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Made-to-order leather bag.

Local leather goods brand Pesakraf came into being when its founder decided to make his own watch strap, writes Kasmiah Mustapha

IF you are looking for a local leather crafter, you will definitely find Pesakraf among the top 10. It is an achievement for Faisal Mohamed, who learnt the craft from YouTube videos and books.

It all started in 2012 when he wanted to replace his wristwatch strap but could not find any that met his specifications. He then decided to take matters into his own hands and make his own strap.

“Another reason is that leather strap is expensive and I thought it is better to make it myself.

“I’m a traditionalist when it comes to taste and I have always loved leather. Since I have always liked working with my hands, I decided to make them myself. My first products were the wristwatch strap and phone cover.”

It was a challenge as he did not know anyone in the leather crafting industry or where to source the materials and tools.

He knew there were local leather craftsmen in the 1970s and 1980s but with the influx of leather goods from Pakistan and China, they had retired.

“I watched videos, read books and tried to figure out what they were doing. I think I threw away about 15 to 20 prototypes because the styles were too simple and the materials were basic.

“After a year and a half, I learnt more techniques and had more advanced tools to create better products.

Faisal is the founder of Pesakraf.

“I learnt the difference between a key holder that is made from just five steps and one that took as many as 20 steps. The latter results in a fine leather product.”

Faisal says at the beginning Pesakraf — which is derived from his nickname “Pesa” — products were categorised as handcrafted.

Now, he says, the craftmanship is similar to French or Italian made leather products.

In comparison, European leather goods are more refined compared to American products, he attests.

Leather goods from the US are more minimalist, using simple techniques and no frills, created with just a few steps.

French and Italian leather goods are lined with fabric. The edges are painted and beautifully finished using many different steps, says Faisal.

On Pesakraf’s Instagram, you can find refined bespoke leather goods such as wallets, key holders, belts, wristwatch straps, card holders, bracelets and folios.

There are also passport sleeves, notebook covers, phone and tablet pouches, messenger bags, halfcase camera covers and weekender bags.

Handcrafted leather passport holder.

All the products come with a certificate of guarantee, ensuring they are handcrafted from specially selected materials.

“Most of the items are made to order. I would post the picture of the products on Instagram. People will then ask if I could make similar items for them. Among them was a tote bag I made for my mother. After I posted the picture, there were several requests for the bag.”

There are no restrictions for bespoke products as Faisal will create whatever his customers want — at a price, of course.

“I have clients who are not bothered about the cost. There are also those who want complicated products but do not have the budget. I will then tell them that I will scale down the product to match their budget.

Luggage tag with matte gold personalised initials.

“As a craftsman, I want to use the best materials and techniques to achieve the best result. The price reflects the work. You are also paying for the creative process. Depending on the item, it takes between a day and a month to craft it.”

For the moment, Faisal is still handling every aspect of the brand alone. He intends to hire staff soon to assist him.

Faisal actually left his job as a civil servant two years ago to focus on his brand.

“It is hard to be taken seriously if I do it part-time. With no distractions, I can build the business and grow as a craftsman. It started as a labour of love but I have certain targets and levels that I want to achieve.”

Bespoke watch straps.

Through word of mouth, Faisal has expanded his business to include corporate clients such as BMW, Aston Martin and SP Setia.

In addition to creating corporate gifts, he offers on-the-spot embossing for those who want to personalise their items.

To share his passion in making leather products, Faisal often organises basic leather craft workshops at his studio in Puchong.

“Through these workshops, people can learn the basic techniques on cutting, designing and sewing leather stuff.

“It is easier to learn from someone rather than from videos and books. There are now more people who are interested in leather craftsmanship.”

One of the challenges Faisal faces is that the majority of people who like his products cannot afford them while those who can, prefer imported stuff.

The Malaysian mentality is that local products should be cheaper because they are not as good as imported items, he says.

“I have to source the materials and tools from overseas and they are not cheap. One roll of fine thread costs about RM200. One piece of a tool is about RM900.

“The products are created with fine craftsmanship which means they are of high quality. If you take into consideration all these factors, you must know that the products cannot be cheap.

“If I only want to make money, I can put in less effort and create simple and basic products. But I want to use the best to create the best.”

Apple watch leather bracelet from yellow brown calfskin leather with beige lining and doe colour thread.

He says there are two types of people who buy leather goods — those who appreciate craftsmanship and those who relate it to lifestyle.

For people who look at it as a lifestyle product, they are only concerned about the brand. They feel that if the products are expensive, they must be good. They only understand brand and price, he says.

“Then there are people who look for brands like mine because they appreciate the story behind these items. To them, the products are made with the best craftsmanship. When they look at the item, they see quality and fine leather goods.

Faisal says it does not matter where the products are made — what’s important is that they are of high quality.

“As long as you do a good job, you can do it from anywhere. I believe we should sell things we want to use ourselves. If you are not happy paying for the product, you should never make it. Make something that you are happy with.

“For me, I am making quality items that I am proud of. I am building a legacy.”

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