Studio d’Artisan D1755 ‘Suvin Gold’ review by beautiful_FrEaK

Indigoshrimp is excited to feature another review by reproduction enthusiast beautiful_FrEaK.

This time he examines the SdA D1755!

Words & photos by beautiful_FrEaK. Editing & formatting by indigoshrimp.

~

 

Studio d’Artisan D1755 ‘Suvin Gold’

Where do I start? Why did I buy another pair of jeans? What made me chose the SdA D1755? Not easy to answer.

If you ask around the denim community you will often hear that peak denim is over and the raw denim, selvedge, work wear trend is over. Yet the denim companies we all love push out new release after new release and Limited Editions and new models every other week. Some would argue that this is very well a sign for the decline in popularity but what do I know about economics?

The D1755 is one of Studio d’Artisan’s latest releases utilizing a luxury cotton variety in a modern cut. This alone grabbed my attention and after checking out the further details I was sold on them.

 

The Cut

SdA used their own 107 cut and modified it slightly. The rise on the D1755 is a little bit higher giving you more room in the crotch. But keep in mind, it’s still a medium rise at best. The thighs are roomy enough (for me) and they have a strong taper without giving you that carrot look. They come with a decent inseam length so you taller folks should also be able to enjoy them. Here is what my pair measured before I washed them. Size 34.

Waist: 35″
Front rise: 11″
Back rise: 15.5″
Thigh: 13.4″
Knee: 9.5″
Leg opening: 7.9″
Inseam: 37″

All in all, a perfect modern fit on my body.

 

The Denim

Now to the second important part of every pair of jeans, the denim itself! It is right hand twill denim with a red selvedge line and clocks in at 15oz. The highlight of this denim is the cotton SdA used. For the warp they used Supima cotton, a well-known and ELS cotton. But for the weft they used the luxury cotton named Suvin Gold. This cotton is grown in India and is an extreme long staple cotton with very fine fibers. This allows the cotton to be spun into very fine and strong threads. This should also result in a very soft denim.

The indigo shade is quite deep and as the weft doesn’t show much, the denim has a very dark color. Judging by the red cast of the denim I assume only 100% indigo was used without any fillers. The red cast gives the denim a purple hue.

The denim is really quite soft and very nice to the touch. It’s also very comfortable to wear. After washing the jeans got more rigid but as usual this feeling goes away after a day or two. The denim started pretty hairless as you would expect from fine and long cotton fibers but after washing and wearing a hairy surface is developing. While there are smaller irregularities, the denim also has a modern feel and look to it. Not as rough and vintage feeling like denim from Warehouse or Full Count and also no slub-fest as with Oni or PBJ.

After wearing them for 3 days I have the feeling the denim could fade fast as already lighter highlights are showing.

 

The Details

If you already use two of the most luxury cottons for the denim, you shouldn’t be stingy with nice details. Studio d’Artisan – being in the game since 1979 – definitely knows this.


We have half-lined back pockets with raised hems, selvedge at the coin pocket with peek-a-boo selvedge, selvedge details at the fly, a thick but smooth leather patch, branded hardware, black buttons, raised belt loops which are tucked into the waistband and herringbone pockets bags…well, that’s it but it’s all I would ask for!

 

The Construction

I often count SdA to the bigger Japanese brands with the best stitching quality. Except for one little deviation, these are also very neatly sewn. Only one excess thread was sewn into the chainstitch at the hem.


Besides the presumable durable denim, SdA wanted construct these jeans very tough. The stitching at the crotch and at side of the hips is doubled, similar to what The Flat Head is doing. The sewn in belt loops should be durable. And also the half-lined back pockets should save your pockets for wearing through.


A downside for the back pockets: they are tiny! They have really the smallest back pockets of all my jeans. They can just fit my OGL wallet but if you like bigger wallets you might have a problem. The front pockets however are very accessible and the pocket bag is deep enough to fit your EDC.

 

Conclusion

Studio d’Artisan really put out a great pair of jeans! The modern fit is very versatile and can be worn cuffed, stacked or hemmed to your desired length. The denim is really the eye catcher on this release. Of course it reads fabulous on paper but it also feels, looks and wears nicely. Now we only have to see if it fades as nicely as it feels on your skin.
I’m not yet decided if I will join the DWC this year but if I do, I will most likely join with this pair of D1755.

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Hubb Leather – Partner belt

You might remember Ian of Hubb Leather from the Craftsmen’s Own wallet post last December – I’ve been hoping to review a product from each of the craftsmen featured, and so it is today we’ll be taking a look at a very interesting piece by this British belting specialist.

Ian has been working with leathers for around 6 years now, starting off with making a camera strap for himself. The joy of leather crafting had taken hold, and since that time Ian’s work has become progressively more refined with influences from British, American and other European styles of leather work.

I came across Hubb Leather by chance on Instagram last year, and was immediately intrigued by Ian’s playful & memorable takes on classic workwear leather goods.

Featured today is Ian’s very interesting take on the British bridle belt – the Partner belt, in English bridle leather and fitted with aged Marshalsay (quick-release) buckle. This is a true work belt for sure, and yet the details and aesthetics are quite different from the traditional British saddlery styles of belting often seen on this blog. Indeed, the belt is named after Clint Eastwood’s character in the 1969 movie ‘Paint Your Wagon’…

Let’s have a look.

