Slow fashion and sustainability are core to the celebratory platform the Irish Made Awards seeks to offer Irish businesses.
Celebrating all things made on Irish soil, the awards are open for entries for 2021 – marking their fifth year of accolades.
Holden Leathergoods is one of the longest-established leathergoods brands that both design and handmake here in Ireland, celebrating over 30 years of skilled craftsmanship in Dingle, Co Kerry.
Founder and master leather craftsman Conor Holden might be from Dublin, but he learned his craft at the tender age of 19 in what is now known as the London College of Fashion.
Attracted to the inspiring history, scenic views, and way of life in Co Kerry, Holden Leathergoods was established in 1989.
Conor now works alongside his wife Claire and a small workshop team he has personally trained in the craft. Claire brings an eye for fashion and practical design to the unique collaborations between husband and wife.
We chatted to Conor about life since his placement as Runner Up in the Accessories category of the Irish Made Awards last year.
Founder of Holden Leathergoods
Where do you get your inspiration from? We draw influences from the natural environment around us on the Dingle peninsula. Our classic colours are based in nature: chestnuts, berries, earth; while our limited editions are those bright pops of colour that summer brings.
What is the best thing about crafting your leather products in Ireland? We make our products in our own workshop in Ireland to maintain control of the whole process, from design to production quality. By doing so we are supporting our local and national economy, and we get to live in this beautiful part of the world!
What is the most challenging aspect of making your products in Ireland? There’s such a small leather industry here in Ireland, it’s difficult to find skilled craftspeople which is why we train all our employees in-house. However, our raw materials must be imported from Europe. We select leather from tanneries we trust in Italy.
How has the pandemic affected your business most? Historically, more than 80% of our business had been through our workshop. When the business closed due to the pandemic, we lost this source of revenue overnight. It pushed us to address our online presence, improve our marketing and finally give our online store the attention it needed.
COVID has also helped to give greater momentum to the movement of more conscientious shopping. There is a greater awareness of sustainability, more people are choosing to purchase products and gifts that are high quality, durable, and functional.
What does the future hold for the skill and craft of leather craftsmanship in Ireland? It’s an endangered species, I fear. Even with the renewed interest in buying local, some people don’t realise how much work is involved and can’t understand why it costs more to buy an Irish handmade leather bag, than one from a big brand, made in a factory overseas. Hopefully, some of the lessons we have learned in the last year will stay with us, and we’ll continue to appreciate things more, and choose to spend our hard-earned cash with care.
To find out more and enter the Irish Made Awards 2021, see irishcountrymagazine.ie/awards