I grew up watching my grandfather make Western saddles in a small workshop in Otaki. I specifically remember the rich, earthy smell that would hit you as soon you walked in. I admired the sheer amount of time Grandad would put into each saddle, making sure that every stitch, crease and edge was perfect. My Grandad was far from alone. For centuries, leather craftsman earned the respect and loyalty of their customers by producing functional works of art that would be handed down through generations.
A much younger me on one of Grandad's saddles
Unfortunately, as with so much in the modern world, quality and craftsmanship have been replaced by speed and convenience. The leather goods industry became a game of maximising profits - using cheaper materials and finding cheaper labour - which slowly but surely eroded its integrity. Full-grain leather has given way to reconstituted ’genuine leather’, and local artisans have been replaced by production lines in developing nations.
Today, 90% of the world’s leather is now chrome-tanned, a process which dramatically reduces the cost of the leather, but destroys its structure in the process. Chrome-tanning results in leather that wears out quickly and smells more like plastic than leather. There is a huge disconnect between the beautiful leather goods my grandfather lovingly crafted and the current products on the market.
I founded Sonder Leather in 2015 because I believe in doing things the old way - with respect, attention to detail and dedication to the craft. Every Sonder Leather product is individually handcrafted and personalised in Christchurch, New Zealand.
When you buy a Sonder Leather wallet, you're buying a wallet that will last a lifetime. Made from sustainable Kangaroo leather, each piece offers a sensory experience and attention to detail that you may never have encountered before. The inimitable smell and buttery texture of vegetable-tanned leather are there from day one, and actually get better with age.
My vision for Sonder Leather is to share an appreciation for the craft my grandfather lived and breathed, one person at a time.