Hello and welcome to our spring newsletter. We're celebrating this season with a new addition to our shop - Vintage Pochettes with a unique provenance.
Spring is also a time to think about discovering new places. Explore Northampton with us - it's where our story began and has lots to offer both leather and architecture enthusiasts. Plus, recommendations for the best bench made English shoes.
SPRING COLLECTION WITH A STORY
We are delighted to launch our new Vintage Pochette collection and to share a little of the story behind the leather. The woven and perforated designs were created in the early 1930s primarily for the flourishing British shoe trade.
Our old family tannery in Northampton developed the world's biggest range of embossing plates. Although later on they specialised in reptile and ostrich prints, the Art Deco era was more about interwoven, lattice, mesh , geometric and airtex effects.
The Two Tone 'Spectator' or 'Correspondent' shoe for men was popular, incorporating panels of pale, textured shades with darker tan or black toe caps and heel areas. Women began to wear Two Tones too in round-toe T-bar or pump styles with medium height Cuban heels. The cut out patterns were often very decorative with lots of contrast. Perforated or woven leathers in white or pastel colours were fashionable - especially in spring and summer - as they offered breathability for hot feet.
NORTHAMPTON SHOE TRADE
In the early 20th century there were over 50 shoe manufacturers both in the town and outlying villages. Each area had its own footwear speciality including long boots, work boots, brogues and fashion. It's estimated that half the counties' male workforce was employed in the trade.
The craft's history goes back to medieval times and it flourished due to the rich soil for cattle rearing and both the River Nene and oak forests providing water and tannins for leather production.
W. Pearce, our family tannery, was founded in 1908 and was part of a thriving leather and shoe community. Although the number of these factories has dramatically declined, in recent times there has been a revival of interest in both the heritage and the craft. The resurgence of the Good Year Welt technique, practised by the traditional Northampton shoe makers has helped put the town back on the map.
DAYS OUT IN NORTHAMPTON
The Shoe Museum
On display are our embossed Baby Croc leather Vivienne Westwood Gillie shoes, as famously worn by - and toppled from - Naomi Campbell.
Although the Shoe Museum is currently closed for refurbishment, there are plenty of other places of interest.
A Georgian terraced townhouse, number 78 was remodelled in 1916 by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for W.J. Bassett Lowke, and his wife Florence Jones.
This was CRM's last commission and the only one undertaken in England.
The National Leather Collection
Founded in 1946, it houses over 5000 unique leather artefacts including Samuel Pepys's wallet, Queen Victoria's side saddle and fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
There is also an area dedicated to our old family tannery W. Pearce and Co, including a stunning 1930s scaled model of the building made by toy maker and arts patron W.J. Bassett Lowke.
Please contact the museum to arrange a visit.
A must for lovers of beautifully made shoes at a discounted price. All shoe factories listed have retail outlets on site where you can buy seconds or ends of lines .
Edward Green www.edwardgreen.com
Crockett and Jones www.crockettandjones.com
IN THE SHOP
Vintage Pochettes. In summery shades of pale blue, blush, ecru and terracotta. With a black bridle wrist loop and clip to add a coin purse and key fob. 18.5cm x 10.5cm. £125
Very limited edition of ones and twos only, please contact info@doeleather for availability before ordering.
'It has been said that you cannot do better than rely on Pearce for fashion leathers of distinction.'
W. Pearce & Co family tannery, 1934
March 4th 2019 - by Alyson Walsh
After discovering boxes of old, embossed A4-sized leather swatches abandoned in the corridors of their soon-to-be-closed Northampton tannery, Deborah Thomas decided to salvage her family’s leather business (W. Pearce & Co.). Founded by her great-great-grandfather in 1908, the factory had ceased production in 2002; and while some of the artefacts had gone to the National Leather Collection (a whole room of the museum is devoted to the family tannery), a limited amount had been left behind, ready for disposal. ‘It was a rescue job really,’ she says of the launch of her own business Doe Leather, ‘ I didn’t want to waste the materials and it seemed such a sad end to a company that had been influential for over 100 years. It felt important to continue the legacy.’ Deborah had always had holiday jobs at the tannery and after studying a degree in Sociology & Psychology, ended up working for two well-known British bag and belt manufacturers for over 20 years, ‘ It’s in my DNA,’ she continues, ‘my dad had retired but I managed to persuade him to help out as he’s an all-round font of knowledge.’
