ALINE SEILER - handcrafted leather bags

Blickfang Stuttgart Recap

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Our second fair

Last weekend weekend we attended the Blickfang Design Fair in Stuttgart. It was our second experience attending one of these and we had such a good time.

Even though the placement of our booth was less than optimal we made the best out of it. Thank you again to our fabulous booth neighbors Frellini Jewelry and Å Pävi for making the long hours so much fun.

Our improvised booth

Our improvised booth

Lots of Feedback

Best thing about attending these design fairs is the conversations I get to have with you guys. I got so much positive feedback on my designs and had so many interesting conversations. What I find the most interesting is how many people tell me different things they miss in their current handbag and what they would be looking for in a new one.
Even though it gets really hectic and is sometime very tiring to be at the booth for 9 hours straight it was really nice to have these one on one conversations.

Me in front of the wall design with our banner

Me in front of the wall design with our banner

Back to work now

After having talked to all of you wonderful people I got back to fulfilling the orders I received. This may take a while. ;)

I’m very grateful for every single order I received this weekend, for everyone who came by and talked to me about my work and for all of the support from my boyfriend who sacrificed his whole weekend off to drive 500km and attend the whole fair with me.

LOVE

ALINE

2018 - what a year

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I really did it

I know I’m probably the last person on earth to write a recap blog of 2018 but I really didn’t know what to say, or where to start. I still feel overwhelmed with all of the feelings looking back at this tremendous first year. So let me start at the beginning.

In the last months of 2017 I decided it was time for me to go all in and start to make this label my full-time work. I felt scared and super excited at the same time. On 1 January it was official, it was real I really took this chance. For all of me that know me really well you know how atypical this move was for me.

The first months

The first months where full of making plans, developing my skills and trying to figure out how to get out there. I’m still shocked when I look back at how much support I received from so many people that I know. Many of whom I haven’t seen in a really long time that placed an order right away. And all of the messages I received. Thank you all for the love. It means the world to me.

So I started working on my designs to slowly build a collection that represents me, my aesthetics and my skills at the time.

One of my very first designs of 2018 the “Number A” Clutch

One of my very first designs of 2018 the “Number A” Clutch

The “Number A” was one of my very first designs. I really wanted to create something very versatile which easily can be customized.

Since January 2018 I have gotten so much positive feedback on this idea and the “Number A” is one of the most ordered bags from my collection. I have made it with so many letters and in so many sizes.

It’s all in the picture

After having designed my capsule collection I had the honor of Sonja Klements concepting and shooting all of the amazing product shots you can see on this website.

I don’t know what I would have done without this creative genius. She is also the one that did all of the branding for me.

Detail Shot of the “M.C Bag” by Sonja Klements

Detail Shot of the “M.C Bag” by Sonja Klements

Designer’s Open

When I applied to the Designer’s Open fair back in spring 2018 I thought I didn’t stand a chance to be included. I had only worked full-time on this dream for a few months. The admission came as a shock.

It took almost all August and September to prepare for the trade show. When it was finally there I was extremely nervous.

Aline Seiler Display at Designer’s Open 2018 Leipzig

Aline Seiler Display at Designer’s Open 2018 Leipzig

I got so much positive feedback on my work, talked to so many nice people on this weekend. What a great first ever trade show.

Thank you to all of my friends and family that came by to pay me a visit. Thank you for the surprise visit Ben and Elena and most of all thank you to the best boyfriend in the entire world for being there by my side for the entire weekend. And can’t put into words what that meant to me.

And then in was Christmas

After working of all of the orders I received during the Designer’s Open it was already Christmas time. I got to make many Christmas presents which I especially enjoyed. I even received a phone call from a boyfriend that had so many questions on the way we should make the “Number A” he ordered for his girlfriend. So many questions that I could have never imagined a person could have on a clutch / Ipad sleeve.

I really felt the love when I looked at all the little messages people had left me during the last month of 2018.

Thank you

That is all I have left to say. Thank you to all of you that follow me on social media, that support me in what I do, that have placed an order in the first year of hopefully many to come. I’m grateful for each and every single one of you. I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store for me!

