Leather, Crafted

Matthew Tadej.
Matthew Tadej.

Craftsman Matthew Tadej talks about his line of handmade leather goods

Matthew Tadej set out to create homewares and furnishings with his woodworking skills and ended up designing leather goods. A deep interest in 1970s English leather work—and a fondness for fabrication and design, no matter the material—led to his first piece, a tri-fold clutch built for his wife. Over the past year-and-a-half, a modified version of that clutch has become his most popular piece, and the line has ballooned to include duffels, weekender totes, pouches, and shoulder bags in canvas, goat hides, and several shades of leather. There are raw and asymmetrical edges, too, and most pieces are made in a number of material variations. A champion of function first, it guides Tadej’s work. Style follows. Here, he tells us more about Tadej Leather Goods.

On his craftsman roots:

“I come from a long line of craftsmen and tradesmen. I was raised in my father’s workshop, the kind of fix-it-all shop many people who work with their hands have. It’s where I discovered a love of fabrication. Table saws were next to welders. My father was also a millwright, so many things that would normally be fixed with wood he preferred to use metal when possible. This helped in developing design and problem-solving [skills] using a variety of materials and tools.”

On beginning to work with leather:

“Not being a traditional leather worker at the time, I started from the idea of laying out and constructing with leather in the same fashion I had been doing with other building materials. I also work at Harry J. Epstein Co, an incredible tool shop that’s been around since the 1930s. One of the things I do is find new product. I was able to expand their leather-working department by bringing in great quality American-made tools. It’s helped me find tools for Tadej.”

Matthew-Tady025_JR_0717On finding inspiration: “I think of designing heritage pieces that can withstand that tide of trend and time—objects that a person wants to pass on, pieces the next generation looks forward to receiving. My inspiration comes from function. I find it in tools, military surplus, kitchen ware, camping gear, boats, places where form begins with function.”

On his affinity for function:

“The style of function started early with me. I spent large amounts of time poring over Time-Life’s The Old West book series, marveling at what people carried with them to accomplish the task of living then. Mixing that with years of wandering around army surplus stores gave me the esthetic I apply towards fashion today.”

On what’s next:

“I’ve been working on shoulder and crossbody bags. They’ve become mixtures of mountain-man possibles kits, sailing hardware, and envelopes. I’ll be rolling them out in the next few months.”

On his role in Tadej:

“I’m all the stuff: I conceptualize, design, pattern, fabricate. All the pieces are made locally by me. The most rewarding part is taking an object from the spark of an idea to finished product.”

Tadej Leather Goods are available at We Are Sincerely Yours in Kansas City and online