One doesn’t usually associate the “Made In Singapore” tag with much positive sentiment. However, working diligently in one of the haphazard shophouses of Jalan Besar, leather designer and craftsman Xie Hui challenges this preconception.
Xie Hui is a one man outfit specialising in bespoke leather goods including watch straps, card holders and laptop sleeves. Under the company name Stone for Gold, Xie Hui receives requests from customers of all ages, all whom ask for unique leather accessories with that additional splash of personalisation – an additional card sleeve, engraving of initials, or even a design more suited for a rocker personality.
Xie Hui demonstrating his craft to attendees at his workshop
It was an interest from young to make things by hand that spurred Xie Hui to teach himself the fundamentals of leather craftsmanship and hone these skills through much practice. “There was no such information on the internet at that time, so it was pretty much trial and error. ” Xie Hui explains, “Books came later which served to verify that I was on the right track.”
Displaying much resourcefulness and ingenuity, Xie Hui’s trawled motorcycle shops for PVC parts, bought samples from leather suppliers and recycled hardware from used lanyards to obtain the necessary raw materials to craft his first few leather accessories.
Success in the Field
Since then, Xie Hui has enjoyed considerable success in this field, turning his pastime into a profitable business that has moved him from his makeshift workshop at home to a well appointed workshop in Jalan Besar where he works full-time along with 3 other part-time apprentices. Xie Hui attributes the success partially to word of mouth and to luck.
Xie Hui working on leather pieces in his workshop
“Initially I did worry that there might be a lack of demand, but I guess I was quite lucky as new orders would arrive as I was finishing up a previous piece.”, Xie Hui comments. That said, looking at the quiet confidence and deft hands he displays whilst stitching together a card holder (specially designed for Shiok!), one gets the sense that it is more for the quality of craftsmanship that drives customers to seek out Xie Hui.
What Now For Local Craftsmanship
That said, it seems that locals are still generally skeptical toward the quality of local crafts and the viability of the craftsman as a career path in Singapore. “There isn’t much support for local brands. Singaporeans don’t seem to trust local craftsmanship.”, Xie Hui laments. Citing an example close to home, Xie Hui mentioned that his parents were initially not too supportive his career path, voicing their concerns over the general lack of financial security in such an industry.
the youngest participant (aged 7) hard at work at a workshop
In bid to reverse such skepticism, Xie Hui holds regular workshops teaching participants the basics of leather craft. “Other craftsmen balked at such an idea, fearing that such workshops would only create additional competitors, but I saw it as a way to elevate interest and get more people in to make the entire industry more robust and sustainable.”, Xie Hui explains. The workshops have been a success, with participants as young as 7 year olds to octogenarians clamouring for more – “People used see these workshops as a one time activity and a novel way to spend the weekend, but nowadays I’m seeing much more sustained interest, with participants asking me where they can get their own materials and tools”.
Xie Hui’s words of advice for budding leather craft enthusiasts? Just do it. Indeed, it seems as though the tried-and-tested formula of dogged perseverance and good quality end products that inspire word of mouth advertisement is still worth it’s weight in gold in today’s fickle marketplace.
Want your own custom designed, personal leather pieces? Xie Hui works with a wide range of leathers including exotic pieces from ostrich, crocodiles, pythons and stingrays. Visit Stone for Gold
‘s facebook page
for pictures of customized leather pieces or send your enquiries directly to Stone for Gold