As an advocate for sustainable and ethical fashion, also coined as the “slow fashion movement”, we talk to Adam, founder of Can’t Skate Manufacturing Co. about his infatuation for creating timeless leather goods for an often understated group in a wedding: the grooms and groomsmen.
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So tell us about yourself?
Where do I start!? I grew up on the Central Coast of NSW, with two brothers and a hobby farm. Growing up, I was the type that never really spent much time studying, because I was more interested in working and learning things hands on.
I held my first job when I was six years old, bagging ice to be sold at petrol stations and I’ve always enjoyed making things and being creative.
How did Can’t Skate Manufacturing Co. come about?
Can’t Skate Manufacturing Co. started because I felt that there’s a saturation of design in today’s market where there’s a lack of true craftsmanship behind the products being made. The move to take our products into the wedding industry came about when I was at a wedding expo with my partner, Caitlyn, for her business, Studio C Bridal. We noticed that there weren’t a lot of stalls that catered to men. There was a pool table in the corner, a superficial bar of some sort maybe, but that’s about it!
So we decided to take a few of the leather belts and wallets I had made to one of the fairs. It didn’t take long to realise just how hard it was for grooms to buy meaningful and tasteful gifts for their groomsmen. A lot of guys don’t simply want to buy a bottle of scotch that they’d just drink and forget. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of men are actually after something that is unique, and sentimental – like a leather belt that was specially made for their groomsmen with their names, or the wedding date, or some other form of engraving. Something like that is functional and can be worn regularly.
What would you say are your brand’s main attributes?
Our brand’s philosophy is simple. We create products that are sustainable, fashionably designed, and of a high quality that would ripen with use, and can truly be felt. We are underpinned by the slow fashion movement, because our products are environmentally friendly and timeless.
What’s slow fashion about?
Slow fashion is the antithesis to fast fashion, a direct opposition to big commercial brands that imitate current trends and source and manufacture clothing offshore, ship them to Australia, and sell them at a very cheap rate. I’ve even seen some stores sell a shirt for just $3. People will buy it, wear it once, and that’s it. It encourages a throwaway society. Slow fashion on the other hand is about designing, creating and buying clothing and accessories for its longevity and quality. Slow fashion brands encourage people to buy something, hold on to it for a few years and wear it until it’s threadbare and becomes a rag in the garage – like the old fashioned days during our great grandparent’s generation. No one ever threw anything away – people fixed things and patched things up! Back then, people would buy a belt and wear it until they were eighty years old.
How did you become such an advocate for the slow fashion movement?
I saw how much people were throwing away, and how so much was being wasted. Every day, each of us are doing things without even realising the impact of how our collective choices can affect our environment and the people around us. It’s been a big influencing factor behind why I do what I do, in starting Can’t Skate Manufacturing Co. I wanted us to be identified as makers as opposed to just designers. We want people to know that all our leather products are carefully and personally hand-made. If the belts fade, I can re-stain them, if the buckle breaks, I can fix them, and if the button breaks I can take them out and fix it. Everything I sell – I assure you, can always be repaired.
“Every day, each of us are doing things without realising the impact of how our collective choices can affect our environment and the people around us…”
So everything that you sell has been handmade by you? How did you get started – how did you learn the craft?
I had been having a lot of trouble finding a good quality leather belt for myself that wasn’t cowboy orientated. I’d been looking for a while when I met Rene, an eighty year old leather craftsman from Uruguay who sold beautiful handmade briefcases, bags, wallets and bracelets at the local markets. I asked whether he could make me some leather belts and wallets and he said “No, but I can teach you.”
It turns out that he had been wanting to teach his children his passion and his craft for years. Sadly none of his children wanted to learn and his grandchildren were still far too young. He knew he didn’t have that much time left as a man of his age. Him and his wife worried that his craft would become a dying trade and it’s been their hope to see the craft passed on to someone as a legacy. So when he presented me with the opportunity to learn, I took it straight away – how could I say no? I did a quasi-apprenticeship with him for a year and he taught me the traditional methods from South America. I practice the same techniques for all my goods to this day.
Can you talk us through the process?
I start by drawing the design, making it with paper, then figuring out how the stitching should be done. I use a cutting board that’s laid out on a nice big table that I use to cut all the leather out and I’ll usually have all the leather sitting on the bench before I get started to minimise interruptions. Once that first step is done, I then take it over to my stitching table where I add all the fittings and fastenings before I finish it with a stain to seal all the colours in and furnish the edges.
When it comes to sourcing the leather itself, I buy most of it from a tannery in Botany near the airport. Their leather is Australian, and include Kangaroo and Cowhide. Sometimes I do get American or Italian leather or Buffalo leather, but not as often. With fittings and fixtures, such as buttons and buckles, I get them from Japan and USA because they make and sell the best quality. It does cost a bit extra to bring it all back in, so I do big orders once every couple of years.
What would you say are one of the biggest challenges of your business?
I would have to say that the biggest challenge for my business is being able to find the right balance between pursuing my passion as a slow fashion business without putting myself out of business. Because we pride ourselves on making such high quality products, we take pleasure in knowing that our clients won’t need to return and repurchase our goods for years to come. This means we won’t often get repeat clients, so support for our brand and our growth relies heavily on referrals and word of mouth to make sure we’re operating as a financially sound business long into the future.
And what about your favourite part of the job?
There are a couple of things I love about my job. One would be seeing a client’s face light up when they finally get something they’ve always wanted for a long time, made especially for them. And another would have to be when I’m sitting down, taking the time to quietly make each item from scratch. It’s a very therapeutic and satisfying experience.
What advice would you give to men and women who are thinking about or have started to build their own businesses to pursue their own passions?
Find something you’re passionate about, then become so good at it that people want to give you money to do it.
All images owned and copyrighted by WePlanr.
Visit www.facebook.com/CantSkate for timeless goods and gifts and enjoy a complimentary glass of scotch at your consultation.
To enquire about custom leather goods, message Adam at www.weplanr.com