Deborah and I met last year at the Badger’s Velvet Underground design fair, when her cool gentlewoman style caught my eye. We had a lovely, long chat and she told me about her design studio in Suffolk and commitment to British manufacturing ( all the leather goods are made in a family-run factory in the West Midlands). Traditionally, the leather industry has been male-dominated and many organisations feature a stag as a symbol on their coat of arms. As a female founder, Deborah thought it was time to shake things up and so replaced the stag with its female counterpart, the doe.
Here is Deborah Thomas’s Style Profile:
“I’m drawn to simple but strong lines in the best fabrics that I can afford. I’ve always dressed to feel comfortable and comforted, and to feel like myself. There’s nothing worse than feeling not quite right and having to pull things around and tug at them. Putting on an old favourite (or new favourite) that suits my body and personality is like a homecoming.
I prefer exaggerated proportions like heavily pleated trousers or carpenter jeans and extra long skirts, and tend to choose men’s suiting-type fabrics like twill, wool, silk and brushed cotton. All very durable and tactile. I like it when things are a bit ‘off’, cropped trousers or a slightly longer sleeve. I’m tall and have long limbs (my best feature) and an ill-defined waist (my worst!). Fabrics are important, I have a midnight blue velvet 1980s MaxMara trouser suit that has worn quite well and so I still pull it out. I’ve been wearing it recently with my Veja trainers. If an outfit feels rather smart, tailored or formal, I steer clear of dressy shoes and vice versa. I tend to avoid fuss and flounce.
Usually I’m in neutral colours such as grey, black, navy and white, styled with a stronger green or tan to accent them. I’ll add colour with a shirt or jumper, and recommend investing in the best accessories that you can. I love my socks and will splash out on Falke or Simone Wild velvet for some luxury. I like to know where things are made and try to be as ethical as possible. My jewellery is from Drift, Sia Taylor and Claire Von Holthe; the big brass ring (below) is by Made. Before starting Doe Leather, I used to make my own jewellery – big cuffs and disc necklaces – in leather, of course. And one of my friends is trying to persuade me to introduce this into my range...
The Joseph jacket I’m wearing in my first outfit is much-loved and much-worn, and often mix and matched with lots of other staples. You can’t beat a well-cut jacket and trousers. I think the clothes sit together quite well as where there is volume from my pleated wide-leg Zara trousers on the bottom half so I’ve juxtaposed them with a narrow jacket. The scarf is vintage Margaret Howell and the backpack in bridle leather is from Doe.
The skirt in my second outfit was made-to measure by local seamstress Esthea Evans. I love the thick fabric, slightly A-line silhouette and long length. I plan to wear it to upcoming sales appointments, work meetings and anywhere that I want to feel a bit less casual. When I tried it on at Esthea’s studio she said, ‘It’s so you!’ And it is, so I might get a denim one made for summer.
The Solovair lace ups (which are made in Northampton) are on my feet almost continuously. I always wear flat shoes or flatforms - I have big feet that I used to dislike but now I’ve embraced what my family call clumpy ‘orthopaedic’ styles, I enjoy them. Strappy sandals and stilettos don’t work for me, I would love to wear heels but at nearly 6-foot-tall I would feel like a gargantuan, and I can’t walk in them! Here, I’m wearing a faithful Margaret Howell roll neck, it’s from a small local shop called Homespun and one of my new bag designs, the Cross Body Satchel in bridle leather. We use vegetable tanned leather because it’s kinder to the planet and improves over time developing a unique patina. I believe in timeless, sustainable design; the bags are beautiful, long-lasting pieces. Slow fashion is more than just a fad, it’s a thoughtful rewarding process.”
Hello, we hope you are having a wonderful Autumn. With our annual Slow Living Market upon us, we thought we’d take some time to explore this movement and how it informs what we do here at Doe.
At Doe, we've always been committed to being absolutely transparent and traceable with our work and that starts with our most important material: leather. From the very beginning of our business we have used bridle leather - the strongest and most durable of leathers traditionally used in equestrianism. Taken from the ‘butt’ or centre back of a full-grain hide it develops a beautiful patina with wear.