 

Leather

This bridle belt features Clayton’s version of the famous English bridle style of leather. For many years, as far as bridle leathers are concerned, Sedgwick’s hand-finishing had always been miles ahead of everyone else. Clayton’s tannery however, had focused on innovation, adopting a modernized approach to making bridle styles of leathers, evening applying it to horsehide!

(Baker’s version of the bridle is very different, and I think it’s best considered in its own, separate category.)

I’ve showcased all of these bridle leathers on this blog over the years. However, Sedgwick’s currying operation has actually been purchased by Clayton’s parent company in recent times, and as a result true English bridle leather will now come from either Baker’s tannery or Clayton Leather Group. Sedgwick’s English bridle is now part of Clayton’s line-up of leather tannages, produced as the ‘traditional’, hand-crafted version of bridle leather; Clayton’s own version of the bridle, which they have been producing prior to the acquisition, is now sold as the ‘modern’ bridle range.

Technicalities and origins aside, this Conker English bridle leather featured on the Partner belt is shiny, supple, and hard-wearing with an open but condensed grain.

The characteristic waxy bloom tells of the hand-stuffing process (mostly polished off before it got to me, but traces can still be seen).

The density of this leather is produced by a setting/compression process.

If there ever was a leather that has been engineered for belting, English bridle leather would be it; unless the patina potential of a natural or unfinished leather is desired, no other modern leather can make as nice a belt as English bridle, IMO.

The backside of the leather is very nicely finished, having a smooth ‘waxed-flesh’ style of texture, and also demonstrates waxy bloom.

At around 4.0 mm thick (10 oz), this English bridle leather makes for a moderately hefty strap. The incredible density of this leather adds to the ruggedness too.

The keeper is made with Italian bridle leather. This is an interesting leather I’ve not come across before; it is more variegated in grain finish compared with English bridles. The dark brown colour makes for interesting contrast to the Conker coloured strap. Ian has told me he can also make the belt strap with Italian bridle leathers.

 

Styling, Hardware, Details & Construct

In case you haven’t guessed from the name, Ian was inspired by the rough & rugged miner’s style of the American Old West in the creation of this Partner belt. It is the fusion of this rougher style of Americana and British saddlery work which makes this belt very unique.

On one hand we have the classic European materials: British and Italian leathers, linen threading, Marshalsay quick-release buckle. On the other, we have Americana styling: rounded edges, hand saddle-stitched perimeter, contrast keeper. It is a confluence of styles and details…

This combination could have ended up looking way too busy or mismatched – certainly would have been the case if I had ordered a custom design from Ian, haha. Seriously though, Ian has made it work, tying together the various elements to create a very unique styling that is more than just another quick-release belt.

Let’s have a look at the details then. First, this Partner belt is a narrower work belt, being only 3.07 cm wide (1.2″). I’ve never tried such a narrow belt before, but I find that it does work very well with work-wear style pants and, of course, denim jeans!

At the front end while worn, we have a mix of colours: the off-white threading, the aged brass, the Conker of the strap and the dark brown of the keeper. I feel the darker colour of the keeper ties the aged brass nicely to the Conker colour of the strap.

Speaking of the brass, this Marshalsay quick-release buckle has been gone through a forced patina process; Ian has used baking soda, organic cider vinegar, sea salt and heat to produce the surface effects you see in the photos here.

Marshalsay buckles were originally used by 19th century English firefighters, allowing them to quickly deploy the leather water hoses of that era.

The quick-release operation of the buckle is pretty straight forward – simply press downwards on the bottom hinge, which then allows the top hinge to be pulled to the right side, thus opening up the buckle like you see the the photo below.

This quick release mechanism probably saves you only a second or so of time, when it comes to unbuckling your belt. Very cool to play around with, nevertheless, and the somewhat unusual buckle shape and bolted hinges do contribute heavily toward the work-style of this belt.

The patina work that Ian has done nicely outlines the individual components of the buckle, and even some of the finer detailing such as the textured thumb press you see in the photo above.

The keeper has been sewn in, and is quite firmly set in place – it does not wobble or shift with use.

The hand-saddle stitch at the buckle fold is very nicely done. The tension is even and firm, but Ian has taken care that the threads do not bite into the leather.

Indeed, at the edges of the buckle fold, you’ll see that although the threading sits close to the leather, there is no damage to the grain or the edge itself.

The prong hole has been precisely made, and during operation the prong does not wobble at all. This is particularly important for a quick-release buckle, as the prong shoulders the majority of the pressure on the belt when the actual buckle has been released.

The backside of the buckle fold is neatly finished too.

Onto the strap itself.

One of the defining features of the Partner belt is the full perimeter saddle-stitching. This does take much time and effort, of course, but Ian’s stitch-work is remarkably careful and consistent throughout the length of the strap.

At 5 SPI in density, there are approximately 420 individual stitches on this belt!

The tear-drop shaped holes are a very nice touch, and work well with the front-end design and the curvature on the buckle.

The strap is finished with a short, pointed tip.

The backside of the belt, in terms of leather and stitching, is just as refined as the rest of the belt. In fact, factoring out the orientation of the buckle and keeper, the belt could very well be worn in reverse and still look great!

