Lessons in leather

Cape Town leather merchants, Woodhead's have expanded their offering with a convenient service bar where anybody can learn the tools of the trade.

Woodhead’s is a familiar face and name in Cape Town. Having been around for 145 years, one could say that they’re city’s original leather merchants.

And now they’ve expanded their offering in a way that aims to make leather craft more accessible to the public.

“Leather Lane” is the latest attention to the Woodhead’s operation in the Mother City’s trendy Fringe district.

Richard Harris, third generation Woodhead’s owner, explains that the Leather Lane is a new service offering designers, crafters, artisans and hobbyists access to leather crafting tools and technologies.

Getting Leather Lane off the ground was something of a natural extension for this family-run business and really just a response to what customers were asking for. Harris and his team were finding that people would come in and ask for help with some or other leather design – be it a belt or a chair. The Woodhead’s team were always willing to help but realised it would be better to have a dedicated service bar.

It’s about taking the skills and resources that Woodhead’s have in abundance and sharing it with those that don’t necessarily have those tools or skills but are keen on leather craft, Harris explains.

For Harris supporting small businesses is an important part of his business ethos. He believes that when small businesses do well, his business does well.

Services on offer at Leather Lane include punches and mallets for finishing and hand-embossing, inserting eyelets and press studs.

Most of the tools available in the service bar are also for sale in the shop, so those interested in investing in their own leather tools are welcome to first try it out in Leather Lane. For Harris it is about teaching a skill, in addition to providing a service.

Leather Lane is in a little corridor between the shop and the showroom. Where this space was previously used to store the leather off-cuts, it’s now the place where a lot of fun can be had with those very off-cuts! The street front of this corridor has been enclosed and a service counter and shelves installed to make the space more functional.

Upon a visit to Leather Lane you’ll be greeted by the friendly Carlos Spannenberg, a man who worked for Woodhead’s for more than 20 years, and ready to share his leather experience and skills. 

Leather Lane is about getting people going in leather craft and hopes to make more sophisticated services like a laser-cutting, 3D printing and a modelling machine available in the near future.

The whole concept is very service orientated – it’s about getting people excited about leather craft and it is also about providing training and mentorship, Harris adds.