February 14, 2019 by Ville Raivio
Mastery is a leather brand based out in Japan and specialised in saddle-stitched leather goods. A one-man operation, it is helmed by a Mr Kage, a self-taught artisan. He began his studies in leather crafting from online manuals in 2004, before this time he had a passion for collecting raw denim. As for leather as a material, he tells me “Personally, I like stuff that looks better with age, meaning the aging process of the leather which will form a patina after repeated use. This process usually tells a unique story of the owner, just like a pair of raw denim.”
“I only use vegetable-tanned leather, not chrome-tanned, because of the ingredient and the aesthetic (chrome leather tends to appear more plasticky). I don’t use exotic leathers because of the way the animals are treated.” The current range has dozens of wallet models, some 18 bags, keychains, cases for cards and coins, and colourful special makeups.
Mastery favours Italian Vacchetta leather, known for its tendency to develop a rich patina with time and wear. The vegetable-tanned hides react to sunlight and moisture, so they’re favoured my bag and case makers. Small scratches become darker with time and part of the unique look. For threads, the company has chosen the French firm of Fil au Chinois for the durability that linen offers. Zippers are made by the famed Swiss company of RiRi for durability. All these are imported to Japan and finished pieces shipped all over the world.
For inspiration, Kage shares the following: “Inspiration for me usually begins with the leather I touch and feel. I want to use that leather in a particular way to showcase its best characteristics, be it the look itself, the color, softness, or the thickness. My designs are mostly classic but contemporary, they reference the ways people carried their stuff around in the old days, and now. Since my products are all handmade and hand-stitched, I will factor in how to make the design more unique, rather than designing mass market factory-made products. Design and craftsmanship are both equally important to me as Mastery’s work is not replication of designs but all handcrafted.”
As an example piece of Mastery’s work, above and below are shots of the Long Wallet model in moss green Vacchetta leather which the maker sent for Keikari’s perusal. As each piece by Mastery is made to order, for my model the logo and label are placed inside the wallet instead. The saddle-stitches are straight and tidy, sewn with white linen thread for contrast with the somewhat dark green leather. The wallet closes with one brass popper and the credit card slots have very precise measurements. Thus, they feel stiff at first before loosening with wear. The edges are burnished and dyed black, and the model features a small coin pocket. With all cards added, the design remains slim though longer than most. There is room enough for much and more. All is clean and precise, as usual with Japanese craftswork.