Leather and bags are two power items that can make or break any outfit, so it comes as no surprise that these two staples’ lovechild—the ever-bold leather bag—is always sought after. This is the cornerstone of Quiddity Leather Goods, an online shop best known for handmade items using Italian vegetable leather.
Quiddity is one of the participants of the upcoming design and lifestyle trade show Manila FAME, organized by the Department of Trade and Industry-Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (DTI-CITEM), happening from April 25 to 27.
We talked to the founders of Quiddity, sisters Stephanie and Genevieve Go, to discuss their creative and technical process, how Quiddity came to be, and all the nitty gritty of running an online store.
1. What's the story behind Quiddity Leather Goods? Who were the founders and how did you come up with such an inspired idea?
“Quiddity was created by Filipino-Chinese sisters Stephanie and Genevieve Go. Stephanie is a banker by day, and she manages the business side of Quiddity. Genevieve used to work in Levi's as a visual merchandising specialist, but is now working on Quiddity full time as the creative director and artisan.
"We've always loved arts, crafts, travel, and bags. It was a natural fit that we'd try to make a business that would incorporate and let us keep making all the things that we love. Quiddity used to make arts and travel-themed products (mostly stationery), but after a few years, we wanted to start making leather travel bags because we felt we had some good ideas and wanted to be able to realize them. In 2014, Genevieve (Quiddity's creative director) went to Accademia Riaci in Florence, Italy on scholarship to study leather bag making. Afterwards, she did an internship at a bag production company in Florence that manufactures bags for several brands, including Proenza Schouler. After more than a year of testing and prototyping, we then re-launched Quiddity in December 2016 as a fine leather goods maker.”
2. In a sentence or two, describe your brand's aesthetic.
“Artistic, sculptural, with a focus on elevated handmade details.”
3. Walk us through the process. Who designs your bags and accessories? Who produces?
“We both work on the general design ideas or themes together. Usually, we are inspired by our travels—places we go to, museums we visit, people we see, etc. Genevieve is currently the lone artisan, and she makes all the bags and accessories by hand. After we have an idea for a bag, we usually go through a series of prototypes, during which we iron out construction details, design elements, etc. Sometimes the ideas are results of experimentation and just playing around with the materials we have to see what we can create. A lot of our unique craft details are a result of this.”
4. You use vegetable tanned leather sourced from Tuscany, Italy for your products. Why so? What got you to focus on this material?
“While Genevieve was at school, Italian vegetable tanned leather was something she used often for her handmade bag projects, and we both loved the bags and effects we could create with it. During the planning process, we were drawn to focus on this specific leather because of its strength, versatility, sustainability, and because of all the cool things you can do with it that you can't with other leathers (like the carving and burning technique which we are featuring in our new collection). The sustainability of its production is also something that made us want to use it as our main material. On top of that, it is made more special because you can only get this leather (the legit one with the certificate and everything) in Tuscany.”
5. What do you think is the importance of preserving old-school artisanal traditions while also appropriating these techniques to better fit modern designs and ensure functionality?
“These traditions are a part of culture and history, and are important to be continued and further developed. As both patrons and makers of arts and crafts and handmade things, we felt that this was something we wanted to try to preserve (via learning and practicing), but also something we wanted to work on and contribute something to via innovation and experimentation.”
6. Why decide to focus on establishing your brand online?
“Being online is essential, but also brick and mortar stores cost too much for us at this point, especially for a small, home-based business that isn't producing at mass quantities. We invested our capital instead into the most important elements of our business: skill and product. A physical shop isn't out of the question for us in the future, but if we were to have one, it would likely be an atypical retail space that would be focused more on brand environment efforts to supplement our online presence.”
7. What are the challenges you’ve encountered when you first started and how did you overcome them?
“When we first started, we had a more minimalist aesthetic, wherein we put focus on the leather and the stitches. But because there are so many brands trying to do a similar minimalist style, we felt that it wasn't enough to be able to set ourselves apart and show that we had something unique to offer. So over the past year or so, we kept experimenting and developing ideas, and our new collection is a result of that. The essence of the brand is still there, but with a more pronounced focus on craft elements and skills that would make our products unique and truly special.”
8. What do you think are your brand’s strengths? What sets you apart from other brands?
“It's a strength and a curse, maybe, but we seem to be stubbornly handmade. Most people seem to go with the sewing machine and mass production or fashion hack route, but we really believe in the value of handmade, and in trying to elevate the traditional notion of ‘handicrafts’ into handmade luxury. What sets us apart is making everything by hand, infusing that much time and energy and love into what we create, and in finding ways to incorporate handmade elements into our products without it looking like a hobbyist or high school craft project. We try to focus on unique skills and elements that we can make that machines can't.”
9. What are some aspects that you think you need to improve on and how do you plan to implement these improvements?
“We're a small operation, with a lone artisan and a limited budget—so our main challenge right now is definitely our production capacity and assortment. Albeit slowly, we are planning on introducing more colour options for our leather. And eventually, we hope to grow our team to be able to increase our production quantities as well.”
10. Where do you see your brand in the coming years? What should we expect from Quiddity?
“We want to keep developing and experimenting with ideas and handmade techniques to incorporate into our designs. We hope to have our pieces available in limited quantities in unique boutiques, spaces, shows, and shops worldwide and online. We also hope that by highlighting and elevating handmade elements in our products, people might also begin to invest more in and be patrons of our unique brand of luxury handmade goods.”