Every man needs a wallet. But the things that you prefer when you are choosing one differs. I have always been more fond of a bit bigger, classic wallets instead of smaller card holders for example. But as said that is a matter on preference. Today I am taking a look at a new handmade wallet I got a while ago and the craftsmanship behind the piece.
Nowadays I very rarely do any reviews of products made by others. Even though I still get a lot of inquiries and proposals from different brands and makers. There is no particular reason for that, but when your time is limited, you need to cut something out. But sometimes something particularly interesting comes up. Especially I am still interested about new and small players & brands with personal and passionate approach to craftsmanship and business. That and the fact that I was indeed looking for a new wallet for me and my spouse got me interested, when I got a message from Singapore.
The Mastery -- handmade pieces with passion
Some time ago I got an email from Kage, a guy behind a brand called Mastery Co. He asked me if I was interested to try out and review the Mastery leather pieces. In general they are making wallets, small bags and other small leather items. As mentioned, I had been for a while been looking for new wallets for me and my girlfriend. I took quickly a look of the Mastery website and thought that this could be a nice option to try out. The main reason however for me to give Mastery a try was that the look of their products was simple, all the products are made individually by hand and most of all, Kage seemed like a guy who is passionate about the things he is doing. And it gives me an opportunity to talk about brand that most of you don't even know about yet.
Mastery Co selection
When I took a look at the Mastery selection, I was mainly looking out for the wallets. The bags on the site are simple and sleek, but I would say the bags especially bring out the fact that Mastery is concentrating on the Asian markets. The small shoulder bags are at least at the moment something I couldn't probably wear myself, as they don't serve the right purpose for me. As I am always carrying at least the wallet, a phone, keys and most probably camera or laptop, the small bags just don't do the trick for me.
As I was looking for a wallet, I concentrated on them. On the site you can find basically 8 different models. Yet my choice when I went through the options was quite easy. I wanted to go for a classic. And a wallet, not just a plain card case. And as I know my spouse is also into the classic models, I finally came up with two choices. The classic bi-fold wallet and the long wallet. Both made of Vacchetta pit dyed full grain leather. So now we these same kind of wallets for "him and her".
Making the handmade wallet
All Mastery products are made by hand. The vegetable tanned leathers for the items come from Tuscany and the Vachetta leathers are dyed using age old traditional technique. All pieces are saddle-stitched with waxed linen threads from Fil Au Chinois, France. According to Kage, one of the reasons to make all the items totally by hand is that the texture, the hand pull, look and feel of these contrasting stitches can never be replicated from a machine. The designs are influenced by daily activities and experiences. All items feature clean lines and a organic flow. Also as Kage describes, each item have its own unique character and no two products are ever the same.
At the moment all items are made by Kage himself. Although according to his words he has a few craftsmen in Japan that could help him with the production. When I asked about the making of the wallets, he said that "All items are 100% handmade and hand stitched. I only uses a electric creaser for the edge-work and a old school hand-stamping machine for monogramming. No other machinery involve." And one wallet takes 6-9 hours to make. Without brakes included.
So you could claim that we are not talking about mass productions. Two wallets per day. Or one, if you want to keep your hours in a decent level.
The pricing - is it worth it?
This is one of the questions I think most of people think when they are buying something new. At least if you think it, if you are buying something from a brand that you don't already know. And usually people think this especially when they are buying something they think is expensive. Even though I personally think that you should think this in fact even more when you are buying cheap.
The prices of Mastery wallets ranges from 230$ to 430$. The classic bi-fold wallets are 250 and the long wallets 430. These are the two pieces I ended up with. And the bags are priced around 400$. You can honestly say that these prices are not cheap. But then you need to think with what do you compare that. And how do you define the value of a product. Mastery is not a brand with huge brand value. At least not yet.
In general, if you can't mark up the price with a famous brand tag, you need to be able to produce a product that really matches the price tag. At least if you want your customers to ever come back. Or to recommend you to a friend. Therefore I thought I could take a little closer look on this matter here. And basically try and think if there is credit for the quite high price of the Mastery wallets.
Quality and work behind the product
In my opinion everyone should sometime visit a factory making shoes, leather accessories or even ties or shirts. And when I talk about factory I mean a maker or a place where handwork is included. And I think this because it would give an understanding what it takes to make a product from scratch till the final. I visited last spring in Budabest at the factories of Heinrich Dinkelacker and Laszlo Vass. Both making tradition hand-made shoes. And once again it was a pleasure to see the people working behind the products you see online or on the shops.
Because when you see the people working and you see the different stages of making a products, the leathers or fabrics and tools, and you see the fact how long does it really take to make the product, you can also understand the value. And also the reason for sometimes higher prices.
What you get?So basically what you get for the price is:
- Simple and clean design
- A wallet made of Italian vegetable tanned Vachetta leather
- Stitching made of waxed linen thread
- An item that is basically 100% hand-made
- Most of all, you know who has made the item you carry with you
The finishing and handwork of the wallets we received are in my opinion very good. I am not an expert on craftsmanship but I have seen quite a few smaller and bigger leather items. And when I compare the Mastery wallet to some others I have and others I have seen, I dare to say that it stands up in the comparison.
Answer to the question whether or not some product is worth the price is always also subjective. But at least in my opinion the Mastery wallets can be compared to any other wallets with more famous brand tags and even higher prices.
When you choose a wallet - prefer dark colors
I've had many wallets in my life. One thing I have learned is stated above. And the reason is simple. Because wallets and other small leather items are items you carry around with you all the time. And usually they are either in your pocket or in your bag. You put them on the tables and you leave them hanging around at your office or at your home.
The wallet I used before was one I ordered years ago from Chester Mox. The quality of the wallet as well as the quality of the leather they used for that is great. But when I made the order, I made one mistake. I ordered it in orange mandarina calf. Orange is my favorite accent color in terms of accessories and when they had it in their selection I didn't doubt. I went for that leather. And the wallet is still in great condition. The leather is soft and it has created a nice patina. But it has also got dirty. After traveling in my pocket and bags for quite a lot, the mandarin calf is not that deep orange anymore.
Therefore this time I thought I would learn from my earlier mistake. And I opted for the navy blue calf. The patina will probably not show that clearly but on the other hand the subdued dark blue color will also protect the wallet.
And well, navy blue, black or dark brown are always classic choices. You can't go wrong with them.
To put it shortly, the wallets we received are compact and smooth but still quite sturdy. It is solid in hand and simple. And the hand-work clearly shows. It represents pretty much the qualities I was after this time and I expected them to be. Due to the hand-stitching the wallets are not as restrained and as you can clearly see the stitching and thread.
One of most important if not the most important thing with small leather items is naturally the quality of the leather. In this case the leather is is impeccable. It is not too soft but not too stiff either. It is still durable and stable - something one need to feel in person. And based on the first impression I would say that it will age quite beautifully. It is a fact that I've only been using the wallet for a couple of weeks now. So I won't even try to make any further conclusions but will let time to tell how the leather and the wallet itself will hold and grow up. My spouse has used her wallet on daily basis now for some weeks and it has already softened up and broken in nicely. So at least the start is promising.
So finally, based on my short experience of the quality of the goods together with overall aesthetics, I dare to say that despite the relatively high price Mastery co is definitely worth consideration in case you are looking for or in need of a new classic wallet. Or some other small leather items.
In the making pics by Mastery Co.
Clarification / commercial collaboration:
This post have been in collaboration with Mastery & Co and I have got the wallets for free. This however has nothing to do with my opinion regarding the products that have been stated in the article.