Finally, one of the most impressive aspects of this belt is Ian’s edge finishing. In case you’re new to the leather hobby, I can tell you that the edges you see in the photos here are the results of very impressive burnishing work!

Granted, English bridle leather, given the density, is not a difficult leather to burnish. However, the way Ian has curved and smoothed over the edges is still very impressive.

The beeswax burnish is slick, moderately shiny and very consistent even at the buckle fold. The burnishing work really adds an extra level of refinement to the belt, and helps bind the various details together into a coherent whole.

I can’t say enough goods things about the burnish on the edges! No fluffiness at all. Super smooth. Sexy, almost.  😀

All in all, this Partner belt is a work belt in name and styling, but truly can be considered an heirloom piece in terms of materials and craftsmanship.

 

Thoughts

The Partner belt from Ian at Hubb Leather is very different from the other work belts in my collection – for me it is one of the most unique and thoughtful designs I’ve come across. It stands out in many ways, from the blending of British and American styling to the relative narrowness of the strap contrasting with the full perimeter saddle-stitching… many interesting details which combine well, resulting in a belt that fully compliments denim jeans and vintage style work-wear.

Ian’s playful design and considered crafting allow the many contrasting components to combine into a sensible whole. I think this belt is a great take on Old West leather goods: clean but shabby, rugged but refined, a Western work belt for the modern age.

The more I look into the finer aspects of this Partner belt, the more I’m impressed by Ian’s work. No short-cuts have been taken here – everything from the 400+ hand-stitches to the custom patina creation for the buckle requires much time, effort and skill.

The materials used are impressive too. The bridle leathers, linen threading and solid brass Marshalsay buckle are all top of the line – it doesn’t get any better than this, unless you were to request fully customised materials from the tanner or blacksmith.

All in all, I’m very impressed by my first piece of leathercraft from Ian at Hubb Leather. The Partner belt is a confluence of creative thinking, old world materials and considered craftsmanship, and definitely has a place in your wardrobe no matter how extensive your belting collection may be!

Looking for some Old West styling with British refinement?

Check out Hubb Leather on Instagram @hubb_leather.

Or e-mail Ian directly: hubbleather AT icloud DOT com

Voyej ‘Superlative’ – Misaka wallet

It’s a very exciting time for the folks at Voyej as they roll out the Superlative series of leathercrafts, their most detailed and high-end work so far. Inspired by the hobbyist origins of the workshop, this new sub-brand by Voyej is heavily influenced by Japanese leathercrafting.

To understand this Japanese influence, we’ll have to go back in time to the mid-2000s. It was during this period that work-wear, old school denim and related leather goods began gaining traction in Western internet circles – first exported out of Japan by Japanese streetwear fans of that era, and subsequently adopted by die-hard denim hobbyists of the Superfuture and myNudies forums.

Through the denim hobby, many of us were introduced to the leather hobby as well, at a time when there were very few work-wear inspired leather crafters outside of Japan. Certainly the Japanese craftsmen and workshops were the reference points for quality and craftsmanship, and many of us would purchase leather goods through proxies from Japan.

Among these early hobbyists outside of Japan were the guys behind Voyej; they saw an opportunity to set up a similar workshop in their homeland of Indonesia, and created Voyej back in 2011. I remember exchanging ideas and photos with Stephen, one of Voyej’s co-founders, on the denim forums right up until the creation of Voyej and my review of their very first belt, the Chahin I belt. Fast forward to today, Voyej is one of the biggest names in South East Asia when it comes to leather goods, and one of the few brands in the world with a true focus on the hobby of ageing natural leathers.

From the perspective of a fellow hobbyist and as someone who has watched the Voyej brand grow, I’m very happy to see launch of this new Superlative series – the next step up in craftsmanship and a milestone for the workshop indeed!

Today, we’ll be examining the billfold of the Superlative series: the Misaka wallet.

 

Packaging

The Misaka wallet comes in a very impressive box – probably the nicest packaging I’ve seen on a leather product outside of goods from European fashion houses. If you’re buying this as a present for someone, you won’t even need to gift wrap it!

The wallet is nicely stored inside a cloth bag…but hey, there’s also a wax-sealed letter.

Voyej has always been keen to guide and educate people who are new to the leather hobby, and their products usually come with a journey card of some kind. This letter takes it to the next level though, and contains a helpful guide for newbies.

The packaging, all in all, is classy and well thought out.

Design

The Misaka is a traditional billfold in layout – slightly larger than most modern billfold wallets. It measures 9 cm tall and 12 cm long when folded.

The wallet folds down the centre spine, with the leather held in tension in such a way that the resting position favours closure of the wallet.

The inner panels piece together to give six horizontal card slots, with two storage compartments located beneath the slots.

The card slots are slightly over-sized, making card insertion and removal quite easy. The front panels also feature the signature ‘V’ accent. The storage compartments and notes compartment are all rather spacious, giving this billfold extra holding capacity if required.

All up, there are 8 layers of leather paneling that makes up this wallet, including two layers of suede which line the notes compartment.

In the photos here you’ll also see whole the outshell layer of leather wraps into the inner panels, such that the edges consist of grain leather. We’ll look into this wrap-around construction a little later.

When loaded and compressed, the thickest part of the wallet measures almost 2 cm.

