The primary reason for my visit to Portland last weekend was to spend time with Tanner Goods. While sampling some of the best coffee in the country, visiting factories, and attending my first soccer game were all experiences I enjoyed, the highlight was definitely my last day that was spent in the Tanner Goods workshop. They moved a few months ago into this brand new space that functions as a centralized location for design, sampling, manufacturing and shipping.
Throughout the day, I got to see the entire process of manufacturing a belt. Sam receives and inspects every single hide that is purchased; anything that isn’t up to par is sent back to be exchanged. He then marks each piece of leather out to minimize waste.
I was shocked to learn how little usable space there is on a hide. Cow hides are organic shapes, whereas belts come in straight line shapes. Plus, only a select part of the hide is consistent enough to be utilized for belts. Some remnants can be cut into bracelets and keychains, but the rest of the pieces are tossed into a pile to be brought over to the Tanner Goods flagship store. They sell these scraps by the pound to aspiring designers who might want to try their hand at making something themselves.
In this new workshop, the team has every tool necessary to make anything in their product range. This setup didn’t come together overnight; over the years, they’ve been able to acquire both equipment and knowledge from older leather artisans who helped guide them along. I could tell how grateful they were to have everything in one place – it certainly helps with efficiency.
One thing I admired about the Tanner Goods team was their versatility. Everyone has his specialty but is able to work multiple stations as needs arise.
While there, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try my hand at making some of the items that Tanner Goods produces for us. Sam gave me a scrap piece of black chromexcel leather to strap out some bracelets.
I also got to use the hot stamping machine to create a few leather 3sixteen patches that go on our jeans. It’s a process that takes time to dial in, as there are heat, pressure and cycle time variables on the machine. I definitely developed a deeper appreciation for all the work that goes into the products they make for us and for their own range.