Photo: Courtesy of Faire Leather Co.

Faire Leather Co. started from a very simple question: “How difficult would it be to make a bag that could neatly fit all my essentials?” From there, the homegrown leather company, started by Joseph Lor, 32, and Ryan Choy, 30, launched a Kickstarter campaign to help bring its first collection of functional, yet luxurious leather products to the world.

And the response has been overwhelming – to date, it has been the highest funded Kickstarter project coming out of Singapore, and surpassed its target of $50,000 to a whopping $406,000 by the end of its crowdfunding campaign.

Photo: Courtesy of Faire Leather Co.

It’s not hard to see why its been so widely accepted thus far. The designs do not skimp on quality despite the affordable price point, due to its direct-to-consumer pricing from running and owning its own factory, overseeing every process from production to delivery. The company is also backed by Tocco Toscano, a homegrown fine leather company and part of Joseph’s family business.

What also makes the company unique is its customer-driven approach to design, with a large part of their design process spanning several months, and involving countless focus groups.

The company currently offers wallets, cardholders and passport sleeves for men, but what kicked off their success has been their two newest products – a travel briefcase and a leather folio known as the Everyday Padfolio.

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Photo: Courtesy of Faire Leather Co

We speak to Joseph, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, and Ryan, the Chief Brand Officer, of Faire Leather Co. to share their thoughts and insights towards their label, from starting out as a business to what else lays in store for the company, including plans for a women’s collection in the near future.

What spurred you to launch Faire Leather Co.?

Ryan: It happened over dinner and drinks, where we began talking about Joseph’s family business and business ideas – how my work experience meant I could market a concept for a product he would create. It started with a question:

“How difficult would it be to make a bag that could neatly fit all my essentials?”

It was a reasonable and valid question — like most working professionals, I carry my Kindle, laptop, notebook and other daily essentials in my bag. However, Joseph and I both identified that there was a lack in the market for a bag that solved a truly simple, everyday problem: Everything was always messy and I always had to dig deep into my bag to find my things.

We used crowdfunding because while we felt that the product we were proposing was a fresh idea, we were unsure if our target audience would agree. We had to put ourselves in the public sphere where our potential customers will be able to contribute.

Describe the person that you designed your product for.

Faire Leather Co. is for anyone who desires stylish, functional leather products that can also fit all their essentials.

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Photo: Courtesy of Faire Leather Co

How do you feel about the response to your Kickstarter campaign, were you expecting such an overwhelming and positive response?

We were quite confident that we created a quality product at a good price but we needed proof of concept. I would say that the Kickstarter campaign result exceeded our expectations and we were obviously very happy with it.

With such heavy competition in the luxury leather industry, what makes your brand stand out?

Joseph: We like to see ourselves as a contemporary take on men’s leather goods. The brand was created when Ryan and I observed the lack of well-priced, quality leather goods that combine classic style with functional design. For our debut collection, we wanted to pack in as much functionality as possible into our products, while still offering them at a modest price.

Because we own our factory, we control every process from production to delivery. We make savings throughout the entire production process, which we then pass on to the consumer. This sets us apart from other Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) brands, since we never have to pay a manufacturer’s fee or a sample production cost. This keeps our costs low, ensuring that we offer great value for a fair price compared to everyone else.

We are also a feedback-aware brand – we want to keep in constant dialogue with our consumers so we can gather their thoughts about and insights into the kind of products that they think will help them, or what are the key elements are missing in their current product. Together with the data we gather from Y Ventures, we hope to be seen as a brand for the people – making what people want and need at a fair price.

What were your considerations when making your products, such as the the travel briefcase and everyday padfolio, and how long did it take to reach your finalized design?

R: Faire Leather Co. is a brand for the people. Hence, we cannot take sole credit for The Bond Collection. Every conversation we have ever had – whether through discussions, focus groups, research, or data analysis – has contributed to the final product. We have created as many feedback channels as we can in order to constantly engage and chat with the online community we have created. Altogether it probably took about a year from conceptualization to the creation of the final product.

Photo: Courtesy of Faire Leather Co

Everyone is talking about the retail slump now. What do you think customers want?

I think customers always desire value. Due to the rise of the Internet, they are also more discerning when it comes to estimating product value. We discovered that in the past prominent logos were a priority. However, men today are starting to place a lot more emphasis on function when it comes to their choice of key fashion accessories such as bags and wallets. They also prefer an understated and minimalist aesthetic. In addition to the evolution of technology, functional luxury and the need to keep all the gadgets we now use on a daily basis organised have become important too.

Joseph, you have a background in the leather industry. What did you learn at Tocco Toscano, and how has that aided your business?

J: My family has been making leather products for over 30 years. At Tocco Toscano, we have cultivated long-standing relationships with our material suppliers and factories. We have also worked with countless types of materials and hardware, and we are familiar with the processes that go into making different kinds of bags.

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Faire Leather Co.
Photo: Courtesy of Faire Leather Co

What has been the greatest hurdle in your business thus far?

We wanted to create functional and intelligent products, therefore we took quite a bit of time and work to design the products, conduct focus groups and collect feedback. I feel that it would be in our interest to create products at a faster rate, hence we are currently searching for good product designers and developers to help.

You mentioned that you are looking towards customization options for the future. Could you give us a glimpse of what you have in mind for us as consumers?

We are thinking of offering monogramming and modular compartments/functions such as the detachable cardholder that we have for the Bond Travel Briefcase and Everyday Padfolio. One of the ideas is a detachable Business Card Holder that consumers can purchase separately but fits perfectly as part of the bag. As usual, we will collect feedback on these ideas before rolling them out.

What’s next for your brand?

R: In the next 6 months, we will be focusing on our website and on building brand awareness in overseas markets (particularly the US). If all goes smoothly, in about a year we will participate in trade shows to showcase our brand. This will only happen after we have developed a healthy library of products.

Will you be looking into ladies leather products in the future?

J: We are mainly focused on men’s products, although at least half our current products are also great for women – such as The Bond Everyday Padfolio, Travel Wallet, Passport Sleeves and Cardholders. We do have plans to come up with designs and collections for women in about a year.

You can find Faire Leather Co.’s products on their website here