To sum up, the Misaka is an old school billfold wallet in design – larger and more rugged than most modern billfolds, and has a greater holding capacity which rivals that of mid-wallets. Similar to Voyej’s other leather goods, the Misaka has a work-wear aesthetic for sure, but overall the details are more considered and refined – we’ll look into these details shortly.

Leather

For the new Superlative models, Voyej has partnered with Tochigi Leather Company to source hand-glazed, saddle leather directly from Japan. These leathers come in different colours, but to test the patina potential, I have ordered the natural version of this saddle leather.

This is a vegetable tanned leather with a hand-grade finish. It has a very supple hand-feel, good density and a moderate amount of grain growth. The shine is spectacular, I’m guessing because of the hand-glazing process.

The thickness of this Tochigi saddle leather is approximately 1.2 mm thick, or 3 oz.

The suppleness of the leather is worth another mention, with a rather slippery feel against the finger tips, almost like it has been moisturized! See the dense and thick sinew stitching doesn’t even cause the leather to pucker, such is the liquid temper of this saddle leather. This is a much nicer finish compared with un-glazed saddle leather from the same tannery which I have tried in the past – those were a bit dry for my liking, with an inferior hand-feel.

The leather has a slightly darker than raw colour, but under cold light it appears incredibly pale nevertheless. This is a predominately red toned leather, giving rise to a pinkish white colour under cold lighting and a gentle caramel shade in direct sunlight.

The grain growth is quite good, but not as in depth as saddle leather from Shonan, so I will call it a medium amount of growth. Still, this is much more grain definition than the vast majority of vegetable tanned leathers on the market. The hand glazing process likely has flattened down the grain too…but it will be interesting to see how the grain evolves with wear.

The finish on the grain is consistent, and yet it doesn’t have the plastic uniformity of corrected leathers. This saddle leather is very natural, rugged and visually pleasing.

The cowhide suede used for the lining is a deep wine red, being easy on the eye and very comfortable to touch. It provides tonal & textural contrast to the shiny, smooth saddle leather on the rest of the wallet.

The suede lining is approximately 0.6 mm thick, or 1.5 oz.

This Misaka wallet certainly features some very nice leathers, being a level above what is utilized for Voyej’s standard edition wallets.

Construction

The Superlative series of goods involve finer workmanship compared with Voyej’s regular offerings, with an overall change in aesthetics that could be understood by examining the smaller details.

Firstly, the wrap around design gives the bifold a different silhouette compared with more traditionally constructed wallets – the Misaka is more rounded and smooth in overall appearance, despite being rectangular in shape.

There is also an increased neatness in the overall appearance when the wallet is folded or when viewed from the sides.

However, this streamlined appearance along the edges and the outshell is only made possible by introducing a layer of complexity to the appearance of the inner panels, where you see the exposed edges of the outshell running around the wallet, bunching around the corners.

It must be said, however, that this design has been executed very well – the evenness of the edges and the stitching, especially around the inner corners, are as neat as I can expect for this type of construct. Having the a single exposed edge sheltered on the inside of the wallet is a much more rugged construct compared with having multiple exposed edges on the sides – no matter how the edges are burnished or coated, it will not be as strong or age as gracefully as the actual grain side of the leather.

All the exposed edges have been burnished by what seems like a light gum compound – which helps to clean up what is a relatively busy internal design.

The thread utilised is Voyej’s signature artificial sinew – this is a thicker, tendon-coloured plastic thread meant to mimic deer and cow tendon threads. Voyej has stepped up the sinew game with the Superlative series however, and increased the stitching density – now at 7 SPI – bringing refinement to what had been a very rugged style of stitch.

The hand-stitching is superbly done, more impressive considering the caliber of the sinew thread; I think this is Voyej’s finest stitch-work yet!

The stitches are evenly spaced, nicely tensioned and perfectly crosses over the various panel layers. The leather has not puckered or been cut-through at any point. This is very nice saddle-stitch sewing.

The top edges of the card slots have been creased too, which adds an additional layer of finesse but also complexity to the appearance of this wallet. The edge creasing has been done very well.

Finally, the cutting and panel matching on the Misaka is pretty good too – there are very minor unevenness here and there, none of which are noticeable unless you review wallets a lot, haha!

Thoughts

This Misaka wallet – part of the new Superlative series – is Voyej’s most refined billfold wallet yet, having received upgrades in both materials and craftsmanship. The design is a vintage-style, highly functional billfold, the sizing and aesthetics of which work very well with denim and workwear in general.

The Tochigi hand-glazed saddle leather specially introduced for the Superlative series is a very nice leather indeed, the most refined natural vegetable tanned leather that Voyej has utilised so far, I think. This saddle leather is nicely tanned, and has a finish that is more natural and pleasing compared with most European and American vegetable tanned leathers (bridles and bark-tanned leathers aside.) The colour tone is warm and easy on the eye – there’s no awkwardness despite the leather being relatively pale under cold light. I think this leather has fantastic patina potential in terms of colour and shine.

The craftsmanship has taken a step forward also, achieving more refinement with the denser sinew stitching. With the Misaka wallet, Voyej has definitely moved into the top end of ‘workshop-grade’ leather crafting.

