I must say – I personally love your account. Watching your videos, I realise how rare it is to see fashion luxury goods deconstructed. We always see the glamourous end-product, but very rarely do we get a look into the production of these objects.
Thank you! I’m passionate about leather and want to help people understand the material better. Over the past two decades, I noticed a growing gap in leather knowledge. This gap is abused by big brands, who don’t really share any information on the materials they use, they just state how “good” it is. A lot of people would make different purchasing decisions if they understood the real value of leather. Of course, others wouldn’t, because they buy into the prestige, they value status, not quality. To me, there is no judgment either way. I respect brands for providing that status. But, for those of us who are not interested in status or brands, we are left paying that hefty tag, and it’s only fair that we understand the material value of the objects we buy.
“A lot of people would make different purchasing decisions if they understood the real value of leather.” – Tanner Leatherstein
Could you tell us about your background? How did you come to know so much about leather?
I never chose this. I was born into a family-owned tannery. I loved chemistry and my dad loved having me involved, so you can call it destiny. I truly believe I am in this lifetime for that reason. I always loved playing with leather. Around the age of 10, I started making my first leather jacket with sheepskin. That gave me a lot of excitement for the craft.
My background is unique because I was trained in multiple types of leather. Traditionally, every tannery specializes in a certain type of hide and finish, so most people only specialize in one thing, but over the years my family worked in five different countries, working in everything from shearling and goatskin to cow hides for shoes and bags – this gave me a holistic view of the industry, which is unusual, because often people stick with one specialty, as there is so much knowledge in each field.
“It’s only fair that we understand the material value of the objects we buy.” – Tanner Leatherstein
It must be very challenging then to translate all that knowledge to a mainstream audience.
Very much so! When you get into a field and you understand all the nuances, translating it to social media and producing content that stays under one minute (because people don’t want more) involves intense simplification. It always takes a little while for us to find the right rhythm, one video can take up to an hour to make. I’ve learned that meat analogies are most useful because people understand food better and can relate to it.
“I’ve learned that meat analogies are most useful because people understand food better and can relate to it.” – Tanner Leatherstein
Slicing through Yves Saint Laurent bags and comparing Bottega Veneta’s to steak… you’re really deglamourising these luxury objects. How does your audience react to this?
It definitely causes a response… Because there is this mystery in the field. For thousands of years, leather has been a luxury item. Up until a few generations ago, it was something only the wealthy elites could afford. But today, modern tanneries can produce high-quality leather in high numbers, because it’s a byproduct of the meat industry, which has grown exponentially. The material is not that rare anymore, it’s not that expensive. Big brands draw on that heritage. Things have changed, but brands keep this knowledge hidden. They want to keep it in the mystery box so they can overprice their items. People still think leather is a luxury item and assume a high price tag comes from the high quality. That €2000 is what you’re paying for the celebrity endorsement, the marketing, and advertising – it’s really just mediocre leather.
“That €2000 is what you’re paying for the celebrity endorsement, the marketing, and advertising – it’s really just mediocre leather.” – Tanner Leatherstein