LOVE

Aline

On The Edge

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When producing high quality leather goods one of the most time consuming parts is edge painting. I’m going to show you the process and explain what the benefits of a high quality edge are.

Why even bother?

Leather edge paint first of all helps to protect the edge from water, stains and dirt. So the paint helps your beloved bag to last longer. As I want to produce long lasting products making sure the edges are sealed and protected is one of my goals.

The look

Of course the edge is also a design feature. You can choose from a variety of different colors and even mix individual ones. You can include a matching edge paint into the design as well as contrasts. I often like to play around with the different options, depending on the overall design. There are even neon and glitter versions of edge paint available if you are feeling a little extra.

For some products I also enjoy a raw, or raw looking edge. In this case I apply a product like the Fiebings Bag Kote to seal the edge and make it more durable but having a rougher look.

But what is the process of leather edge painting and why is it so time consuming?

Step 1

The first step in the edge painting process is the base. Most of the times I am working with at least two layers of leather glued and stitched together. To make sure we have a smooth and even surface to apply the paint to, the application of a base coat is crucial.

Base coat applied on the leather edge of a shoulder strap

Base coat applied on the leather edge of a shoulder strap

After the base coat layer is applied it has to dry for at least 30mins. When this first layer has dried completely it is sanded with a very fine sanding paper until the surface is smooth and even.

Step 2

The first layer of the actual paint is applied to the edge. It is important to start off with an even, not too thick layer of paint so the paint can dry completely before the next layer is applied. The paint needs to be completely dry because each layer will be sanded before the next one is applied.

Again this layer has to dry for about 45 minutes.

First layer of edge paint applied.

First layer of edge paint applied.

Steps 3-5

The sanding and layering of the paint is now repeated until a smooth and even edge is achieved. Each layer again needs to dry for about 45 mins. You see where we are getting here time wise?

Second layer of edge paint after sanding in between layers

Second layer of edge paint after sanding in between layers

Final Step

As a final layer a top coat is applied. Here I tend to choose a matte top coat but shiny and glittery options are also available.

The top coat again needs to dry for about an hour. I choose to let it dry over night as often as I can to make sure all of the layers are completely dry.

Dried matte top coat

Dried matte top coat

As you can see the process of painting the leather edges is a very time consuming one. In my opinion it makes a huge difference in the quality of the things I produce. Therefore I am more than willing to invest the extra hours.

I hope you enjoy these insights of the methods I use in my workshop. If you have any questions about edge painting or on how your custom bag is made let me know in the comments.

LOVE

Aline

Designers Open 2018

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Aline Seiler Designers Open 2018.jpg

I’m in

I got accepted to join the exhibitors on this years Designers Open fair in Leipzig. Something I didn’t dare to hope for when I sent out my application back in June. Why? Because you don’t just apply and get accepted because you pay for it ,but a jury chooses the designers that match the requirements. Having just started with my label in January this year I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

Let the preparations begin

Since I got accepted a few weeks back most of my activities have been to prepare the exhibition. There are so many things to think of and as I am a one woman show I hope I will be able to get it all done in time.

  1. Deciding on the design of the exhibition booth

    As this is something I have never done before it’s a real challenge. Luckily I’m on the newcomer floor meaning I got a basic booth setup prepared for me.

  2. Thinking of the best way to display my products

    This is a really tough one. As some of my bags are very soft and flexible on purpose it is difficult to make some of them shine on the display.

  3. Getting all of my marketing material ready

    Also more challenging than one would think. Writing the text for my flyer in German is sooo hard. Why is my mother tongue so difficult to master. It either sounds super casual or too formal. Ahhhhh.

  4. Rethinking and upgrading some of my designs

    Some of my designs are getting an upgrade because of all of the things I have learned within the last 8 months. Since I made this my full-time job my skills have improved a lot so I can make my initial designs even better.

  5. Preproduction of my whole collection

    I want to showcase every product of the collection in all of the standard colors. This means a lot of cutting, sewing and edge painting for me.

  6. Keeping up with the existing orders that I receive

    I am so grateful for every order that I receive. I am trying my best to make your desired bag / accessory as fast as I can.

  7. And all of the things I cannot think of right now

As you can see there’s so many things that need to be taken care of but I don’t mind at all. It’s so exciting to be able to join this elaborate group of people and labels in this design exhibition.