At $175 USD, the Misaka rivals other higher-end workshop products in construction and detailing, and surpasses most with the quality of the materials. Certainly, I will say that in terms of craftsmanship and leather grade, Voyej has equaled the similarly priced Japanese workshop brands such as Kawatako and Red Moon – in fact, Voyej’s work on this Misaka is at a much higher level compared with similarly priced Japanese products, which would be machine stitched, unlined and sometimes even lack edge burnishing. There is certainly a lot of value in the Superlative series, even if it is a bit more expensive compared to Voyej’s regular products, as I think the upgrade in leather alone is well worth the difference in costs.

All in all? Highly recommended!

I am very glad to see Voyej pushing the boundaries of their work and achieving the next level of workmanship with this new Superlative series; Voyej is certainly rising to the challenge, meeting and sometimes exceeding many standards set by the Japanese crafts which inspired its foundation. This is a great billfold, and I’m certainly looking forward to my journey with this Misaka wallet.  🙂

You can order your own Misaka wallet or check out the rest of the Superlative series line-up at Voyej!

 

Wild Frontier Goods – Hannoki (榛の木) zip pouch

I’ve got another very special little piece from Wild Frontier Goods to show you today: the Hannoki (Alder tree) zip pouch!

You have probably already seen the two Aomushi bracelets from Mike & Chie at Wild Frontier Goods, Tokyo, up on the blog recently. When I learnt Mike also crafts leather using interesting Japanese dyeing techniques, I was keen to find out a little bit more.

The zippered pouch may look somewhat simple, but there has been a deceptive amount of work that’s gone into its making – this pouch is a small but involved piece that showcases what Wild Frontier Goods is about! Let’s take a look at what makes this pouch so special.

Design

The layout of this pouch is relatively straightforward – one compartment, one zipped opening, the entire pouch made of one piece of leather.

The pouch is trapezoidal in shape, with rounded corners. The length varies between 15 to 16 cm, shortest at the top edge. I measure the height at 9 cm.

In the above photo I show the Hannoki pouch and the Frankie wallet (from mill handmade) side-by-side. The Hannoki is certainly an over-sized carry pouch, about the same surface area as a mid-wallet, though obviously much thinner. I’m using the Hannoki as a coin holder, but given the ample storage space it could also carry cards, notes and thus readily functions as an informal travel wallet.

The zipper is a high quality, metal teethed YKK zip. Attached is a 6.5 cm leather pull tab made with the same leather as the body. The actual accessible opening when unzipped is 9 cm in width.

In terms of fit, the pouch will be easily accommodated by jeans back-pockets, and should fit just right for chino or trouser pockets.

Leather 

The leather used is a natural vegetable tanned leather which Mike has sourced locally in Japan. It measures 1.5 mm in thickness (almost 4 oz).

The most remarkable aspect of this leather is what Mike has done in terms of colouring it. This leather is first hand-dyed by Mike with East Asian Alder tree (榛) cones/fruit, resulting in the rich & buttery caramel base colour you see here. After this dye step, Mike then paints the leather with persimmon fruit tannin juice (kakishibu; 柿渋), coating the grain with 5 to 10 layers of persimmon as required, achieving the variegated shades of orange and brown which sits on top of the caramel leather.

All together, it takes Mike many hours to process and colour this leather – it’s actually days of work.

That’s pretty cool right?

The resulting leather is very supple without being soft, and has an interesting and fairly pronounced grain appearance.

Another really cool aspect of this pouch can be found if you look at the above photo carefully – does the blue/green colour of the threads remind you of the Aomushi bracelet? Yep, the threads are dyed with fresh indigo leaves!

Again, time consuming dye job even for these small details.

Construction

The construction of this pouch – much like the dyeing of the base materials – is done entirely by hand. The one piece of leather that forms the pouch is hand cut and hand sewn. The edges are hand burnished – I don’t think any glue is used here.

The overall shape is evenly matched in terms of the two opposing sides of the leather, so the edges sit neatly together. However, if you look closely, the left and right sides have slightly different curves, lending the pouch an organic look.

The hand-stitching comes in the form of a nicely tensioned saddle-stitch. The threads bite into the leather somewhat, but due to the relative density and suppleness of the leather there is no puckering.

There is the occasional uneven thread lengths, but it’s not dramatic and really forms part of the hand-made charm. The stitch density averages 6.5 SPI.

The top edge is nicely rounded.

The YKK metal zip is neatly sewn into the opening. The zip is pretty nice – very smooth to operate, no snagging or catching at all.

Finally, all the edges have been nicely hand burnished with what looks like a gum compound. Even the edges around the zip and the pull tag are burnished too!

Thoughts

This Hannoki + Kakishibu + fresh indigo pouch is another fantastic and happy little piece of very dedicated crafting from Wild Frontier Goods.

Mike and Chie have a strong focus on Japanese styling and techniques, and their crafts have an unique, homey Japanese charm that is quite different from the usual rugged work-wear styled leathers that you see on my blog. Their focus on dyeing, which we’ve already seen on the two recent Aomushi bracelets, again takes the spotlight on this work.

Despite being fairly simple in design – it is an one compartment pouch after all – the amount of time and detailing devoted to this pouch is pretty insane. Like I mentioned before, there’re days of work involved in this pouch.