The centuries old vegetable tanning process for bridle takes 10-12 weeks, unlike 90% of the world’s leather which is finished in a matter of days. It uses bark and plant extracts and natural waxes applied by hand, a very different story from the chromium finish used in polluting 'toxic tanneries'. We combine this with vintage embossed swatches rescued from our family tannery dating back to the 1920s, making every piece truly unique.
For our Market Bags vegetable tanned ‘russet ‘ leather is combined with Pump Street Bakery cocoa sacking, another example of innovative upcycling.
If you have questions about the provenance of anything we make here at Doe, we’d love to tell you more.
Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world and our insatiable appetite for cheap, throwaway clothes and accessories needs a rethink.
Buying less but better and choosing well can help reverse this unsustainable type of consumerism.
We design our collections to be minimal, long lasting and beyond transient trends.
Originating from the Slow Food Movement (which challenges fast food convenience by preserving cultural cuisine), slow living is about finding the right balance in our fast-paced, over-scheduled, technologically-driven world. This basic belief can be applied to schools, money, parenting, travel and even cities, with the overarching commonality being about connecting back to ourselves, each other and our planet.
SLOW LIVING MARKET
This will be our third year of co-curating this event in Orford Town Hall . As well as welcoming back some favourite artisans we have some exciting newcomers such as Bermondsey Street Bees and Michael Ruh. New too are the Little Slow craft area for under 12s and Shakiro Japanese mending workshops.
Each exhibitor has to fit with our criteria of making in small batches, being as environmentally respectful as possible and able and willing to demonstrate their craft. They actively invite conversations about what they do and take the time to explain the process .
Michael Ruh Glass
Using 98% recycled optical glass and delicately blended colours, Michael Ruh’s work is exquisite. Collected worldwide we are delighted to have his work here in Suffolk.
Esthea Evans Sashiko Demonstration
Sashiko embroidery hails from Japan & is as much about beautiful stitching as it is a 'make do & mend' philosophy. Repairing fabric with intricate, delicate stitches, Sashiko is a meditative craft.
The Merchant's Table
We’ll be on hand both Saturdays for leather-craft and knowledge sharing.
November 10th 10am - 5pm
December 8th 10am - 5pm
The Merchant's Table, 10 Church Street, Woodbridge, IP12 1DH
Badger's Velvet Christmas
A collective of carefully chosen designers, makers and artisans.
November 17th 10am - 5:30pm
November 18th 10am - 5:00pm
The Department Store, 248 Ferndale Road, Brixton, SW9
December 1st 10am - 5:30pm
Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead High St, NW3
Hello! It’s been a while so we thought it was time to give you an idea of what we’ve been up to. In this newsletter, we're sharing the process behind our popular market bags; introducing a couple of our favourite stockists and suggesting slow living summer activities in Suffolk and London: perfect for taking your market bag along with you.
THE MAKING OF A MARKET BAG
Sold only in-store, our exclusive market bags involve a lot of work to create. Starting with a visit to the Pump St Chocolate unit, we select a number of the cocoa bean sacks - a mix of plain and printed - before thoroughly washing, drying and ironing each one. Usually made in batches of 12, a calico lining and webbing is added by our seamstress whilst we hand-strip whole hides of undyed vegetable-tanned ‘russet” leather for the handles. Next, the edges are bevelled with a traditional grooved tool to round them. A special sap, Gum Tragacanth, derived from a desert succulent, is then applied with a linen cloth. This 'burnishing' is time consuming but results in a smooth, polished finish. Finally, hand punched leather washers from offcuts and copper rivets are set before the label is tied on with twine left over from the bag: we always endeavour to leave as little waste as possible. Practical and roomy, these bags are perfect for packing your essentials in on your slow summer days out.
We’re happy to announce our market bags are now exclusively available in-store at Pump St Bakery and Maud & Mabel. Despite the city/country dichotomy, both stockists place much importance on thoughtful products and slow living, just as we do here at Doe.