I’m seriously overwhelmed by how many people have offered their help to support me in this process already. I can’t stress enough how amazing this feels. I hope I will be able to get all the open tasks done in time but it looks good so far. ; - )

Come meet me

I hope to see many of you on October 26-28 at the Kongresshalle am Zoo in Leipzig. You can find me and my exhibition support in booth G23.

Love

ALINE

My Design Approach

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First of all I think when investing in a handcrafted bag that is supposed to last a lifetime, going as classic  as you can makes sure you will still love your bag many years from now.  I want you to love your bag not just for a short period of time but for many years to come. 

Design with a purpose

When designing a new bag I try to think about what purpose it will serve in the first place. What will the bag be used for? Will it be a companion for a gala party or will it be your best friend on a daily basis? 

Coming from the purpose the bag is supposed to serve I then think about the details required to fulfill the needs you might have on the occasion. What would your requirements be for a bag you'd really love to use on a daily basis? What is a bag supposed to carry for the grand evening event? 

The box bag was designed to be your companion on those everyday adventures. For all of the times you need all of your essentials but also you also need your hands free. Coming from this purpose the design of the bag evolved around it.

The box bag was designed to be your companion on those everyday adventures. For all of the times you need all of your essentials but also you also need your hands free. Coming from this purpose the design of the bag evolved around it.

Coming from dislike

In addition to what you might need from the bag I also go the other way round. Thinking about the features I disliked in bags that I used to own. Think about the bag you loved when you bought it to match that one certain dress, but then the shoulder strap was way to short or so thin that it hurt? That one bag you loved to carry around but one of the handles always slid off your shoulder? I try to remember all of the little details I didn't like so I can avoid them when designing a new item.

It's a personal matter

As for design and taste I think what we like and prefer is different for all of us! How many times have I seen somebody running around with a bag that I absolutely hated when they seemed pretty happy with what they got. As a matter of fact, I have always seen more items I thought to be outrageously ugly than things I actually found appealing. No matter if it's handbags, clothing, shoes or furniture. It sometimes takes me what feels like an eternity to find something I do like. So when it comes to my collection I strive to reach people who feel like me with what is out there already.

Classic yet interesting

So how do I keep things interesting? I want the bag to be a classic yet I don't want it to look dull or boring. This is when working with leather really serves me the most. With leather you have so many options to combine different structures, colors and shapes. With the "M.C. Bag" I combined the half moon shape with the color and structure of the beautiful olive colored lambskin I got my hands on earlier this year. The shape was inspired by a friend of mine who loved her half moon crossbody bag. Yet I wanted the bag to serve a different purpose, offering more space for all of your everyday items.

The two different types of leather structures on the M.C. Bag 

The two different types of leather structures on the M.C. Bag 

The M.C is an everyday companion which is classic enough to go with almost every outfit you choose yet interesting enough to be visible and make your outfit complete. 

All in all I try to design classic yet interesting handbags which fulfill the purpose they where designed for. Handbags you love to use frequently, you go back to all the time, that suite your needs and that stand out yet don't outshine you.

And remember, if there is anything you would want to change about any of my designs to make it really suit your needs I'd love to make it happen for you. Because we all are different and have different kinds of needs in mostly all aspects of our lives.

LOVE

Aline

Prototyping

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Why prototype?

Working with leather can be tricky. It's a very valuable good and I am very aware of the fact that I am working with animal skin. Trying to avoid wasting leather, prototyping with other materials is key. Furthermore making a prototype out of paper or fabric is way faster than the real deal. You can easily play around with your ideas and the pattern without wasting any of that precious material. 

How I prototype

When designing a new handbag I mostly start with an initial idea or inspiration. It can be just a shape I would want to try, a texture or a specific kind of shoulder strap. After I finished sketching the idea, I think about measurements, what kinds of leather and other materials I want to use and write it all down in my beloved sketch book.

Sketch of a handbag design idea I had

Sketch of a handbag design idea I had

Now pattern making begins. I either draw the pattern out by hand or I use any type of program that allows me to draw out shapes in cm. Here you can already take a step back, look at you idea and what you imagine the final product to look like, make some adjustments or discard the idea in case you feel it won't work out.