Everything is done by hand, the old fashioned way – the indigo leaves which are used to dye the threads come from Mike & Chie’s homegrown plants, the indigo and alder cone dye baths are made from scratch and the process of dyeing the materials take many days, and finally the many layers of kakishibu are slowly painted on over many rounds of coating & drying.

The leather crafting, like I explained earlier in the review, is all completed by hand. No short cuts are taken here, and it’s fairly evident in examining this pouch that it was made by a fellow leather and denim hobbyist.

Just like the Aomushi bracelets, this Hannoki pouch has great synergy with Japanese denim. I’ve pair it with Samurai’s heavy chino pants and Oni’s 1001HM jeans in the photos here, and the Hannoki pouch combines great with the interesting and intense Japanese fabrics.

All in all, this is a very memorable and interesting piece of leather work that encompasses many aspects of our denim, leather and work-wear hobbies. At ¥6000 for a basic model, this pouch represents fantastic value, especially considering all the dyeing work involved that you won’t find on other leather crafts. Also, consider the fact that Mike & Chie produce their crafts in extremely limited batches – usually only for friends & fellow hobbyists – as dictated by the plant materials that are seasonally available in their part of Japan and the creative sparks that happen to strike them at the time.

I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to get to know Mike & Chie’s work and to share in the genuine passion they have for their hobbies and crafting. Our recent collaboration Australian Aomushi bracelet sold out before I could put it up on the blog, but I am very much looking forward to working with them again.

Highly recommended! Have a look at their Instagram account @wildfrontiergoodsbrand

Wild Frontier Goods x Indigoshrimp collab: Australian Aomushi bracelet

Hey hey!

The Aomushi is back, bigger and harder.  XD

I present to you the Wild Frontier Goods x Indigoshrimp collaboration bracelet: the Australian Aomushi.

You might remember reading about the original Aomushi, which I posted up a couple of weeks back – read it here if you missed it.

Mike & I thought it could be very interesting if Mike used the same techniques to make an alternate version of the bracelet, featuring rugged and raw Australian materials which I’ve sourced.

To start, the original Japanese cedar beads have been replaced by larger Australian Beech beads. Australian Beech wood is about four times harder than East Asian cedars, and makes for a more rugged bead.

Further, the original sueded leather cord has been replaced with lacing made out of Black Wattle bark tanned kangaroo leather which is raw and not further finished after tanning. Kangaroo leather is many times stronger than cattlehide or even horsehide at 0.5 to 1.5 mm thicknesses – this lacing will not break or loosen in fibre structure.

The same Japanese stained glass bead features at the tail. Also notice that the larger bead on the Aussie version does not have a smiley face.

Compared with the original Aomushi, the special collaboration edition is larger in overall size, being more rugged and chunky.

The same fresh indigo leaf dyeing has been used, but the resulting colour on the beech wood tends more towards blue/aqua, and is more variegated compared with the appearance of the dye on the cedar wood.

Send Chie a message on Instagram at @wildfrontiergoodsbrand if you’re interested in getting your own.

Gotta hurry though, there will only be enough beech beads for 5 or 6 bracelets!

Burke Works – workshop visit

I met up with Jake Burke of Burke Works this weekend just past, curious to have a look at the workshop of a local leather artisan.

Having been introduced to Jake’s work via Instagram in 2016, while his brand was known by the former name of Made Supply, I was surprised to see that there was someone in Melbourne producing very sophisticated leathercrafts. My curiosity was further roused as Jake gradually combined Japanese techniques and styling into his work, which had already been an interesting hybrid of work-wear roots and bespoke detailing.

Jake’s workshop is based in his West Melbourne home, and he has recently moved most of the tools into his leather crafting room

Jake told me that his leather crafting journey began 3 years ago, after finding leather work tools which had belonged to a family member who was a professional saddler. What began as a hobby to distract him from the repetitive & rigid nature of University studies has now grown into a serious passion.

Jake has exciting plans in the next few months to elevate Burke Works to the professional level. As part of this process, he has focused on honing his crafting skills over the past year – recently, for example, he has completed a craft sabbatical to Japan, bringing back not only interesting leathers and brass hardware, but also a renewed spirit which you might discern in his newer works.

In order to transition into full time crafting, Jake’s stock items and standard goods are mostly machine stitched. However, custom orders and bespoke commissions can definitely be hand-stitched.

Jake’s work desk is bathed in Australian sunshine for much of the morning. You can see here that he had been in the middle of a couple of projects.

A few machines lie about.

The tool and thread rack was very cool – neatly set out. I love how Jake has bolted on the CD player too!

In addition to leathers and hardware, Jake also brought back some tools from Japan.

And threading.

The Japanese braided polyester threads he’s got are the bomb!

Some Aterlier Amy Roke linen threads too, of course.

The green thread was my favourite.

Jake showed me some of his new machine stitched pieces. The bifold above was very impressive, made of glazed Australian kangaroo.

A thumb sliding card holder made with shrunken cattlehide from Tochigi Tannery caught my eye too. Wanted to take it home!

Another very curious leather was the Wickett & Craig bridle leather in the new olive colour.

More than just hand-made pieces, Jake is using his tertiary training in Industrial Design to create various leather crafting moulds. The one that Jake is holding in the above photo is one half of a pen case.

The other half is still being created in the 3D printer.

Laying about are some prototypes and older material. You can see above Jake’s old business card, and a few test pieces of the card holder shown earlier.

