It’s no accident that Melbourne has become Australia’s creative magnet, with even international designers and makers heading south to be part of the culture, with these micro-cultures in Melbourne suburbs inviting creative thinkers to contribute to the many niches that exist here. There’s a growing expectation of brands to provide local, authentic products, and few have captured that essence quite like Melbourne leather designer, Harrisson Australia, our favourite handmade leather boutique in Melbourne.
Harrison Australia designs wallets, belts, keyrings, notebooks and luggage tags from 100% Australian leather, using traditional tools to perfect the craft. We’re lucky enough to have a few of these boutique pieces in our pockets and on our desk, with the durable Kangaroo leather making these leather goods as functional as they are stylish.
We sat down with Harrisson Australia Designer, Jake Bexley, to learn more about his leather craftsmanship, his inspiration for the brand and how he got his start in Melbourne.
Great to speak with you, Jake! How did you come to be a Melbourne leather designer?
I have learnt most of my leather crafting skills from my Father. As a kid, I used to watch him make leather goods and ask him questions as to why he uses that technique and that tool.
What’s been the most rewarding thing about being a designer?
The most rewarding part is receiving great feedback from a Harrisson Australia customer once their item has arrived. I try to focus also on the packaging and also make it unique so it complements the product and makes the unboxing more pleasurable.
Where did you come up with the name Harrisson Australia?
I have always liked the name Harrison. I added another ‘s’ to the name so that the ‘i’ is in the centre of the name and the word looks balanced. I also wanted to include Australia in the name as all of my products are made in Melbourne using 100% Australian leather and traditional Australian tools. By adding another ‘s’ to the name Harrison this created the same amount of characters for both words Harrisson and Australia and in turn, makes the brand logo work really well. I guess I am showing my design interest there!
What has been your biggest learning as a business owner navigating COVID-19?
As all Australian businesses have been impacted by COVID-19 in some way, we too have also been affected. Our sales have dropped and we are seeing a customer change. Most sales before COVID-19 where from US customers but one positive thing to come out of this is that the Australian people are now more conscious as to where their products are made. We are now seeing more people in Australia buying our products. We have had to change post providers and drop postage fees at this time because we know our customers are doing it tough too.
What are the key qualities that make Harrisson Australia different from other leather makers?
We source all of our materials within Australia from local suppliers and all packaging is made in Australia. We also spent a lot of time sourcing the best available leather from leather suppliers and tanneries – this takes a lot of time, research and trial. Once we have narrowed our leather selection down we then make the item in all the selected leathers and have it reviewed by our team and friends to finally select the best-suited leather for that item. So by the time our customers place an order, their leather goods have been perfected at every stage.
What is your advice for Melbourne leather designers wanting to get their start?
I would totally recommend it if you are really passionate about what you are creating, so don’t stop making things with your hands and exploring new techniques. It does take a long time to get up and running as a Melbourne leather designer, but it is the most rewarding thing I have done so far. You will encounter constant setbacks at the start setting up your business but it is worth it in the long run, especially when you are bringing something really unique to the market and something that is connected to you and where you are from.
What’s your favourite leather product available on your website?
It would have to be a tie between two items, the billfold wallet and the tan leather notebook. I love the billfold wallets for their compact design and easy use, it holds everything I need and the Kangaroo leather is both soft and durable. I also love the tan notebook as the colour is beautiful, and I use it almost daily when I am planning, drawing and designer new leather goods.
You can find the Harrisson Australia website here, and can also follow them on Facebook to see what’s coming up and Jake’s process of running an Australian design business here in Melbourne. There are also some great podcasts out there which can guide you through your Melbourne leather designer journey, no matter how new to the industry you may be.