique. Almost anyone can cut a strap and attach it to a buckle, but to come up with new belt design that is aesthetically pleasing and functionally uncompromising is truly an achievement. My hat’s off to Jordan for this very cool belt.

Whilst many of Heyou’s products would be very suitable with a matching wardrobe of more “gentlemen’s style” of work wear (i.e. early century rather than mid-century Americana), they are nevertheless compatible with denim in general.

Focusing specifically on this Sailor belt, not only is the workmanship impeccable, Jordan has utilised some of the best materials available. The solid, un-plated brass hook buckle is simply incredible, and of course the waxy bridle leather is uniquely suitable for belting – being strong, resistant and flexible – being much more luxurious compared with the average veg tan or latigo style leathers that you’d find on a basic work belt.

Would you believe that this belt has a RRP of only $2680 NTD (~$92 USD)?

The value offered here is incredible – this Heyou Handmade belt is one of the most well made sub-$100 belts I’ve ever seen.

There’s certainly no more excuses for wearing a roughly made, $50 strap for a belt, when, for a few extra bucks, Jordan can make for you a truly artisan-crafted belt that will become a centerpiece in your outfit.

If you’re a work-wear fan or interested in vintage style clothing, you’ll certainly want to have a look at Heyou Handmade’s leather goods. Check out Heyou’s website to see the Sailor belt as well as their other really interesting offerings.

Vanitas Japan – Ego wallet update

The second run of the Ego wallet by Matsumura-san of Vanitas Japan has sold out before Denimio had a chance to put them up on their website!

It’s good to see that there’re folks who’d still rock a long wallet.

If you missed my original review, read it here!

I’ve been using my own Ego wallet on and off over the past 2 months, with approximately one month of effective wear. The natural vegetable tanned leather from Himeji has aged very well indeed.

Here’s what the wallet looked like during the first few days:

Even with just a few days, the Australian summer heat and sunshine really does hasten the oxidation of the leather fibres:

The shine on the leather also continues to improve, highlighting the great importance of glazing vegetable tanned leather so that it does not become overly dull with use.

Not all vegetable tanned leathers are created equal. The cheaper stuff usually don’t age well – the grain could be too fuzzy, the browning could occur in unpleasant shades of brown and certainly the surface could appear dull & lifeless.

Not a problem with this natural leather from Himeji.

After a month, the depth and intensity of the caramel colour was quite amazing.

This leather becomes golden and toasty with time, and the shine continues to improve with wear.

I think the resulting colours here is a good benchmark for mixed veg tan leather. Certainly this Himjei leather is a little more responsive compared with similar offerings from Wickett & Criag, and IMO has better glow and depth compared with similar carving leathers from Hermann Oak.

It’s probably almost twice as expensive outside Japan though…

I’m glad M-san chose to go with a high end Japanese leather, whereas originally there were thoughts to use Hermann Oak, which is a gold standard as far as carving work is concerned.

Simply brilliant stuff; can’t wait to see the new work that M-san will be creating this year. I’ve seen draft designs of a interesting collaboration wallet with another of Japanese denim brand, which looked very cool indeed!

Anyway, give the guys at Denimio a shout out if you’re interest in the Ego wallet. I think the upcoming third run will have 3 wallets up for grabs.

The Rite Stuff – ‘Harvester’ henley, regular edition

You might remember the Harvester henley shirt from The Rite Stuff, the prototype of which I reviewed here at the meeting with brand owner Bryan in Taipei last year.

It’s proved one of the most versatile pieces in my work-wear wardrobe, and I wore it consistently during the Australian spring season, and even into our summer too. Well, I’ve been testing out the retail version of the Harvester henley, so I’ll give you guys some updates regarding some changes that have been made since the prototyping stage.

Let’s take a look.



Both my regular and prototype version are size XXL, and you’ll notice that the regular version fits a little closer and slimmer in the body, much more like a sports undergarment – check out the historical background in the review of the prototype linked above.

Excuse the razor sharp nipples.

Mind you, in the fits here, I’ve lost a few more kilograms compared to my chubbier self in the photos from the previous review. For reference, my chest size is 44, and the shirt is XXL.

Not only is the body of the shirt a little trimmer compared with the prototype, the arms are also narrower from the shoulder down to the wrist. The regular edition Harvester is a bit more fitted, in other words.

Of course, the Harvest was also designed to serve as an undershirt. In colder climates, it would slip easily under a leather jacket.



Just like the prototype, the regular edition of the Harvester henley is made with a medium weight, all-cotton knit consisting of unbleached, ecru cotton. The knitted jersey, like the shirt itself, is made in Japan.

The all-seasons weight and the very natural colour contribute greatly to the versatility of this henley shirt.

The brown little flecks within the fabric are also interesting – they’re actually small pieces of the cotton plant!

The ribbings and cuffs feature the exact same cotton, in a tight twill.

The 14 mm cat’s eye buttons are made of brown mother-of-pearl, and remain of the the core features of the Harvester. Right click to enlarge the photo above – the shine, colours and variegated tones of these MoP buttons are very cool.


Details & Construct

It’s mostly in the details where the regular version of the Harvester differs from the prototype. It’s still the same shirt for sure – the alterations are in the finer aspects of detailing.

Firstly, Bryan is still experimenting with tags and labels, and the current label design is different from that on the prototype or the Heracles chambray shirt.

The curved placket facings is are featured again – this was one of my favourite details on the prototype – improving the appearance of the henley when worn.

Lock-stitching is extensively used throughout the shirt and is neatly executed.

Another change in details would be the use of tonal brown thread for sewing the MoP buttons – old school indeed.

You might also have noticed that the button holes are now vertical, making the buttons easier to use and giving a neater appearance to the henley.

The inner threads of the shoulder and side seams again feature contrast blue stitching – looks great with the cuff rolled up – though in the regular version of the Harvester the circumferential wrist seams no longer feature the blue thread.

What the wrist seams now have, however, is added elastic banding. This makes the Harvester much more comfortable to wear for those with thicker wrists.



It seems like Bryan never stops working on his The Rite Stuff brand. Certainly, he’s gone back to the Harvester henley shirt and made several upgrades to it since I first looked over the prototype with him in Taiwan.

I reflected in the previous review that the Harvester was a well priced, well made and very versatile piece that would find a place in the wardrobe of anyone who is interested in work or vintage-style clothing. Of course, born of sportswear in the same era as denim was born of workwear, the Harvester will combine nicely with denim jeans too.

Bryan wearing his Harvester prototype, during my visit to Taipei in 2017

Importantly, if you have a larger build than the average Japanese man, the Harvester does offer the advantage of being fitted for larger and more muscular physiques at the larger sizes, going up to XXL. In comparison, most henley shirts made by Japanese denim and workwear brands are much too tight for me around the chest and traps at the largest sizing.

With The Rite Stuff, Bryan puts in tremendous effort to research and refine his garments, and has them made by some of the best workshops in Japan through John Lofgren. Each piece is something special.

He releases one garment after the next, gradually, spending much time on each to get the details just right, and it’s fascinating to follow Bryan’s thoughts on his brand blog too.

At $95 USD, the Harvester is great value, considering the Japanese materials & construct, and the small batch release. You’ll get heaps of wear out of it too, the Harvester being “very high yield”, and perhaps like Bryan or myself, you’ll be wearing it most days during the spring and autumn seasons.

All in all, the Harvester is a very detailed, well though-out, and worthwhile henley shirt. Check it out at The Rite Stuff!