There were also some Sedgwick English bridle straps, sitting pretty with the characteristic bridle bloom.

Jake demonstrated some of his crafting for me, resuming work on this unfinished billfold wallet made out of Wickett & Craig bridle leather, which has been cut and stitched but requiring further finishing on the edges.

Jake proceeds to trim, bevel and round the edges.

No short cuts here: durable, handsome edges require extensive hand work.

Jake then creases the edges using an old fashioned method.

Again, no short cuts.

It’s the refined details and extra effort that separates run of the mill leather goods and truly artisan made pieces.

Thorough and extensive detailing means that the craftsman is required to dedicate much more time and work into each individual piece. What we have here is a live demonstration of the differences between a $100 wallet and a $200 wallet…bump that up to $250 if the customer has requested hand-stitching.

The edges are sanded down, prior to the burnishing step.

Oh no, I had run out of time!

Jake had a customer attending a private leather crafting lesson.

The wallet is almost done though.

In the mean time, do have a look at the Burke Works website. Apart from the items ready for purchase on the webshop, Jake does take on custom orders and also offers private lessons.

Don’t worry, we’ll be back visiting Jake’s workshop again very soon.

Rå Leather Goods – ‘Thor’ belt review

Long time readers of this blog will know that I’ve been fascinated by the oak bark pit-tanned leathers made at Baker’s tannery since Terry Dear introduced this magical material to me in 2010. I had even worked on a couple collaboration belts during that time – during the heydays of online menswear forums and before crowd funding platforms were the norm – the Quercus belt with Terry himself and later on the Military belt with Charlie at Equus Leather.

So yeah, I’m a pretty big sucker for oak bark leather. Which is why I’m very excited to show you my latest oak bark acquisition – the ‘Thor‘ belt, made by Chris at Rå Leather out of dark stained oak bark leather!

Rå Leather is a relatively new workshop, created by Chris just last year in 2016. Inspired by Scandinavian minimalism, Rå Leather aims to create high-quality leather crafts that will stand the test of time.

Let’s take a look at Chris’ version of the oak bark work belt.

 

Leather

You’d think that by 2017 I’d be sick of writing about Baker’s oak bark leather, but I’m not!

Oak bark leather is my favourite leather of all time!

The version featured here is the dark stained, bridle version of the oak bark leather. The cattle hide goes through the age old pit tanning process which takes at least one year and one day, the resulting leather is then hand stained and hand-curried with fats and waxes for an English bridle finish.

When new, there is significant bloom on the grain of this leather – evidence of the currying process, which does not occur on the natural version of oak bark leather. A similar process is involved as part of the finishing of shell cordovan.

However, Baker’s bridle is very different from other English bridle leathers, such as those made by Sedgwick’s or Clayton Tannery. Even though the flexible temper and the high fat content are common themes, Baker’s oak bark bridle has a much more significant grain growth, a result of longer and more gentle tannage; the other bridle leathers are usually not pit tanned, and are made in a much more expedient manner.

Further, the monstrous density and thickness is unparalleled as far as bridle leathers go. Other bridle leathers, whether British or American, rely on various processes to compress the leather in order to increase the density of the leather and produce a certain finish.

However, Baker’s version does not need to be compressed, as the gentle and gradual pit tanning process produces a leather which is incredibly dense without further processing!

Therefore, not only is Baker’s oak bark bridle thicker than other bridles, it also has a much more natural appearance and shows off the leather’s inherent beauty. Other British bridles have a shiny, artificial beauty, much like shell cordovan. American bridles are not as pretty, but are rugged workhorses which have great resistances and longevity.

Being a very natural product, Baker’s bridle is less consistent than other bridle leathers in terms of surface finish and thickness. That is part of the charm, so I cannot fault it for this. The thickness of the belt is pretty incredible, varying between 5.9 mm to 6.5 mm, as measured by my caliper. So, an average of 15.5 oz!

Fear not, as the bridle version of the oak bark leather has an even more flexible temper than the natural version. This means that the belt is easy and comfortable to wear from the get go despite the considerable thickness of the strap.

There is much to be said about the level of grain growth that Baker’s oak bark leather possess, which is unrivaled by any other cattle leather I’ve seen thus far. Shonan’s natural saddle leather comes in at a distant second place when it comes to the grain, whereas most other  vegetable tanned leathers – even the fancy Italian ones – are nothing to write home about in terms of growth.

Not everyone’s cup of tea, of course, and I’m guessing the average person probably wants their leathers to be smooth & shiny, and not smelling like bark. For a leather hobbyist though, this leather is a must try at some point; certainly, pit tanned leathers are a milestone acquisition for serious leather nerds.

Did I mention the astringent smell?

Oak bark leather has a very  distinct smell, at first permeating through the room as you wear this belt for the first time. There are not many leathers I can claim to be able to identify by smell alone, but oak bark tannage has an unique aroma.

The flesh side of this leather is very nicely finished. It may be rugged, but it ain’t rough!

 

Styling, Hardware, Details & Construct

The Thor belt is certainly a work belt, if not by virtue of its rugged and minimalist design, then it is evident even to the layman in the incredible thickness. In the photos of this review, I’ve paired the Thor belt with Tanuki’s Red Cast denim jeans and Samurai Jeans’ Heavy Chino pants – the belt fits in beautifully with rugged, artisan-made work garments.