When the pattern is finished, I print, cut and glue it so I can take a look at what the final product will look like.

 

If and only if I like how the paper prototype turns out, I continue with the prototyping process. At this point, don't be afraid to not continue working on an idea if you don't like what you see. This is what prototyping is about. You have not wasted any of your good leather yet and you can always come back to the idea if you can't get it out of your head.

I liked what I saw, so I continued working on this idea I had. Cutting the pattern and sewing it all together to see, what my idea would look like as a finished product - the final leather prototype.

 

The final, finished prototype 

The final, finished prototype 

Judging my work

Let's put it that way, the pattern worked - the design didn't. ; )

The final step of prototyping is evaluating the product you created. In this case, the pattern worked, the bag felt good, the size was fine but the design didn't work for me. Something just felt off and it disn't go with my esthetics. Even though I tried not to waste any leather I still produced a prototype I didn't like too much. That's ok though. Maybe somebody will like it and then the leather wasn't wasted after all. 

The fun part

If the prototype turns out to be something you like the real fun begins: prototype testing. As a handbag designer that means that I get to carry around that bag I just created for several weeks before I decide if it suits all of my needs and if it will be added to the collection. 

Prototype testing the "Out of the Box" bag

Prototype testing the "Out of the Box" bag

If I really fall in love with a design, like I did with the "Out of the Box" I carry it around for weeks and go back to it all the time. If that happens I know I did right on the prototyping and am ready to sell it to my customers. This way of prototype testing allows me to make sure that I stand behind what I created and that all the functional features perform as well as the design does on a daily basis. It also helps to test the quality of the seams under pressure and features like the length of a shoulder strap because those details might seem fine in the beginning but only after a few weeks of actually using the bag I can see if it all works out.

Prototype - Test - Repeat

If anything doesn't work out in the testing phase, I go back to the pattern, adjust it, make another prototype and test again. 

Do you use prototyping in your job? Is there anything you're doing differently? Let me know, what your approach to this is! :D

- LOVE -

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Corporate Social Responsibility for small businesses

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Social What?

When you first start your own business Corporate Social Responsibility might not be something that comes to your mind right in the beginning. For me, it is part of the brand identity. This business means more to me, than just a way of earning money. It’s my passion for design and handbags combined with production by hand under more than just fair working conditions. It’s using leather that is produced and most importantly died in the European Union. Leather that is blue angel (der Blaue Engel) certified which means that no harmful or toxic dies are used.

I felt that designing handbags I loved and having them produced somewhere else just wasn’t enough.

It’s not as big of a deal as you think it is

At first Corporate Social Responsibility sounds like a huge project. Building houses for the poor or donating an enormous amount of money. For small business owners it either doesn’t matter or is part of their business attitude in general.

Owning a social responsible company does not mean it has to include a big project or donation. It can mean that your business uses resources thoughtfully, or that you create a working environment which offers very flexible schedules. It could also be that little jar on the counter top of your small coffee shop which collects money for a social cause of your choice.

Consuming responsibly is hard - I want to make it easier

What I struggle with in my daily life is that consumption has become so difficult. When you think about groceries for example one can get the feeling that you can’t buy anything anymore because it’s either produced in a disgusting kind of way or it has been flown all over the world which is bad for the environment too. As a business woman I wanted to create a business which makes this easier for the customer. I wanted to own a social responsible company.

Of course at the moment this is limited to my resourcing and the production of the handbags and yes, I can not visit every tannery and every workshop I source my basic materials from. My plans in the long run on the other hand include more of such activities. I’m already planning on a Christmas campaign to support a foundation I am working with and I wish to be able to integrate more CSR activities as the business grows (which it hopefully will ;) ).

It's easier for small businesses

In my opinion integrating social responsibility is easier for small businesses because you don’t have the big overhead, you don’t have a lot of people you need to coordinate and you can, just like me, build your company around your values and ideals.
Think about what caused problems for you in your company job and maybe start with that. It wasn’t easy to combine having a family and working at the same time? Make that the core of your CSR activities for example. Starting a small fundraiser, like that little jar on the counter top I mentioned before can also easily be done, no matter how small your business might be.

