We are excited to introduce a new key player in the Manos Zapotecas production process. Fernando is a highly skilled leather-worker with decades of experience to bring to the team. We chatted with our Oaxaca-based Design Coordinator Sam to learn more about the collaboration.
MZ: Why start working with a new leather worker?
Sam: Over the years, we are constantly meeting new weavers and working on new collaborations. We pride ourselves on extending the network of weavers we work with, to bring economic opportunity to as many individuals as our demand allows. As we have only been working with one leather workshop, and all our bags besides clutches must be finished with leather handles, there is a bottleneck in our chain of production. In addition to needing another leather smith in order to complete orders on time, we wanted to also bring creative diversity to the models of bags that we offer.
MZ: How did you find him?
Sam: We began looking for a leather craftsman in Leon and Guadalajara, because these regions in Mexcio are renowned for their leather work. As were were beginning this process, we had the fortunate coincidence of being introduced to Fernando by a friend our our founder Shelley. The friend had gone to design school with him, and said he’d be a great fit for us. Turns out, she was right!
MZ: What is his background?
Fernando has a long, wonderful history with leather. At the age of 10, he began working at his uncle’s leather shoe company. He was in charge of sewing the shoes. When he was older, he graduated to making bags and belts as well. He also began assisting in sales.
One day during a sales trip to Mazatlan, he succeeded in selling belts to a new customer. The customer asked him if they could make leather jackets too, and Fernando wrote an order right there on the spot.
When he got back to the shop he shared the exciting news with his uncle, only to be informed by his uncle that they don’t make jackets and wouldn't be starting anytime soon. This was the beginning of Fernando’s leather business!
Besides this life-long experience working with leather, Fernando studied industrial engineering and fashion design. His knowledge of construction and leather is spectacular.
MZ: Can you describe the collaborative design process?
Sam: Creating our three new bag models with him was a blast! Right off the bat, we’ve had great communication. We brought ideas for the new models to him, and he offered feedback and new ideas. He created the samples, and then we had a turn for feedback, until everyone was satisfied with the result. He is a great problem solver.
MZ: Is there anything else you'd like to share about his process?
Sam: Fernando has a great team working with him. He has a staff of five working at his shop. They all handle different steps of the production, sewing, cutting, decoration, etc. They are a very dedicated team. One of his most trusted employees Daniel has been with him for 20 years.
We are so pleased with the new models we have created in collaboration with Fernando! The Sofia Tote. Oliva Cinch Tote, and the Quartz Tablet/Laptop Sleeve are wonderful examples of his exquisite craftsmanship.