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How are hand-crafted leather accessories tailored to the needs of the most demanding clientele? How many stages are involved? How long does it take? What should you pay attention to when deciding to use this service? Let me take you...
Although the Malton&Kielman workshop is still very young – it was established in 2009 – its tradition dates back 130 years to 1883, when Jan Kielman founded the world-famous shoemaking workshop in Warsaw. Despite the hard times of WWI and WWII, and then communism, the workshop has survived until today and has been creating true works of art from generation to generation. Less than 7 years ago, due to cooperation with Mikael Malton, a workshop making equally fine leather bags and accessories was born.
A few months ago, when looking for a high quality bag for my laptop, I resolved to visit the Malton&Kielman. At first I wasn’t really considering the lucrative bespoke service. Yet, the price difference between a ready-made product and one created especially for me, where I could decide about every smallest detail, was not as huge as it had seemed. So I resolved to order a dream bag, accompanied by a number of leather accessories for the set (a cover for my Macbook and a small watch case) to satisfy my needs and whims. Today you can judge the result and find out how the leather bag and accessories were made.
The special ordering process starts with identifying the client’s needs. The deeper the mutual acquaintance the better. In my case, it was during my first talk when we concluded that an excellent idea would be an unpartitioned bag having many pockets – for a measuring tape, pin cushion, or even a cover for tailor’s shears. Indeed, often, when going to photo sessions or individual clients, I take those accessories with me and never have anywhere to put them. Getting to know the type of my work helped them help me design a bag that best suits my needs.
We also resolved to make the laptop case in the Signature design (the flagship brand line), and a traveler’s case for three watches. The co-owner liked the case concept so much that he decided to introduce such a product to Malton&Kielman’s standard collection permanently!
Not everyone can imagine a product’s interior and layout, so hand-made sketches are drawn up as an aid in visualizing the concept and to clearly determine the main features of the product. After looking at the sketches and designs, all uncertainties are cleared up. The exact size of the bag and its proportions are also agreed. It is worth relying on the experience and knowledge of the designer. They know precisely what solutions are optimal in use, and are able to precisely determine the size and proportions. Let your imagination run riot at the next stage!
This is the stage which can make your head spin. You can choose from almost every available type of leather, in the color of your dreams. From very exotic, extraordinarily rare alligators, crocodiles or even sharks to calfskin and cowhide. Obviously, this stage has the greatest impact on the price. At this stage, we also select the color of the metallic elements (zipper, a buckle and handles) and the color of the interior lining. On special order, the metallic elements (made from luxury brass) can be silver-plated.
I went for a dark brown “Hatch Grain” cowhide tanned in a way that enhances its durability. This type of leather was made famous under the name Epsom by the cult brand, Hermès. To line the interior, I chose a super-soft and delicate suede in deep red. The combination works beautifully and highlights the luxurious style of the bag and accessories. For my cherry on the top, I chose the method of personalization – the font and place for my initials. I had been thinking for some time about the logotype for the blog as a personalization element, but I came to the conclusion that initials would be a better, more classic and timeless choice. Such a product is made to last for years, and I would like it to survive any possible rebranding of the blog; I’m not considering anything like that now, but who knows how my plans might change in the future?
A separate set of forms must be prepared for each bag model. The elements of the bag-to-be are drawn precisely on cardboard, and after being cut out they are used as forms for cutting the leather. Obviously, before cutting, the leather is carefully examined for grain, color and uniform thickness. Larger elements are cut out manually with a knife. Only small and repeated elements are cut out using a cutter. The thickness of the leather is tailored to your specific needs. The thickest part is the bag’s body, less thick are the pockets, and the thinnest is the interior.
A special machine is used to precisely thin and level the leather between 0.1 mm and 3mm. 1mm elements are used for the pockets, and 1.5mm pieces for the body of the bag. By adjusting the thickness of each element, the bag weighs less, which is often very important for those who travel frequently.
The edges of each element are gently thinned at a very small angle. With longer straight lines this is done by a machine, but with more complicated shapes always manually, using a razor-sharp knife. Besides a few exceptions, all edges must be finished. Special coatings are used to attain a durable and aesthetic cover after drying. When all the leather elements have been cut out and secured, they are sewn together. This stage is extremely important. Unlike suit fabrics, leather is unforgiving. If a tailor makes a mistake, he can always unstitch the fabric piece without any trace, but the bag-maker cannot afford the smallest mistake. Any hole or scratch at that stage means a loss of fabric and labor, as marks on leather are permanent. A mistake can turn out to be very costly! For this reason, bags are sewn only by the most experienced pursemakers. At the end of this stage, the bag looks like a bag. The last thing to be done is to put on the finishing details.
At this stage, leather pockets are sewn on the partition and the whole element is joined to the bag’s body. The final connection of the body with the interior is performed using a saddler’s machine. This stage also calls for great attention and precision. The final step in bag-making is covering and trimming the handles. The beauty of certain bag elements should be highlighted by manual sewing. I decided to apply such a solution for covering and trimming the handles, which were finished with special, thick, linen thread. This guarantees exceptional resistance and a beautiful look! After all, handles are the key. They must carry the load and are most often held in the hand. The mounting of handles ends the long process of manual bag-making.
I must be honest, the final result surpassed my wildest expectations. The bags and accessories were made very carefully, down to the smallest detail. Each detail delights the eye, and I could not find a single imperfection. True customer care, which on the Polish market is still a rarity, deserves special mention here. I was informed about every stage by e-mail and phone. At almost any moment I could make changes to the design and discuss other solutions. It took 3 weeks from order placement to collection, and although the bespoke product was more expensive than a ready-made bag, having of the only such bag in the world, perfectly tailored to my needs, has more than made up for the price difference!
This post is also available in: POLISH VERSION
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