In recent years, I have given many of my friends matching passport wallets as wedding gifts (monogrammed by request). Robin and I believe very strongly that life should be full of travel and adventure, and marriage means that you get to share life's adventures with another person.
Recently, a good (single) friend of mine shared with me the news that 2015 will be the year that she moves overseas and starts a several-year around-the-world journey. That got me thinking: marriage isn't the only life milestone worth celebrating.
Vicki, this custom Cartagena with turquoise thread, as you requested, is a beauty. I can't wait to hearabout your adventures. Happy travels.
Those of you who ordered bags around the holidays last year probably should have received a beautiful tassel keychain and gift card. I personally made all of the tassel keychains (and will do so again this year), but the card was made by our friend Laurin at Liontail Press. We had long admired her work, and were really excited to have her make the cards. The best part was that the feeling was mutual.
It turns out that Laurin had been lusting after our leather goods, and so we jumped at the chance to do a barter. I made Laurin a custom Candelaria Wallet in whiskey leather with blue suede in exchange for the letterpress cards.
We're getting ready for this year's holiday season, and we've already worked out a new barter to keep the tradition going. We were curious how last year's wallet was doing, and Laurin was kind enough to send us a picture - what a beauty.
It's that time of year again. This time around, the Restrepo Leather team is split between Bogota, Colombia, and Madison, WI. For some of us, the leaves are changing and there's a slight crisp in the air - but for everyone, it's time to start thinking about holiday gifts.
If you've been saving up to buy that special someone the leather bag that they've been dreaming about, it's not too late! Since all of our bags are made-to-order, we can't guarantee that bag orders will get to you or your loved on in time for Christmas (though we will try our hardest!). Wallet orders, however, are shipped out within a few days of placing the order, so there's still plenty of time for those.
This holiday season, by popular demand, we're bringing back something special for our customers. Because we want you to be able to give your loved ones something, something handmade, even if the bag has yet to arrive, we are sending a complimentary leather tassel keychain for each bag order this holiday season, accompanied by a gift card made by our friends at Liontail Press. Though the bag will still take 7 to 10 weeks to deliver, we will ship the the tassel key chain and card within a few days to your gift recipient.
Robin and I have been rocking our tassel key chains since last year - Moses loves chewing on 'em.
Following up on our post about caring for your leather, many people ask me how they can prevent their Restrepo Leather products from getting scratched or from showing signs of use. These people are going about it all wrong. While you don't want to abuse a bag, leather is a natural material and will change with time. These natural color changes and small scratches that reflect how the owner uses the product are commonly referred to as patina and should be welcomed.
Below, you can see an early prototype of the Bogota Tote, which Robin has used regularly for three years. Note the darkening in the color of the leather from its original flesh color.
Patina isn't exclusive to leather. As Tom Armitage discusses in this 2010 blog post, patina is all around us; it's what makes the world beautiful.
Wear is, of course, both a noun and a verb. It’s the verb that inevitably happens through use, and it’s the noun that the verb leaves behind. Patina is the history of a product written into its skin.
Quality product design takes the aging of a product into account and ensures that the product only gets more beautiful as it ages.
After almost four years in Colombia, the Tolochkos are moving to the U.S., and we're bringing some of Restrepo Leather with us.
We're going on a coast-to-coast road trip around the United States, from Atlanta, to L.A., to Seattle, and then to Madison, with stops everywhere in between.
When we finally land in Madison, some big changes are in store for our growing leather business. We're planning on opening a flagship store in Madison with our full range of products on display and leatherworking classes on offer. Madison is a city that really promotes small business and entrepreneurship, and we can't wait to join that community.
That said, the leather artisans who make our gorgeous products are, and always will remain, in Bogota. Our roots are Colombian, we're just going to plant some of them in American soil.
Robin (& Jerry & Moses)
P.S. We'll be bringing products with us on our road trip, so please let us know if you would like to see our wares in person.
P.P.S. Would you be interested in leatherworking classes? Do you live in Madison or know someone who does who we should be in touch with? Any tips on finding a store/workshop space? Let us know!