SLOW LIVING IN SUFFOLK
Suffolk is fast becoming a creative countryside hub and we think Orford is a great reflection of what this county has to offer. After tucking into the baked delights (and picking up a market bag) at Pump St, why not wander down to the river and catch a ferry to Orfordness Lighthouse? A walk up the 100 steps to the top gives a stunning vista of the peninsula and the chance to absorb a disappearing landscape as the sea encroaches. We also find the ageing interior inspiring in itself - the snap above is from our most recent visit. The lighthouse is open to guided tours (which you can arrange privately) or by joining the monthly open day: the next date is July 8th: book here.
SLOW LIVING IN HAMPSTEAD
Often described as London's most beautiful village, Hampstead & its heath are a welcome green space in the midst of one of the world's fastest moving cities. But there's more to this local spot than the obvious. After you've enjoyed a browse of Maud & Mabel, here are a few lesser known sites to visit next time you're in NW London:
The Freud Museum is the former home of the famous psychoanalyst, his study still untouched from when he lived there - couch included. Dedicated to educating people about Freud and his importance in modern therapy, the museum runs a full and varied events programme for those whose curiosity runs even deeper. The current exhibition, 'Breathe' (on until July 15th) is supported by a one-off event on July 9th entitled, 'The Place of Breath in Cinema', examining 'a cultural history of breath in art and moving image'. Given our culture's current fascination with the role of breathing in mindfulness, we think this would be a thought-provoking evening out.
Heading back towards the Heath, 2 Willow Road is a National Trust property whose owner, architect Erno Goldfinger, was rumoured to be the name inspiration for Bond's notorious villain. A beautiful modernist home built in 1939 (the same year our family tannery moved to its art deco factory) and full of modern art and ingenious design, it's open to the public 11am - 5pm Wednesday - Sunday.
An independent retail and workshop space bringing together the creative talents of Suffolk & London has opened in Woodbridge. The Merchant’s Table is curated by the talented designer Susanna Cook, and we were delighted to have had our market bags chosen to be part of the inaugural event.
IN THE SHOP
The Doe Key Lanyard is bench made using traditional harness making techniques. In hand waxed bridle leather with a contrasting ecru stitch, they are designed to be both smart and enduring.
A hidden stainless steel split ring holds keys securely and each has a small disc of archive print from the old family tannery.
GOOD DESIGN IS LONG-LASTING
It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
April 20th 6-9pm
April 21st 10am-6pm
The Department Store, London SW9 8FR
Over 40 designers and artists in one exciting venue
Curated designer selling events
We are delighted to announce a new collaboration with award winning Mark & Fold Stationers. A shared love of simple lines and uncompromising use of the best materials sparked the idea of designing a limited edition Notebook/Diary Cover together.
Durable and tactile hand waxed bridle leather will wear beautifully and improve with each change of note book or diary in the Mark & Fold collection.
The embossed leather pen loops are from archive swatch books found in Doe's family tannery. They date back to the 1930s and are unique and numbered pieces of tanning history.
Only twenty four are being made this time, so early ordering is recommended to secure the loop print of choice.
£185 inc gift box and postage.
We have been busy these last few months with two exciting collaborations.
The first is with the award-winning Pump Street Bakery, up cycling the cocoa bean sacks used for their single origin chocolate bars, into smart leather handled Market Bags.
They are made in very limited runs of 6-12 at a time and have been selling out fast! To order please contact either Deborah at Doe or Pump Street Bakery
The other project we have been working on is with the fantastic charity Fine Cell Work and an ex prisoner who has a passion and talent for leather work. We have created a range of plaited bridle hide cuffs with him and hope to commission more small leathergoods in the near future. Information on the wonderful work this organisation does can be found at www.finecellwork.co.uk
It was a pleasure being profiled for the new online store The Garnered last week. Created by Anna Garner, ex head buyer at Selfridges and Joseph, the international designers featured share her ethos of beautiful craftsmanship.
To read inspirational stories and for gift ideas, do follow the link to the website.