Let’s care more

We seem to have forgotten that the people around us have the same emotions, the same wishes and sometimes even the same struggles in their lives as we do. Even worse, we tend to care more about consumption and buying cheap new things, than we care about the lives of the people who produce these goods.  Don’t get me wrong, I am that same person. I want to wear the new fashion trends, and I want all of the luxuries that life in the western society has to offer. I just try to be a little more considerate of the small things. Like avoiding single use plastic as often as I can or trying to use the bike more frequently.

If we all just try to care a little more about the way we consume, and the companies we support with our money, we can improve the world bit by bit.

Gosh that sounds like „heal the world, make it a better place“. What I am trying to say is if you start to incorporate little social responsibility activities into your company, even if you have just started, the company as well as society can benefit from that choice a lot in the long run.

- LOVE -

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Working Alone

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working-alone

Working alone

The Pro's and Con's

When I am working in the atelier everyday on my own sometimes it can get pretty lonely. On the other hand back when I was working in an agency some days I wanted nothing more than being alone to work quietly and in my own rhythm. There even was a phase of my working life where the amount of noise in the office was driving me crazy and I really suffered from it. 

Noise was always one of the biggest problems I had with working in a big office. It made it hard to concentrate and often I had to take a day of remote working to get the things done which really needed me to concentrate.

What working alone does to me

Working on my own all day really helps me to focus on what needs to be done and to get things done fast. What it also does is, it makes me think way more. I think about the things I do but also about the way I do them.

Having no one telling you what to do and when to do it, can feel overwhelming for some people but I really enjoy structuring my working day only around the things that need to be done and not relying on external factors like a given time slot or place where I have to get the work done.

Basically I feel like I am getting more things done faster. And I even get the time to reflect on the way I do them.

Enjoy the silence

This will be no surprise but of course the downside on working on my own is, well, being alone all day. Sometimes when my boyfriends gets home from work I realize that I haven’t spoken a word all day.

I imagine everybody that knows me going like: WHAT? Yes, that’s right. I am able to not speak at all for that long.
Not speaking to anybody during the day has more side effects than just feeling lonely from time to time.

Working alone and creativity

Creativity sometimes is very much influenced by the people around you. I can be inspired by the littlest things someone says or does. Meaning working alone sometimes makes it harder to be creative or inspired. Sometimes during the day I need some feedback on a little design or functionality detail but can’t get some because my coworker is my stuffed teddy bear my parents gave to me when I was three months old. ;)

That's what friends are for

The lucky bastard that I am, I can rely on my friends for so many things in my life. Including feedback on my work.

Many of my friends have some kind of design related job or I just value their opinion so much because of their great taste (meaning the same kind of taste in things as I have). So, when I get stuck on a design or am not sure if I like how a prototype turned out I just send them pictures asking for feedback or ideas.

Most of the time though it’s just the time I spend with my friends and family that inspire me the most. I feel like every time I spend an amazing weekend with them I get back to work so full of new ideas.

To sum up, I do not only use them to get feedback on my work but they are also my muses and most important source of inspiration. Wow that sounds like I’m a really selfish person who uses the people around her for her own benefit. Believe me I don’t mean it that way.

Balance is key

I understand that many people wouldn’t like to work on their own all day because it can be lonely and also many people can’t stand being alone with themselves for a long time. As for everything in life balance is the key to happiness.

When working alone all day it is vital for me to spend the evenings with my boyfriend, friends and family. As I said before that gets my creative juices flowing and is my main source of inspiration. Other than that I have found that not being around so many people all day makes me enjoy the time I spend with them way more.

Are you a loner?

If you have the opportunity to try to work by yourself I think everyone should try. It really helps me to concentrate on my work and get more done in a day. Taking that remote working day every once in a while made me realize that I do function better in a more quiet working environment. Find out what is the best working environment for you and try to make your everyday life more productive.

Tell me, do you like working alone or do you need the noise of the people around you to concentrate?

- LOVE -

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Why failing is good for you

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When designing and producing leather goods failure is something you experience on a daily basis. When you start designing a new product and making a prototype mistakes are somewhat expected but when producing an item that you have already made several times it can be really frustrating.

