Ethical Leather Manufacturing 101: From Canada to Mexico

Small Business Leather Manufacturing, Ethical Manufacturing, Manufacturing In Mexico

When I started Jolie Laide back in 2014, I knew that

  1. I wanted to create unique products I had never seen before.
  2. If I was going to use leather, I was going to teach myself everything I needed to know about leather and it had to be high quality,
  3. My products needed to be produced ethically: Ethical fashion represents an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximizes benefits to people and communities while minimizing impact on the environment.

To this day, I’ve kept all these musts that I promised myself but as a small business that continues grows, sometimes you have to be open minded and ready for change.

So when my Canadian manufacturer told me in January 2016 that this round of Leather Camera Straps would be the last round because he couldn’t keep up with my growth, I took it in stride and thought it wouldn’t be that hard to find a replacement to create the same quality and same price point in Canada. If I had only known how very very, wrong I was…

Ethical Leather Manufacturing 101: Making Handcrafted Leather Camera Straps in Mexico

For the last six months I have contacted and sent samples to at least 10 manufacturers in Canada and 15 outside. From England, Spain, Portugal and even to China each and every sample I received back was not up to my standard or if it was WAY out my price range. I was getting desperate and could not believe how difficult it was to find ethically made, high quality and affordably priced manufacturing – a manufacturer that was willing to work with a small business with smaller quantities. China continued to be at the back of my mind as a desperate back up plan, but I knew my company wouldn’t grow the way I had hoped.

 I wanted to empower talented artisans.

My products not only needed to be great but they had to be made by people who had a passion for leather craft. Mass production was out of the question.

Just when I was about to give up and contemplated simply starting my own freelance manufacturing in Toronto, I remembered I owned a beautiful leather bag that I bought in Mexico. I remembered going through the alleys, seeing the people at work in their stalls and their pride in what they hand crafted. These were the people I needed to work with.

I began my research and finally came across an organization that connects designers with local manufacturers located in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico.

I was connected with an energetic and passionate craftsman named Juan and his young son who translates our conversations. They are both absolutely amazing. I thought I would share more about them in a little interview they provided.

Ethical Leather Manufactuer
Ethical Leather Manufacturing in Leon, Mexico. Small Business Leather Manufacturing.

How long have you been in business Juan?

 We started our small workshop in 1996 out of necessity because we could not find high-end leather goods in the area and our suppliers could not provide us with the qualities that we needed. So we have been in business for 20 years!

How many people work for you?

We currently have about 6 people on our team. Most of them have been working for us for 10 years or more. At our busiest peaks we produce about 2000 belts per week.

Who taught you how to work with leather?

 I taught my self empirically, through what I liked. Perhaps I have a natural talent. Perhaps I’m a perfectionist. We were forced from a need in our community. Necessity is the mother of invention. I didn’t have a grandfather or a father like my many businesses who hand down their knowledge, experience and economical support. We are the first generation of Santa Fe Marroquineria (Leather Workshop). My son and I work hard to keep this company going and making sure our employees have work each day.

Small Business Ethical Leather Manufacturing In Mexico
Jolie Laide, Jolie Laide Studios, Behind-The-Scenes

After 6 hard months of research and trial and error finding such amazing artisans that hit all my standards, and then some, is a blessing. Although it makes me a bit disheartened that leather manufacturing in Canada is on it’s way out, I can still say that I pride myself in providing work to craftsman in developing countries. They work harder then most and go the extra mile to empower themselves, hence Handcrafted In Mexico sounds just as good to me.

León is a city and municipality in the Mexican state of Guanajuato.

Ethical Leather Manufacturing in Leon, Mexico, Ethical Leather Manufacturing, Small Business Leather Manufacturing

We are waiting for our first shipment from Leon this week and we have so many new styles and collaborations to share! Stay tuned to our next blogpost and emails!

Thanks again guys for staying with us on this wild ride xx

~Jacqueline

jacqueline
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