MEET MARTINE VAN REESEMA
Most leather is chromium tanned. Chromium is a heavy metal. Heavier than Metallica. Heavier than Black Sabbath. It's highly toxic. You get the picture. Not the sort of thing you want in the waterways, or for workers to have their hands immersed in - but also, not the sort of thing you want next to your skin either.
You can read about how its made in Chapter 11 of Wardrobe Crisis. And you probs should because conventional leather production ain't pretty - finding out how it was made caused me to rethink how I approach it. I still buy leather but I now try to avoid the cheap stuff. So called "disposable fashion" or cheaply made leather stuff that's not designed to last turns me right off. I buy a leather piece now because it's really special, which, when you think about it, is how we used to buy leather accessories or garments - as investment pieces.
On that subject when I got my first proper job about spending a year in India post-uni, I bought myself a pair of black leather trousers. Never been happier. They are miniscule, only a 20 year old who'd had dysentery could get into them. Or perhaps a 16 year old skinny-minny. I've still got them, am saving them for my niece just in case. My, those trousers are fine.
Any road, back to the point of this here post. Which is to big-up my new discovery, Martine van Reesema, handbag designer, artisan, hand-maker of marvels on her mother's kitchen bench...
Martine uses vegetable tanned leather because "it's the more environmentally friendly option, with the hides being treated with plant sap rather than chromium. But secondly, and importantly, I think it's a really beautiful product," she tells me. "The blush leather is the natural colour and each hide has its own unique marks and colouring that help make each MVR piece unique."
Adelaide-based Martine studied architecture, and it shows - she gives very good shape. Her pieces are strong and bold of line - confident enough in themselves not to demand a lot of extra bells and whistles - you won't find a bunch of jewels glued to a MVR bag. Take, for example, her Three Quarter satchel - sawn off at the edges to sharpen the circle. Simple. Effective. A fine balance indeed.
She was inspired to launch her brand in 2015 after noticing a gap in the Australian market for made-to-order, personalised accessories beyond monogramming. "I'm someone with who always wants something unique, or who wants to customise an existing design and I thought that other people might be looking for the same thing."
"The bucket and the other shapes which I'm working on are form based," she says. Utilitarian, minimalist, form as well as, rather than over, function.
"The MVR girl has a strong sense of personal style," says Martine. "My girl is sophisticated, spirited and driven. She favours clean, sharp lines and has an eye for quality in both fabrication and construction. She likes unique, understated pieces with a story and where possible wears local designers." So who (apart from me, obvs) is a fan? You, now, eh?