This was a natural fit for us as we have always been hands-on. After graduating from university, I worked for Alberta Health Services and quickly realized that I didn’t “play well with others.” So I quit and decided to teach myself how to work leather. My brother Connor and I have been doing this now for five years and day-to-day it’s still trial by fire.
Another thing that inspired us was the lack of quality in leather consumer goods—we thought there must be a better way of doing this. Leather is an organic material and extremely flexible in terms of what you can do with it—everything from belts, bags and wallets to restaurant menus and cabinet “software”. You name it and we have done it. It never ceases to amaze me the different things we get requests for.
We definitely like the creative challenges that come with being a custom leather firm. Every project is different. We complete orders one at time, and thrive when we’ve never done the piece before. There is a challenge with that but it’s definitely the most interesting part of the work bench. The other thing I like most is the basic realization that profits are directly related to work. The work input is directly related to keeping the lights on in the shop and that’s powerful in and of itself.
Whether we are working with RNDSQR, a custom/modern home builder or Blackwater Creative, a marketing/branding agency, the relationships are defined by genuine support that larger companies have for smaller businesses in Calgary. They are willing to talk, listen and go the extra mile to include smaller, local businesses when they could easily contract elsewhere to a larger company. That’s what I like best about Calgary—it’s a town where we can chat.
The biggest thing about Calgary is that we’ve always done things with a handshake. When you look at when the oil-mecca was established in the wild west, there was always a bottle of whiskey and a table of hustlers hammering out a deal. The same is true today. This mentality keeps Calgary interesting, and it maintains this small-town charm where I can talk face-to-face with a client and throw a handshake at the end of the day. You won’t find that in large metro centres.
There has been substantial investment in the arts, with projects like cSPACE, and I think we have moved away from the gross materialistic consumption of a few years ago to a more conscious and thoughtful consumerism in Calgary. Our economy has been reshaped with the (painful) evolution of energy in this province and people have become more mindful about where they spend their disposable income and where they invest. More than ever, people are investing in Calgarian makers. We aren’t just an oil-and-gas town and we need to keep pushing that narrative—like what The Nash is doing with Off Cut Culture Club—highlighting small businesses and the culture of the community.
As we’re thoroughbred Calgarians, I know just about every corner of the city, so it really depends what you are looking for. Head out to Forest Lawn or Falcon Ridge for great Indian food and grocery, head downtown for happy hour, head into Sprinbank for proper golf courses and head into Bowness for leather goods. Bowness is my stomping grounds these days. Our shop has been down here for a few years and it’s a great community. We love to fly fish, so we will go from Bowness all the way down the river and hit our spots.
Collaboration amplifies what you are doing on your own. Ultimately, this raises the cultural value of the entire Calgary experience—businesses working together bring the A game. We work with a lot of different businesses in town—Rosso Coffee, for instance—and working with them increases awareness with our customers about their business and vice versa. Collaborations expand the horizon.
A dream local business would probably be Ill-Fated Kustoms. They are a custom bike program and we are currently hashing out details to stock their shop. The guys are super smart and do a lot of custom rod work with intricate CNC machining. Another one might be WestJet. I know they aren’t what you had in mind but they are a local business that started in Calgary. Maybe we could upholster their planes.
Our inspiration comes from Japan. The aesthetic of our leather work is very similar to a lot of Japanese leather work. The attention to detail and craftsmanship is very much a Japanese tradition that we try to uphold. The Japanese are amazing at a lot of things they do, but especially leather carry goods. A lot of attention is paid to the “finishing” aspects of leather work and we strive for the same.
We went to Italy for shoe-making apprenticeships, and that was extremely inspiring in regards to what Europeans are doing with craft. You think of standard luxury goods and then head over to the old world and end up discovering ultra-luxury that is hard to comprehend. It’s a tier above what you have been exposed to before and is leaves you jaw-dropped. This inspiration is summed up by seeing the level of work and craftsmanship that people all over the world put into projects. It inspires you to try a little bit harder.
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