Hide & Chic

Imagine the satisfaction of toting a sophisticated, premium-quality leather bag and saying, “I made this myself.” Or giving a self-stitched leather accessory as a truly personal gift.

As a former "shoey" and student at Cordwainers Footwear College in London,, I wanted FORA to feature some ready to craft leather kits. Leatherwork, especially handmade has a fond place in my heart. 

I asked the "J" in J Tanner, John Fraser, to tell me more about the concept and ethos behind J Tanner De-Constructed. 



John, how did you get into leatherwork?  Were you always in this trade? 

It all started 10 years ago when I was looking for a new wallet. I’m quite a minimalist, and all I wanted was a simple wallet to carry 2 cards (a bank card and my driver's license) when I would go out for dinner or meeting friends. However no matter where I searched I couldn’t find anything small and slim enough.

As I’ve always been a bit of a maker myself, I decided I would take matters into my own hands and make the wallet I was looking for. It started off pretty basic with a bit of paper that I cut into the shape I liked and some sticky tape to hold it together. Once I landed on the design I wanted, I went about learning how to make it from leather.

Several months and prototypes late I had my ultra-slim wallet! From there, I started to rethink several other wallet designs which I felt were far too bulky for what they were achieving, and several friends started asking if I could help design things for them. This then led me to start J Tanner which has been selling successfully at markets and online ever since.


Why do you want to offer Ready to Craft Leather kits? We can buy a wallet or bag anywhere

One thing I realised throughout that process is that getting started in leather crafting can be overwhelming! It’s hard to know where to start, there are a lot of tools you need to invest in, buying the leather can be expensive (most stores will only sell you either scrap pieces or whole hides and not much in between), and most of the DIY starter packs out there are often bulky and unattractive designs (we want people to not only enjoy leather crafting but enjoy using the finished product).
So it was always in the back of my mind to find a way to make the process of getting started with leather crafting simpler, and at the beginning of this year, I endeavoured to try and rethink some of the designs and crafting processes to make it easy for anyone to learn from home.

That is what led to J Tanner Deconstructed. A collection of designs that we have loved crafting over the years, simplified and prepared in ready to craft kits at home. We are continually proud to see the finished products our customers are putting together!


What do you get out of making leather goods? 

I find leather crafting itself is quite therapeutic (I love putting on a podcast and sitting down to stitch a design together), and I personally love the satisfaction of taking a step back and looking at something that started as just a few pieces of leather that are now ready to use and professional-looking finished product!


Do you have any thoughts on sustainable practices and leather?

Totally! We love natural vegetable tanned leather and work hard to source high-quality materials. Firstly because of the way its produced using century-old techniques without using harsh chemicals, but also because of the way it ages naturally with use and holds up over long term use.
Part of the goal of this project is to also help more people become makers and understand some basics of leatherworking. Through this, I hope that people will be more willing to take time to fix and up-cycle leather goods instead of being quick to throw away and replace them.