Hong Kong has legions of artisans.  Tailors are a prime example where it is cheaper to purchase a custom made suit cut and made to your proportions rather buying off the rack at any name brand store.  Brooks Brothers, Zegna and other branded male apparel seem to cater to the more money than brains crowd (to which the China buyers would fit).  Leather goods would be another.  Shum Shui Po district is filled with excess inventory, over stock and anything you would find in the creation of garments: sewing machines to leather and goretex.

I watched Tanner Goods blow up in the USA with the insatiable demand for quality made mens’ apparel.  A classic men’s belt off Tanner Goods is $105 excluding shipping.  The Horween Leather Company makes some of the finest most sought after leather in the world, which goes on to create some of the most exclusive leather goods; ex. NFL footballs.  Allen Edmonds will craft shoes using Horween’s NFL football leather.  I found it weird that the USA’s demand for quality made apparel has yet to gain traction in HK, only to realize HK’ers love consumption.  Quality made apparel defeats the needs and desires to consume at a voracious pace.  As a guy, there are items which should last a lifetime.

I notice people using kickstarter to offload the financial risk in fashion.  One item in particular which gains traction is the manufacture of quality leather belts ala the Tanner Goods model.  A simple leather belt, untreated so it develops its own patina over time.  Belts and shoes are two items to which custom made is warranted.  Shum Shui Po district being the manufacturing textile hub would be the place to spend an afternoon.

Tai Nan Street in Shum Shui Po is home to all things leather.  It’s home to both the hip trendy DIY leather stores hoping to give you the opportunity to make something on your own and the old school leather stores.  Artisans vs. Leather workers.  The trendy stores carry all sorts of exotic leathers to which you will need to buy in a quantity sufficient to make your article of desire.  For a simple leather belt it is another $450 to have one of the artisans massage the leather into the final product or $120/hr to use their tools and work it on your own.  It’s quite the endeavour once you do the calculation to do everything on your own.

the block

Tai Nan Street in the SSP district, this is the block to find leather work.

I chose to go to the leather workers and purchase a blank – untreated natural belt for $100.  The guy knew exactly what I was after once I asked for untreated leather.  He said many new customers walk through the doors buying these belts and adding their own buckles with a bit of detailing reselling for a huge markup in Central.  I shrug my shoulders in unison, suckers born every minute right?  Tai Nan Street is home to all things leather including the accessories that become the buckle.  It’s $20/buckle at a retail level, HKD dollars.  As the stores do a brisk business in wholesale, a big order drops your cost.

belt blanks

Blank natural belts

leather belt store

All things leather belts.

2014-12-09 16.54.43

buckle store in Tai Nan Street, Shum Sui Po.

The hardest part was negotiating with the Artisan Leather shops do let me use their equipment for a nominal fee.  I don’t need one hour to punch out a few holes and drive in a few screws.  Even at their shop rate of $120/hr plus my material cost $120, I still save big over buying from the USA.  It’s not USA leather but I suspect my China brethren need the business more so than my American friends.  You are in Asia, take advantage of the fact you are next door to the largest manufacturing power in the world making anything requiring labour input very affordable.

If you plan to patronize the artisan leather shops, go to the one below.  They were the first hip trendy DIY shop to open in the area, everyone else is just following in their footsteps.

first artisan leather shop in SSP

Brothers Leathercraft in Tai Nan Street in SSP

There’s no need to do everything on your own.  Be smart about it.  To put it all together is just finishing.  Even at the artisan shops, they do all the heavy lifting so you all you do is show up.  The hard part is gutting the cow, skinning the leather and tanning it.  The rest is just childs’ play.  It’s time to play.


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