Why do we fear making mistakes?

We grow up in a society in which making mistakes is looked down upon. You go to school, you make mistakes and get bad grades from it. As a child grown-ups are giving you great fears of being a failure when you grow up. We don’t learn to make mistakes and grow from them, we learn to avoid making mistakes in the first place.

When you leave school or university and you start your career the need of making mistakes and learning from them arrises and we then have no idea how to deal with it.

Yes it hurts!

Of course I can’t write about mistakes and failure and praise it like it is the best feeling in the world. It’s not!

It hurts, it’s annoying and it pisses me off a lot of times. I hate wasting leather, time and resources on a product that I don’t like in the end or on a design that doesn’t work out. On the other hand that is exactly what the process of prototyping is about.

I have read so many stories of people who invented amazing things having failed hundreds of times before the final product was developed. I imagine that feeling horrible at the time but in the end what came out of all the mistakes they made is what counts.

Making the best of it

The hardest thing about making mistakes is looking at the outcome in the long run. We all have been there, making a decision your regret but looking back at it you see what has happened as a result of that „mistake“ and you wouldn’t want it any other way. I try to do that in my daily work too. Don’t get me wrong, I can get really angry at myself when things don’t work out, but after a short break, a conversation about it and a good night of sleep I concentrate on what I have learned from it.

It's all about attitude

As I said before nobody likes the feeling of making mistakes whilst making them. And every single person out there feels like a failure from time to time. If it is in you private or your working life.

It is crucial though to have the right attitude about it. I still find it very hard to look at my mistakes and feel positive about them but I try my best at working on my attitude towards it. I find that having the right mindset is sometimes already getting there halfway.

Always try to remember:

Better to have tried and failed, than to have never tried at all.
— Sean-Paul Thomas

- LOVE -

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The true value of quality

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Couldn't care less

I have been thinking about the quality of products and how people think about their purchases in general lately. Wondering if quality has lost its value because people seem to care more about how much they consume than about what they actually buy. I have made the experience that people consume cheap products like crazy and don't even bother to look at the quality of that product. They care so little they don't even look at the things they buy up close. 

You made this?

What I have seen is people behaving the opposite way when they know the product was handmade. They start to look at the product in their hands as close as they can trying to find every little flaw there might be. Things they don't care about when buying a product for the same price at a big store. 

As for the leathergoods I produce I thrive to achieve the highest quality possible. I practice all of my leatherworking skills a lot and want all of my customers to be happy with what they buy from me. Even more so I want my products to become favorites and to be by your side for many years. 

Details of the hand stitched seam

Is quality a value of the old times

In a fast moving world like ours is quality of products a value no one needs anymore? Do we only want new stuff every week rather than high quality products that last a lifetime?

I feel like yes and no is the answer to those questions. I also like to change it up and not carry around only one handbag all the time. You want to switch it up from time to time. But also people start to actually care about the products they buy more. Individuality is part of that I guess. It's part of the reasons I started this business in the first place. Wanting to buy a fancy handbag but not liking anything out there because of little details on the bag I din't like. 

So yes, people like to consume a lot but I also feel like quality is getting more and more attention and people are actually willing again to pay for another persons work.

Handcrafted Iphone sleeve in the making

Handcrafted Iphone sleeve in the making

Let's bring it back

The true value of quality may differ very much from one person to another. I feel like great quality products mean much more to us than the all of the other products we buy on the go. It's that emotional value of handmade, high quality products that make them so attractive. Also personalization of products makes them even more special because they fit your very own needs. 

Quality is becoming a trend again. People seem to care more about what they buy and what the quality and therefore durability of the product is.

For me the true value of buying high quality and maybe even handmade products is the emotional assets these products have to offer. Due to durability you can go on many adventures, make experiences and collect memories with your high quality purchase. You might even get emotionally attached to one or the other product because of all of the memories you made together.

I can’t afford to buy cheap things
— A German saying

My grandma used that saying a lot. Meaning buying a lot of cheap stuff is more expensive than buying less, high quality products. I am trying to incorporate that more into my own life and hope I can serve you well on that with the leathergoods I produce.

How do you feel about the value of quality in our daily lifes?

-LOVE-

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