Where did Hadston Leather begin?
Hadston Leather grew out of the love that I have for craftsmanship and the values it holds. I’ve always loved making and it’s that area of the whole creative/design sphere that I love the most.
I studied art throughout school and carried that beyond to an art foundation course post A Levels and through to a Fashion Design degree graduating back in 2003. Three years after graduating I found myself in a job outside of the fashion industry. Even though I found myself in something completely different I didn’t want to loose my creative skills.
Millinery Evening Courses
In 2008/2009 I attended two BTEC Millinery evening courses at the Kensington and Chelsea College where I learnt how to block felt, sinamay and straw hats. This came about as I had been invited to a wedding with an instruction of ‘Ladies, Hats Please’. I googled hats/fascinators to see what was about and I came across a designer called Gina Foster. I went to visit her to order a fascinator and I saw her working from home so I asked how she started etc. She mentioned the Kensington and Chelsea College being the best place to study millinery and she had also trained under Stephen Jones. Gina’s work was beautiful and the precision and detail was amazing. I found her very inspiring and thought maybe this is how I can balance bringing back a creative sideline into my life. So off I went and enrolled on the Felt evening course, then after Christmas I signed up to the Sinamay and Straw course.
Whilst I was on the course I remember blanket-stitching the wire rim onto a felt hat I’d just blocked. The person next to me commented on how neat my stitching was as I had pretty much even spacing between each stitch. Some people were roughly stitching the wire onto the rim as in some ways it didn’t matter as a petersham ribbon was going to cover it but I still wanted it to be neat even if someone wasn’t going to see it. It was then I realized that my precision was good and this has followed onto what I do now.
After completing the millinery courses I thought about making hats to sell but the demand for them is quite low and tends to be centred around weddings and racing events which didn’t really appeal to me. I had the idea in my head that I wanted to do something creatively that I could make and potentially sell.
Accessories - handbags
That lead me onto thinking about accessories, in particular handbags. I did a short course in fabric bags but a lot of the stuff we did I kind of knew with having the knowledge of learning pattern cutting at university. I looked back and I could have figured out how to construct a fabric bag myself really.
The majority of bags tend to be leather and that was the area I had little knowledge of so I googled leather accessory courses to see what was available. I saw some in London but after reading the description and seeing the cost I was wary that I would get on them and feel it’s not really been value for money.
Bridlework Leather Course
On one of my google searches I came across an article of a saddlery leather course/training at but I think I was put off by the price or it didn’t fit for my schedule. I decided to google ‘saddlery leather courses’ further and I then came across a Bridlework Course at a company called the Cumbria School of Saddlery. I knew as soon as I was reading that it was the course for me. Price wise it felt like it would be value for money, I could easily take a week off work to complete it and most importantly it was taught by a master saddler (David May) who had over 30 years experience. It had an old skool feel but sometimes they’re just perfect. I liked the fact that it wasn’t fashion/accessory related. All I wanted was to learn was the traditional skills.
Off I went in September 2011 to Penrith, Cumbria to learn the skills. There were 6 of us on the course and most came from an equestrian background. I was the only one there wanting to turn it into fashion. The course was taught in a converted cow shed in the foothills of the Lake District. It was part of a tiny business park with a carpenter next store who made the wooden tools that we would use and then buy to take away at the end of the course.
One of the main things I learnt from the course was the level of skill and precision that David put into his work and that is the sign of a highly skilled craftsperson. All the small details were thought about. I also loved the fact that people would ring up or drop by with saddles or bridles that needed repairing. He would put a lot of care and attention into the items he made with the idea that if things did break they were there to be repaired. It’s those values and that ethos that I want to be in my work.
After finishing the course I made small items including wallets, cardholders, belts and bags and sold under the name of ‘Lydia Riley’ for a few years around London. In the summer of 2017 I had the chance to go to part time in my paid job, which I jumped at. It’s here where Hadston Leather began.