Cheap leather goods abound, but when it comes to beautifully crafted leather bags and wallets, prices can be astronomically high. This is something that Rae Liu discovered while working for the designer Alexander Wang, helping him launch his handbag and footwear lines.
“It quickly became clear to me that brands are heavily inflating the price of leather,” Liu says. “Part of this has to do with supply-chain inefficiencies, but part of this is because people will pay a lot to get leather that they know is high quality.”
Liu eventually left Alexander Wang with the goal of bringing top-notch leather to the masses. She’s founded a brand of her own called Leatherology, with her father and brother. Liu herself designs the products, which come in classic aesthetics with clean lines. The products are made using leathers from the same European tanneries used by well-known designers. But because the Liu family owns its own manufacturing facilities in China, then sells products directly to the consumer online, Leatherology is able to have a lean supply chain.
This results in cheaper prices. Tote bags cost $140 while wallets cost as little as $75. Leatherology is now working on making products easily customizable. Almost every item in the collection can be monogrammed, and the brand has just launched a new painting program, where customers can choose a design and have it hand-painted onto their bag, a look that Goyard made famous. Leatherology has also chosen not to stick a big label on the products, but to keep its branding subtle.
The proliferation of brands like Leatherology–whose model is similar to brands like Everlane and Cuyana–marks a shift in consumer behavior. “Consumers are more informed than ever since they can educate themselves online,” Liu says. “At one time, a designer label was a mark of quality. But we firmly believe that consumers are much more interested in value than in big names on their bags.”