"I’m just happy to have consistent work so I can provide for my family and a stable upbringing for my children” Omar, one of our artisan partners in Fez, Morocco
Craft: Leather bags
Materials Used: Leather, Metal, Cotton, Suede
Background: Our leather bags are handcut and handstitched in a small workshop in Fez, Morocco. The workshop is run by Omar, who moved from a small village in Azrou to Fez at the age of 19 in the hope of finding better opportunities for employment. He honed his trade through an apprenticeship at a large vendor in the heart of the city, mastering the art of handcraftmanship of a wide assortment of leather goods from bags and belts to coats and slippers. He did this from many years for very low pay as the middlemen sellers took the bulk of the profits. At the age of 32, he was able to find a better opportunity at an artisan co-operative in the Fez medina and is now in charge of communally setting prices and distributing profits fairly across the team.
Leather tannery in Fez, Morocco
Technique: Fez is famous for its leather products and is home to three leather tanneries, the largest and oldest being the Chouara Tannerry which is almost one thousand years old. The tanning process is all achieved manually, with no machines necessary, via a practice that is has undergone minimal changes since medieval times:
1) Separating the hides. There are four main types of leather: cow, sheep, camel and goat. The skins are grouped and then cleaned and softened by soaking them in the stone vats for a few days
2) Colouring the hides. Only natural vegetable dyes are used such as cedar wood (brown), mint (green), saffron (yellow), henna (orange), indigo (blue) and poppy flower (red)
3) Drying the leather. The leather is taken to the rooftops and left out to dry naturally under the sun.
4) Ready to sell. Now soft, clean and available in an assortment of different vibrant colours the leather is ready to be exported abroad or sold to local makers.
5) Handpicking the leather. Our artisan partners in Fez will now select, hand cut and hand stitch the leather to produce the bags you see on show today
Various coloured leather hides hanging out to dry
Interesting fact: Fez, Morocco, is a car-free city. The medina is home to 10, 000 narrow alleys with small artisanal shops either side and the only means of transporting goods inside the medina are mules or small chariots
Shop our leather bags here