Leather takes time. This isn’t something that you’ve likely given much thought to. I certainly hadn’t when I landed in Mexico ten years ago. For thousands of years, after an animal has departed, the hide begins its second act. On this particular day, the hides of the animal have been salted and loaded onto a truck bound for the tannery. This is where I find myself. Let me back up a bit. After a string of failed careers including high school teacher, salesman, and guitar player, I decided to start a company making leather guitar straps. This is how I find myself on a loading dock in a cloud of flies unloading dead animal skins in late 2009 – the beginning of WP Standard.
First big delivery!
"One must imagine sisyphus happy." -Camus
As unpleasant as this all sounds, I find this next piece uplifting. The long process of transforming discarded flesh into a beautifully tanned hide. The journey of the hide is analogous to winemaking in many ways. If you’ve ever spent an afternoon in Napa Valley you’re familiar with terms like “terroir” and “tannins”. Leather is like this in that there are hundreds of variables from hide origins to tanning, tumbling, and finishing that end up in a final product that is completely unique (editors note: don’t take a date to a tannery). No two hides are the same and each batch has some variance in characteristics making your bag truly one of a kind.
From the tannery, we find our finished hides which are ready to be inspected, cut and sewn. This is a process we take great pride in and I’m humbled to see the work roll out from our artisans every day.
When I look at the bags that people carry around airports and cities, they are usually nylon or a pressed leather with not much character to it. But occasionally you’ll see something haggard and beautiful that has endured years of coffee stains, run-ins with rouge doors and leaky pens. This sets my imagination adrift. This is a bag, or rather a person with some stories to tell. And though buying some bag doesn’t automatically imbue life with good stories, perhaps it can be a humble reminder to make some.