Luxe leather crafting might be a vanishing specialty, but several young independent designers are seeking out these artisans to help produce their luxury lines, using venerable techniques but with a modern aesthetic. Here are three of them, all based in Paris and all with annual volumes of less than 500,000 euros ($660,000).
Spanish designer Isaac Reina, former longtime design assistant to Hermès’ artistic director for men’s wear, Véronique Nichanian, launched his namesake men’s and women’s leather goods label in 2005. His leather accessories collections are produced by three local ateliers.
“Before, Paris was a city full of leather artisans, and now you can count them on two hands; their techniques are amazing,” observed Reina’s design assistant, Jerome Schmidt. “It’s about playing with ancient codes and making them look modern. You learn with them as much as you push them to do something new.”
Case in point, the brand’s minimalist black box calfskin clutch, which literally resembles a box, featuring accordion gusset sides. The piece is made from one piece of leather, with a single line of stitching along the side.
Reina melds a modern minimalist look with vintage forms. An example is a purse-frame bag on which the bag’s leather also coats the metal purse closure, a technically complex feat that was achieved by a local artisan using know-how passed down through his family.
“Just the look of a purse frame screams vintage, so it was a real challenge to reinterpret it,” said Schmidt. Among the designs are a range of flat, square or rectangular clutches and wallets in matte black and metallic calfskin, or leather toiletry bags that zip open and snap together at the back to form an open container. The brand works mainly with untreated vegetal leathers, with the idea of allowing them to age and develop a patina.
Prices go from 95 euros ($125 at current exchange) for a signature elasticated leather folder to 1,160 euros (about $1,500) for a leather-lined weekend bag.
Isaac Reina is sold in about 75 stores internationally, including Project No. 8 in New York, Le Bon Marché in Paris and LN-CC, a by-appointment London-retailer.