Kyoto Leather is a high-end brand selling exclusive leather with patterns made from traditional Japanese techniques. Started up in 2015 when Toshihiro Tajiri saw an opportunity to bring life back into the declining leather industry and produce premium crafted skins.
Toshihiro himself isn’t a crafter but sees himself as more of a coordinator, bringing craftsmen, industries and brands together with high-quality materials. A workshop is currently being renovated in Arayashima, which will be the focal point of creating high-quality products using the leathers produced.
While the name is Kyoto Leather, the skins are sourced from wagyu (Japanese cows) all over the country to a tannery and dyeing factory located in Himeji (about 1.5 hours away by bullet train).
These expertly crafted skins are designed using the traditional techniques used in making patterns on kimonos. Other techniques include water-printing and tapping metals such as aluminium, gold and silver leaves into the leather, leading to some gorgeous, unique designs I have personally never seen used for leather before.
The leathers are all chrome-tanned and are extremely durable, and due to the complexity during the creation process, while the same colours can be reproduced, each skin will be unique.
You won’t find Kyoto Leather on social media or other similar platforms as Toshihiro doesn’t believe in them and has intent to sell to a higher market than your average craftsman, focusing on trade-shows and building relationships with high-end brands.
This focus on quality, craftsmanship and exclusivity means that each skin is very expensive. The average price of a skin starts at 600,000 yen, with the potential to much higher especially with gold layered skins.
Regardless, I would suggest any leather crafter visiting Kyoto to definitely visit (shoot Toshihiro an email first to make an appointment). Toshihiro is very friendly, accommodating and speaks decent English (apparently about 50% of visitors to the showroom are international). It was an absolute pleasure meeting Toshihiro and being surrounded by so many gorgeous, unique skins is an indescribable feeling and one that I will make sure to re-experience the next time I’m in Japan.