It began with a routine business meeting about manufacturing services. It became something completely different.
I parked the car out front of the offices, the San Francisco fog gradually fading as sunlight filtered into the Dogpatch District. I was here to meet Kathy, a manager of one of the biggest leather manufacturers in the States. Specifically, they make belts. Lots of belts.
After our meeting, Kathy offered to give me the tour. Intrigued, I readily agreed.
Lines of cutters, polishers and sewing machines intersected rows of tables and benches creating a meandering assembly line; an industrial vista lacking only some of those coin-operated binoculars you get at scenic overlooks. A single 100,000 square ft room, the efficiency is palpable. Henry Ford would be proud.
We walk the length of the room. By the time we reach the storage area, I’ve stopped attempting to keep my mouth closed and simply let it hang open. As someone somewhat obsessive about leather, I gaze up at the 20ft tall industrial shelving and the masses of pristine, exotic articles from all over the world. Some of it is eye-wateringly expensive.
Next to us is an enormous industrial laser cutter, which was in the process of cutting out belts. A leather hide is placed onto the cutting surface, and the laser tracks out the various shapes. Then, what’s left over resembling a jigsaw someone abandoned halfway through is slung unceremoniously into a huge bin.
This bin was called the scrap box. The scrap box, Kathy elaborated, was then taken to the scrap room.
The scrap room is a jungle of remnant leather. Boxes are stacked precariously a bit like when you play Tetris and things start well but then get a bit tetchy as you progress. I look into one of the boxes and see a piece of pristine leather the size of an immodest TV. I turn to Kathy and ask
"what happens to all this scrap?"
"Nothing at all. It stays here. Occasionally they sell some. But mostly, it sits, unused, gathering dust."
Some of the boxes are labelled. “Cavalier Horween Euro Navy, 168 lbs.” “Glace CHRXL Gold Brown, 150 lbs.” Expensive, desirable articles. The thought of it going to waste makes me feel queasy.
"Is the scrap for sale?"
She shrugs. Not many people are looking to buy it, but sure.
Outside, it’s a glorious day, though I don’t really notice as I walk back to my car in a daze. Instead, my mind is racing with the realisation of opportunity. In that instant, I decided to start what would become Far From Lost. To travel to factories and tanneries sourcing the highest quality remnant leather, and use it to create individualistic, artisanal pieces which would do the quality of their materials justice.
My mind is racing with the realisation of opportunity. In that instant, I decided to start what would become Far From Lost. To travel to factories and tanneries sourcing the highest quality remnant leather, and use it to create individualistic, artisanal pieces which would do the quality of their materials justice.
A sense of misplaced purpose had vanished, replaced not only by inspiration but also direction. Remnant material should not be committed to landfill or left to stagnate.
Instead, they would become far from lost; a subtle nod towards the realisation of potential and purpose.