I'm delighted to see the new leather products arriving online, these are also from Kolkata. Although if you see them in the you will assume they are Spanish or perhaps Moroccan. This is how it happened, I was shopping in that Carrefour supermarket behind Torrelomenous. The sea views from the checkouts are delightful. There are independant shops behind the checkouts, where I spotted a rather nice handcrafted wallet, price 29 euros. I bit expensive but I liked it because it had a nice motif of a lizard on it. I assumed it was local, made in Morocco.. perhaps.
A few weeks later I'm at a trade show in Delhi, and see the self same wallet displayed on a stand. "Where is this made?" I asked slightly surprised to see it, pulling out my wallet to compare. It's actually goat skin, the guy told me and made in Kolkata. After some conversation, I discovered the trader was an agent, therefore we wouldn't be buying direct from the source and would be unlikely to check the production was ethical or not.
Some time later I'm in Kolkata, and have made enquires though our man there; Mr Chatterjee. (see last weeks newsletter). We found a couple of promising companies to see.
The centre of this industry is Old Kolkata. A maze of lanes running between ancient houses, some which would have housed East India Company traders a hundred years ago. Rickshaw men still rush up and down these narrow streets, and behind closed doors a host of handicraft work is going on.
Our chosen man is a dapper chap. He has displayed his work in Milan a few years ago, and has been making designer brand leather bags for a major label. He is also the home of the "Cat Bag" very famous and his biggest selling product. The system here is that the trader will develop designs, often working closely with customers, then finance the orders. The craftwork is mostly done in family co-operatives, with final stitching and packing done in house.
The Italian bags you will find, in high end shops, with "Made in Italy" labels on them. Strikes me that Kolkatta doesn't get much recognition.
We went to see the family cooperative where his goods are mostly made.
This lady was pretty much in charge. She worked with the trader to get the designs right, and then allocated the jobs, showing the artisans exactly how to do it.
This chap does stitching work, on special extra tough sowing machines.
So you can see we are very proud of our collection of leather goods from Kolkata. The craft industry provides for work for thousands of artisans in this area.
Generations of artisans have been producing leather goods here for hundreds of years, support them by checking out the products below.
Of course if you have any ideas for products do let me know.
Also check out our rather posh Stripy (Milan inspired handbags) - notice the label inside proudly says "Made in Old Kolkata"