One of the exciting aspects of my CK adventure is the notion that I am continually pushing myself by learning and doing new things. I would be lying if I did not admit that I have struggled with emotions such as “fear of failure.” Asking myself if I am a “fraud?” (as in I’m not worthy or as qualified as everyone else. I only have "x" amount of cash in my bank acct. I’m just a mom and wife, not a real career girl. Blah blah blah). In fact, just reflecting on these feelings is making me anxious and a little teary as I am typing. Whew, those are some strong and potentially crippling (and usually unwarranted) emotions. Let’s kick those out of the way!
My latest “stretch” was visiting the Lineapelle and Premiere Vision leather shows in NYC in July. Designing and creating new bags is not one of my issues but when it comes to skin selections, the job becomes overwhelming and tedious. While I have a nice consistent source of leather suppliers, I always have my ‘feelers’ out in search of interesting and different hides. Throughout the years, I have made some 'rooky' mistakes in purchasing hides for the color and price rather than ordering a sample before purchasing. I have learned that the finish, weight and color must all come together in order to achieve my desired finished product. After thinking about it for a year, I decided that the best way to gain knowledge and expand my sourcing was to attend an event where many tanneries show their goods all under one roof.
After much worry and procrastination because of the expense, I finally booked my tickets! Bam! I’m committed and going to squeeze it into the middle of our busy summer. If you have ever been to NYC in July, you know that it is not the optimal time to visit. Hot as hell but I did not just survive, I THRIVED!!!
Risking heat stroke I decided to walk all over the city in order to take it all in and conquer my fears! Premiere Vision, which is marketed as a ‘textile event,' was my first stop. There were only a couple of tanneries present which streamlined things. I made friends with a lovely British couple, Malcolm Proops and his wife from The Walter Reginald Group. They were so kind and patiently answered all of my questions. A great intro for what was to come. . . I will eventually order from them, I am sure.
Next, I hit the Lineapelle Show which was across town and much more impressive. It had such a ‘pro’ feeling. I was already registered but had to be checked through security before entering. In certain areas, no photos were allowed. Top secret! Somewhat intimidating. The very first booth, front and center, was the La Perla Azzura tannery. Every single skin hanging was beautiful and lush and all veg tanned (More on that another time). I could have stopped there. When I asked the tall, dark, handsome Italian representative if I could have a few samples and what the cost was per square foot (the measurement which we use in the US) he quickly spewed out xx per METER! My mind was spinning, how many feet are in a meter??? Will I even be able to afford these hides?? Dang it! But I kept my cool asked what their minimums were, had him cut me a couple more samples and casually moved on my way. Being grateful for my smart phone, I scurried around the corner and quickly calculated the feet v. meter issue. While math is not my thing . . . I was fairly confident that I my calculations were accurate. Their skins might be in my price range?!
Feeling a little shaky but still pulling off the fact that I am a legit handbag designer, I bravely carried on. What I was not prepared for was the machismo Italian hunks plus the language barrier. While they all spoke English, their accents were so heavy that I had to keep my cool or ask them to repeat themselves. It was a true test of my durability. Being a quick learner I decided to streamline my interactions with the hunky guys! If they did not acknowledge me when I entered their booth, I just kept moving. I’ve gotta feel some love! Then I went even further, after doing more calculations, I quickly asked them what price range their skins were in (a little humbling) and if they had minimum orders. (I usually purchase one or two skins at a time knowing that I can always re-order.). If they did not meet MY criteria I moved right along to the next guy. My confidence was growing!
Every night, exhausted, I would flop down in my hotel room and spread all my samples and notes out on the bed and make further notations so that I would be able to remember which was which and who was who. I eliminated some and made stars by others. Needless to say, I had a full backpack with at least 10 lbs. of samples, business cards and folders to haul home with me.
Upon returning home, I was hit with a busy summer in full swing so all those samples, etc. . . sat in a pile which I shuffled from one spot to another in my studio. I actually lamented that perhaps my trip had been a waste of time and money.
It’s September now and things are quieting down so last week I decided to take the plunge and place an order with La Perla Azzura, the first booth I visited at Lineapelle. I emailed “Andrea” with my order and wanted to confirm the pricing. I got a quick response (nice) and the bid showed that I think I can actually afford their prices (yay!). But wait, it’s in Euros! Dang! He also wanted to know what weight I wanted my hides as they can split them into any thickness I preferred. A definite bonus but . . . Europeans use mm in weight while we use ounces! Ugh, even more math and conversions. I sat on it but eventually was confident that my numbers were accurate. Then comes the shipping costs. More calculations converting those expenses into the overall cost per square foot of leather. Was it worth it? Will I be able to make this upgrade without passing it on to my customers? As per usual, I am stepping out in faith which is how CK has been running since the very beginning. Is it worth it? Well, I say ‘yes’ because the journey has grown and stretched me and I feel so much smarter than I was 7 years ago!