We are taking part in a couple of well curated Christmas sales and do hope to see you there:
The Hand Sale
30th November - 2nd December
St Mary Abbott's Centre, Vicarage Gate, London W8 4HN
Primrose Hill Designer Sale
St Mary's Church, Elsworthy Road, London NW3 3DJ
We are very pleased to announce the following dates and details of forthcoming festive sales, plus a special slow living workshop:
Chelsea Harbour, London SW10 0XD
November 12th | 6.30pm to 9pm
Please call 01473 705030 for information and tickets
Child Bereavement UK Christmas Sale
14 Randolph Road, London W9 1AN
November 18th | 2pm to 7pm
Rosewood Slow Living Workshop
252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN
November 22nd | 11am to 1.30pm
Learn about different tanning processes and make a bridle leather tray to take home
Great Dixter Christmas Fair
Great Dixter House and Gardens
Northiam, Rye, East Sussex TN31 6PH
November 28th and 29th | 10am to 4pm
Primrose Hill Designer Fair
St Mary's Church
Elsworthy Road, London NW3 3DJ
December 12th | 10am to 6pm
Photograph: Copyright Non Morris for The Dahlia Papers
We are pleased to announce that our new Cross Body Pouch will be ready to post out in the first week of August. Available in Smoky Brown Morel, Creamy Parchment and Jet Black hand waxed bridle hide and with a choice of vintage leather zip pulls from the old family tannery. Measuring 23cm by 15cm and with an adjustable strap it's perfect for a phone, keys, cards, coins and a passport.
Due to very limited numbers we are offering a pre-ordering service. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for a 15% price reduction (£126 instead of £149) to reserve your bag.
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Doe is excited to be included in the newly printed The Sustainable Design Book by Rebecca Proctor, published by Laurence King.
It's a beautiful compilation of over 250 world wide designers working creatively and thoughtfully with the environment in mind.
Each listing is cleverly coordinated with icons highlighting the company's sustainability credentials. They all inspire and encourage us to consume carefully, responsibly and after asking important questions of provenance.
With leathergoods, it is more important than ever for diligence as the majority of the world's tanneries are hugely polluting, making lives dangerous for the workers and the surrounding communities . When buying new pieces make sure they are ethically produced and chromium free and also consider recycled leather (although reconstituted is probably best avoided).
Doe will only ever use the best vegetable tanned hides and proudly up cycles archive swatches of printed leather from the old family factory that would otherwise be destined for landfill.
Notable designers also incorporating leather into their collections and featured in the book include Hettler Tulman, Pepe Heykoop and Veja.
Buy the Book
Rosewood Slow Living
Slow Food and Living
Sunday 29 March 2015 10.30am - 3pm
We are delighted to be taking part in the Rosewood London Food and Living event on Sunday 29th March from 10.30am to 3pm.
The beautiful Belle Époque building and tranquil courtyard provides the perfect backdrop for food producers and designer/makers to interact with customers and each other. The Slow Movement which started in Italy over ten years ago is gaining more and more momentum as consumers demand to know where their food, fashion and homewares actually come from and who produced them. This ethos which encourages more consideration, thought and transparency around the purchasing choices we make, lies at the heart of Doe.
Here is a little more on why...
All Doe pieces are crafted in the West Midlands from the finest bridle hide. This type of leather is from the back or 'butt' of European cattle reared for beef and is tanned using natural oils, waxes and tallows. This traditional method takes over two months to complete. In contrast 90% of the world's leather takes only two days to process and uses toxic chromium salts. Vegetable tanned hides develop a lustre or 'patina' and improve with age. More waxes can be gently rubbed in with a soft cloth to further protect and soften it. Cheap chrome finished skins weaken, crack and flake over time and cannot be conditioned or buffed.
Doe designs are deliberately simple and timeless ensuring they become long lasting favourites, beyond the vagaries of fast fashion.
Please come and say hello on the 29th. You can find the Rosewood London at 252 High Holborn, WV1V 7EN. The nearest tube is Holborn and there is free parking all day in the surrounding streets.
Please come along to see us at a lovely sale in Saxmundham, carefully curated by Kirsten Hecktermann. Exhibitors include Sia Taylor, Michael Ruh and Karen Downing
Personalise your luxury leather gift this Christmas.
From December 1st to December 22nd we are offering a free initialled bridle hide zip pull in addition to your selected vintage printed one, with every Tote, Backpack, Clutch or Pencil Case. Please choose up to three letters which we will then hand emboss, making your gift uniquely bespoke.
For further details, please contact us by email on email@example.com or telephone 07584 161282
Doe picked as a highlight of BoB by BDALondon creative design agency - Click here to read.
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