Leather Craftsman’s Commitment refining His Skills for Over 20 Years [Japlish]

Leather Craftsman’s Commitment refining His Skills for Over 20 Years [Japlish]

Japlish is a leather goods store based in Fukuoka, Japan.

We interviewed Takateru Nagashima, a craftsman who has been working in leather craft for over 20 years.

Career of Craftsman

Q.Could you tell us about your career?

I have been involved in the leather goods industry for 24 years. I was introduced to the leather products industry by a friend. I was about to graduate from college at the time, and he taught me about leather craft, so I went to the store to buy some leather. I started leather craft casually, but I remember thinking, "Oh, this is so interesting”.

However, I had a job lined up at the time, so I worked as a salesman in the construction industry for 2~3 years after graduating from college. I continued leather craft as a hobby.

But, my passion for manufacturing just wouldn't go away, so I decided to change jobs at HERZ Inc., a major company in the leather goods industry in Japan.

Q.You made a career change to HERZ Inc. ! What kind of work did you do?

At HERZ Inc., I was doing a comprehensive range of work, from manufacturing leather products to customer service and sales at stores and to retailers. Many leather goods companies generally have a division of labor, but at HERZ Inc. I was able to take charge of a comprehensive range of work, and I am still making use of this experience to this day.

At companies with a division of labor, we are often only able to experience localized work, such as making shoulder straps for shoulder bags, sewing wallets, or being in charge of sales and customer service, so being able to gain comprehensive experience was extremely valuable.

Q.Was there any hard thing while working at HERZ Inc.?

Not only at HERZ Inc., but when we work in a company organization, we have to seek "efficiency”. I was not able to respond to all the requests from customers because we needed to maximize sales in relation to the time spent on production.

However, currently, two craftsmen at the main workshop make products now, and because of this system, we are able to easily respond to customer requests and customize our products to suit each individual customer. This attention to detail has led to customer satisfaction, so now I have no complaints at all when it comes to manufacturing.

Thoughts on Manufacturing

Q.Why did you choose leather craft?

It has to do with the fact that I have loved making things since I was a child. As a child, I was rather not good at physical activities, and I liked to play indoors, like making plastic models. I really enjoy the process of moving my hands to create a shape.

Among the many things I have tried in the past, I got into leather crafting to the point where I felt I could continue doing it for the rest of my life, and that is how I ended up in my current job. I never get tired of it, and I am still able to do what I love, so I am very happy with my work!

Q.That's very nice! What are you doing to improve your skills?

I am thinking of getting a leather craft certification to further improve my skills and acquire knowledge.

I have over 20 years of experience as a leather craftsman, but I would like to go back to my roots and relearn the basics. By relearning the basics, I may make new discoveries, and I would like to apply them to my current product making to make my customers happy.

Commitment to Tools and Materials

Q.Do you have any particular attachment to tools?

Actually, the sewing machine used in our workshop is called a "rare sewing machine" and it is a product that has not been manufactured since it was produced about 60 years ago. This foot-pedal type sewing machine is very useful because it can sew even thick leather well and the finish is very beautiful.

I first acquired this machine more than 20 years ago to do leather craft at home. I also use it in my current workshop, and it is the one I am most comfortable with.

It is a "rare sewing machine" that does not appear on the market very often, but over the past 20 years, we have now owned five of these machines in our workshop. I don't think there is probably any leather workshop in the world that has five of these sewing machines. There is a flavor that only these sewing machines can produce, so we are very particular about the tools we use.

Q.Five rare sewing machines is amazing... I would also like to know about your commitment to materials!

We use cowhide made in Japan as our material. We have tried cowhide made overseas, but we feel that Japanese cowhide is the best quality. The color of the cowhide made overseas is different from the color we specified depending on the time of year and weather conditions, and the finish is inconsistent.

However, Japanese cowhide is always delivered in uniform quality, and the finish when manufactured is very good, so we now use only Japanese cowhide.

Commitment to Maintaining High Quality

Q.Are there any points you are particular about in manufacturing your products?

I am thoroughly particular about "resistance to breakage”. I still place importance on "sturdiness" and "resistance to breakage", which I also emphasized at my previous job at HERZ Inc.

Customers will be sad if their leather products break after a few years after they have purchased them. For this reason, we use thick leather instead of thin, and double or triple stitch the parts that are prone to wear and tear to make the products more resistant to breakage. You can see how we do this by watching our production videos.

Q.How many years do your customers use your products?

We have received reviews from customers who have been using our products for more than 10 years. We do not have an exact measurement of all our customers, but I think they can continue to use our products for that long.

If the metal fittings come off or the threads become frayed, we offer repairs, so please send it to our main workshop and we will take care of it. There is no such thing as an "unbreakable leather product", so one of our specialties is the selection of parts and the sewing of our products so that they can be easily repaired in the event of a breakage or tear.

Q.The durability to be used for more than 10 years is amazing! Do you have any other specialties?

We also pursue "ease of use in daily life”. Specifically, "lightness”.

Many customers actually hold the product in their hands and say, "It's so light!”,I don't get tired at all!” ,Easy to carry!” This is related to the "thickness of leather", thicker leather is heavier and thinner leather is lighter.

However, at our workshop, we also emphasize "durability," so we have arrived at a leather thickness that achieves both "durability" and "ease of use. We also try to achieve both by using slightly thicker leather in fragile areas.

For Customers Comment Japlish Leather Products

Q.Please give a message to customers!

We are very happy if you can use our products for a long time because they are handmade and carefully produced one by one. We manufacture a wide range of products such as shoulder bags, wallets, and backpacks, so please use our products in your daily life. In addition, our workshop accepts custom orders for each individual, so if you have any requests, please feel free to contact us. We will do our best to meet your requests.

Leather Bag Making Process Video