In recent years, Frédéric Vigne’s hobby of leatherworking has grown a lot.
Now leather enthusiasts can order his handmade belts, wallets, bags and passport holders online, and Vigne hopes one day in the next two years to expand to a brick and mortar location. Now he operates Vigne Leather Studio online and uses his Kent garage as a workshop.
“Last October, when people saw me and said, ‘Hey, I need a belt’, that prompted me to have a family conversation,” he said. .
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At this point in his life he said he was at a crossroads and that he could either try to start what has become Vigne Leather Studio, develop a hobby he loved, or do something else. . As it stands, Vigne, 50, said he has been honing his skills as a hobby since 2019, but leatherworking has been a part of his family for as long as he can remember.
His father made saddles in France where he grew up, and he eventually learned the trade from him.
“I watched his work and was fascinated,” Vigne said. “He didn’t really allow me to do too much because what he was using was a very thick material. I couldn’t even hit him.
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Today, one of the permanent elements of his workshop is a saddle made by his father.
Growing up, Vigne moved away from his parents and horses, but recently remembered his past.
“In March 2019, I went to Missouri to see a friend of mine who had a breeding farm,” Vigne said. There, he met someone who had a dozen “dust collecting in his barn” stools.
“I said, ‘Honey, I’m bringing a saddle back and I’m going to fix it,’” he said. “I started with a bunch of small projects that grew into bigger projects, and eventually I started making things to sell. Last fall I started getting orders for belts and wallets and it became my bread and butter.
Vine uses only vegetable tanned leather, avoiding the chemical tanning that produces most leather products (and colors) on the market today. Most of Vigne’s products come in different shades of brown and black (or slate blue), he said.
“The tanning process is important to me because it has an impact on the environment and the workers,” he explained. “From the start, I knew I didn’t want to work with what is unfortunately 95% of the material available. “
He said chemical tanning and chrome tanning are quick and cheap, but he prefers traditional tanning, which besides being more durable and better for workers, also creates a stronger end product.
“Naturally tanned leather has the ability to heal itself,” he said. “The material almost leaves scars on the wire. It’s like when you put something in a tree and come back years later and the tree has taken over the board or the board.
Vigne said he hadn’t started making clothes because of the difficulty in incorporating sizes. He said he learned about men’s belt sizes, but women’s belt sizes are more difficult.
“It’s quite interesting to me that I found myself at this crossroads of business, design, food, environment and fashion,” he said. “They are such simple objects, but you can look at them from so many angles.”
In addition to using naturally tanned leather, usually sourced from cattle, he said he paid homage to cattle during the production process of the products.
“Leather is naturally tanned, but how is the cow raised? he said. “I can guarantee that the leather is naturally tanned; I cannot guarantee how the cattle are raised.
Vigne said almost all of the leather he uses comes from cattle headed for slaughter. During a visit, the owner showed him a pile of skins.
“It wasn’t even their skins,” he said. “They were stinking, stinking skins. If they are not used as leather, they are discarded. Every skin that comes in here I pause for five to 10 seconds and recognize the animal that was the skin and try to do the best I can.
Do you have a business or healthcare story you’d like to share? Journalist Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, [email protected] and @bobgaetjens_rc.