The Fine Craft of Leatherwork

Learn more about the luxe craftsmanship behind your favorite leather wardrobe staples.

Be it an immaculately crafted jacket, handbag or shoes, when in search of that next investment piece we’ll often gravitate towards something created with leather. Why is that? Aesthetics aside, part of the draw of leather goods is the image they evoke: refined, sophisticated, one-of-a-kind. All of this is the result of the craftsmanship that was dedicated towards its creation.

Here’s more about the work that goes behind your current – and next – favorite piece.


Early Beginnings

Crafted from animal hides and tanned to last, a stunning designer handbag, for example, wouldn’t exist without leather craftsmen dating back as far as 400,000BC. Prized for its resilience and pliability, the oldest leatherworking atelier in Morocco was discovered in 2021 where tools dated back 120,000 years. Millennia later, innovative fashion houses have boldly moved the craft onwards and into your wardrobe.

Design and Technique

From the 19th century onwards, craftsmen known as maroquinier in France elevated leatherworking. Braiding, weaving and layering are some early techniques aimed to improve the strength and aesthetics of leather goods, alongside chemical tanning methods, to create soft supple leathers.

Step into a DFS store and you’ll find that creations still rely on these techniques, with some designers even making these historical styles a calling sign. Subtler than a monogram, eye-catching techniques such as intrecciato weaving and quilting are part of certain designers’ DNA – resulting in premium accessories which scream quiet luxury.

If the 19th century was all about the physical manipulation of leather, then the 20th pushed leather to its limit. Craftsmen questioned the textile itself, mastering snakeskin-like finishes, dyeing and stamping resulting in leatherworking unrecognizable from its ancient predecessors and setting the groundwork for today.


Technology and Trends

Leatherworking and technology have collided in the past few decades, resulting in precision laser-cutting for intricate work or ultrasonic welding for seamless stitching – ideal for dramatic statement accessories or those with a minimalist wardrobe. Others pay homage to leatherworking heritage, crafting luxury saddle handbags and even leather riding helmet-shaped microbags in nods to its links with the equestrian world.

While exotic animal leather goods are embedded in the leatherworking trade, those concerned about sustainability and animal welfare will be happy to know faux leather craftsmanship has taken off. You’ll find luxury plastic-based pleather growing in popularity while others have tapped the natural world for vegan alternatives, all without compromising style.

What’s Coming Up

As S/S24 has evidenced, there’s always room for the real thing.

Try something in metallics or cherry red leathers; hues which rule the roost for the season. Designers are shifting from noughties nostalgia, so embrace whimsical hyperfemininity with an on-trend clutch or gigantic tote adorned with sculptural florals or appliqués. The new season sees the return of motomami grunge, so edgier dressers will find heavier chain-embellished accessories calling your name. Minimal dressers should look twice at cunningly crafted baguette bags, featuring illusion leathers indistinguishable from denim or wool.

But when it comes to your wardrobe, something in classic, versatile leather will never go out of style. Trends may come and go, but leather is forever.


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