Estados aims to bring the finest South American leather direct from the haciendas
Article by Rupert Watkins
Think of Argentina and you think polo, gauchos, steak and horses (OK, and maybe even now the “hand of god”). Given that outdoor and riding lifestyle, it is unsurprising Argentina has a thriving leather industry as well. Having had her brother, Hugo Lesser, travel and then move out there, Marisa Orchard banded together with him to found Estados Leather five years ago.
Their aim was to bring the quality and panache of Argentinian leather to the UK. Unlike many brands over here who are tied to the polo scene and sell the traditional, colourful gaucho belts, Marisa explains that they decided to steer clear of this option when they set up Estados, “though we did a couple of polo events, it wasn’t quite the right area for us.” Initially concentrating on wallets and purses as well as straightforward very high quality leather belts, Estados has recently started to expand. As well as a small range of women’s satchel bags, a bespoke option is being launched this month. Coming in a range of five styles, there are two clutches, two Kelly bags and an evening bag. There are 15 leathers to choose from with monogramming, an engraved tag and six different interior linings also on offer. For between £3 to £500, these are remarkably good value for something a little bit different and individual.
Marisa is keen to emphasise the aspirational aspect of Estados, “customers want something good, different but are very keen to not have to spend vast amounts to get it.” This demographic is frequently overlooked in the sometimes rarefied luxury industry, though newer brands – agile, online and dealing directly with high calibre manufacturers – have started to fill this space with ever increasing success.
From the beginning Marisa explains, their ambition was to offer the finest Argentinean craftsmanship. Estados uses a small, family run factory in Buenos Aires and the tannery the company uses is also based in the same city. “It’s a very personal manner of doing business with Argentinian firms” she remarks, “there is a very close relationship between the craftsman and customer – very collaborative.” Her brother Hugo loves working with the tanneries and workshops, discussing leathers, dyes and refining prototype pieces.
2016 sees Estados in sound health, “we have been selling more consistently this year than ever before” Marisa remarks. There have been many obstacles to overcome in the creation of Estados, the main one from the start being how to build a brand, and become known, with very little money. There has been a huge emphasis on word of mouth, using a number of private house sales to drive the brand forward whilst also targeting various craft fairs, mostly in the run up to Christmas. Social media has also been exceedingly useful. With Estados offering a range of handbags and other women’s leather accessories, Marisa reckons she has more female customers than male but does comment that many women also come to the brand to buy gifts for men.
Despite the inevitable teething frustrations of growing a new brand, Marisa and Hugo have thoroughly enjoyed the challenges of nurturing this fun and distinctive brand, both hugely enjoying the creative process. With Hugo in Argentina, Estados has been able to deal face-to-face with their producers and manufactures from day one, so many of the worst problems of dealing at long distance with a supply chain have been minimised. With future plans including introducing a made-to-order element across other areas of the Estados collection, this small leather firm is certainly worth checking out.