Despite using a British leather and being made in England, this belt does not have the aesthetics of a traditional British saddle-style belt. There’s no edge creasing here, and the thread colour is not the traditional yellow – indeed, the overall look is entirely different, being much more minimalist and sleek, true to the Nordic inspiration behind Chris’ crafts.

The strap itself features straight lines softened by curved edges and rounded holes. It is 38 mm wide.

The emphasis is entirely on the leather, whereas the threading and buckle provide contrast but in themselves do not steal away attention.

The buckle itself is an English made solid brass buckle, with an antiqued finish. It is sturdy, well made and does not scratch the leather or edge finish.

The sewn in keeper and the fold itself is held together by two vertical rows of hand saddle-stitching, with thick waxed-polyester threads. Not my favourite style of buckle fold stitching – I prefer horizontal stitching due to being influenced by old school British saddlers during the early years of my hobby – but Chris’ hand-stitch here is very well done, appearing regular despite the thick threads being used.

The belt size is stamped onto the back of the fold. The edges are also rounded at the very end of the strap for a neat finish.

You’ll notice in the photo below that Chris has not skived the leather at the fold, but has instead sewn though the combined 31 oz thickness of leather…and yet, the stitching remains regular and well aligned.

Certainly, a very neat finish at the fold, despite the monstrous layers of leather. The buckle frame, the tongue and the keeper are all neatly positioned and do not move around at all. The construction here is precise.

The curved edges prevent the threads from biting too deep into the grain at the sides.

The keeper is nicely blocked, edge skived and burnished. The rounded edges are rather nice to look at.

Overall, the front end of the belt is streamlined, rugged but not rough. The details are simple but expertly crafted – very smooth and easy on the eye.

Like I mentioned earlier, the edges are nicely rounded. The wax burnish is done entirely by hand – no short cuts taken, with Chris taking the time to produce slick, curvy edges.

The burnish is as good as it gets when it comes to a beeswax finish.

You might find shinier, and even mirror polish type burnishes with some belts from Japan and China, but that type of burnishing (usually with various plant-based or artificial compounds) develops a different type of aging over time – I might cover this in a later post.

A really handsome looking edge for sure!

The holes are round in shape, made with a shorter pippin punch, with a straight line cut towards the buckle end to create an interesting rune-like appearance.

The holes punching was well executed – there’s no fluffiness or irregularity. Simple, but precise and neat.

The belt tip has a slanted, trapezoidal finish, featuring rounded edges.

This simply shaped finish brings in a bit of flair, and combines nicely with the buckle at the front end when the belt in worn. It also facilitates the buckling of the belt, making the usage easy despite the thickness of the strap.

Overall – minimalist but detailed, rugged but finely made.

 

Thoughts

Over the past years, I really enjoyed sharing with you well crafted work belts that are truly artisan made and heirloom quality. Initially, it was a difficult task, as not too many makers outside Japan were producing work-wear leather goods which were actually finely crafted. My aim back then was to introduce the concepts behind this hobby and to promote it as much as I can.

Today, there are simply too many workshops making leather goods, so many it is impossible to keep track. My aim now is to introduce up and coming makers that produce quality goods so that they are not drowned out by the aggressive marketing of supply line workshop brands – filtering the noise from the music, sieving the cream from the crop, figuratively speaking.

After examining and wearing this Thor belt, I feel like I can fully support Chris at Rå Leather. Discounting my love for Baker’s oak bark leather – you know it’s going to be good anyway – Chris’ crafting actually surprised me as I was assessing this belt for the review. I was not expecting such detailed and precise work from a newly founded workshop at all, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well the different design and construction elements came together as the belt is worn.

This belt is neither exaggerated or too busy. The buckle is smaller in thickness and frame size relative to the height and width of the strap, the centre point of visual attention being the oak bark leather itself. The overall appearance of the belt is smooth, minimalist, easy on the eye, and does not detract or distract from other elements of the outfit. The design of this Thor belt is well thought out, able to enhance and complement your work-wear garments.

Finally, British oak bark leather is a true relic from a previous age. As ‘natural’ as most vegetable tanned leathers are made out to be, the vast majority are produced on an industrial scale, with modern technologies which emphasize uniformity and efficiency. Mechanical drums and tannin powders turn hide into leather within as short a time span as two weeks. Baker’s oak bark tannage, however, is as old school as it gets: gentle, slow tannage using hand processed bark liquor in old ground pits, the entire process taking more than one year. Less than a handful of leathers in this world can compare.

The dark stain oak bark bridle leather should age very gracefully without too much care, given it is a slow-tanned bridle leather. The waxy bloom will subside with a good brushing or a handful of wears, and I do expect the leather will further darken.

At £80, the Thor belt is very well priced, especially considering this is a truly handmade belt made with solid brass hardware and one of the most expensive leathers in the world!

All in all, I’m very impressed by Rå Leather’s headlining Thor belt. Chris has done a great job here, a Nordic twist on the traditionally British oak bark belt, and I can heartily recommend the Thor belt to you.

This belt will also soon be available in a lighter shade of tan, as well as black.

If you’re a fan of artisan made belts or oak bark leather, definitely have a look at the Rå Leather website.