A friend asked me if all Colombians were in mourning when Gabriel García Márquez passed away a few days ago. While I haven't personally asked all Colombians, the general feeling is that García Márquez was a source of pride for a country that has experienced its fair share of tragedy.
Don't tell my 12th grade English teacher that I never actually read 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. I started it, but was so confused and bored that I didn't make it very far. Years later when we moved to Bogotá, I decided to give García Márquez another try, this time with Love in the Time of Cholera. Though his style isn't my favorite, I loved his vivid descriptions of Colombia, especially the Magdalena River. That book was what made me want to see this great river - Colombia's equivalent of the Mississippi - and I made my way to Honda last year, an old inland port city. García Márquez's obvious love for his homeland comes through in his writing, which is one reason I believe Colombians revere him as much as they do. Not to mention that he is this country's only Nobel laureate.
In this country that is known internationally more for its cocaine than its culture, the fact that Gabriel García Márquez is a household name abroad shows that Colombia has much more to give to the world.
I love visiting the leather tannery and seeing where they convert raw hides to beautiful, strong leather. Whenever we go, we always want to buy a little bit of everything, they're all so different. MUST. RESIST.
This trip was specifically for picking out hides for some new products we have coming down the pipeline. Most of our current designs are made with fairly rigid leather (about 2 mm thick), but we've been getting requests for soft, colorful options, like our yellow tote.
The family-owned tannery we work with is great about listening to what we're looking for and making pretty much anything we want. Thanks to Gabriel for working with us (check out his badass leather apron/skirt).
We always learn something new. This time, we learned the difference between Colombian sabanero leather that comes from the valleys near Bogota versus the llanero leather from the low-lying plains. The sabanero leather tends to be better quality because the cows are carefully tended, whereas the llanero hides often come with more brands and flea bites since the cows tend to wander around on the plains. Obviously our bags are made with sabanero, the highest quality leather you can find in Colombia.
Many of you have told us, "I love my bag/wallet! What should I do to take care of it?"
Step 1 is to use it. Our products are designed to look better with age, and the only way to develop that gorgeous patina is through use. Plus, the oils from your hands will help keep the leather hydrated.
The biggest threat to leather is drying out. If you notice that your leather is looking a little dry or overly scratched, you could apply some leather conditioner or oil. There are almost as many leather care products as there are leather bag companies, but one product that I'm a fan of is the Blackrock Leather 'n' Rich sold by Sheridan Leather. First, wipe down the leather with a clean cloth. Then apply just a dab of conditioner with your finger and rub it in to re-hydrate the leather. It's better to start out with not enough conditioner and then add more as needed.
If your your bag is going to be exposed to the elements, you could also apply a thin layer of wax dressing. Go easy on the wax, as it will dry out the leather more quickly than normal, but it will also make your bag more waterproof. I'm a fan of Sheridan Leather's Beeswax Dressing.
Remember that good leather is a material that is supposed to change and get better with age. You want to take good care of it, but don't be surprised if it doesn't look the exact same months or years down the line. That's what gives it its unique personality.
Almost 30 years ago, José came to Bogotá from his hometown of Guateque during a school vacation. He decided to stay in the big city, having grown tired of the small-town life. José found jobs here and there in construction and then a bakery, until the day when a mutual friend introduced him to César 14 years ago. He tells me that he used to braid bread, and now he braids leather handles for bags.
"I've always loved working with my hands. It's more a pastime than work, time passes quickly. I love my friendships with the people here at the workshop, I value our relationships."
Like a good Colombian, José listens to music while he works and takes breaks to watch telenovelas, Latin American soap operas. When I ask him why he likes making things entirely by hand, he says, "I love the act of concentration. It's a delicate matter to make something good. You have to put a lot of yourself into the pieces in order for them to turn out well. The quality is higher when you work by hand with good leather. A lot of bags these days aren't made with real leather, they're made with synthetic materials and with a machine. They're not going to have the same durability as one of our bags."
"I feel good creating these great products. It makes me feel like I'm contributing to the development of my country. What I'm doing, it's going to be sent to other parts of the world. What I make is actually useful for other people; it makes me feel really satisfied to know that people use what I make."