During a particularly rowdy night out while studying at university in 2014, James Richardson jumped off the roof of his flat and broke both his legs. While recuperating, he delved into the YouTube vortex and came across hand-crafted leather goods. A few tools and some time later, Sonder Leather was born. Richardson, 25, is regularly pumping out wallets and travel folios from The Corner Store co-working space on Cashel St. Still maintaining a day job as the South Island rep for a national eco-packaging company, he spends his Saturdays pressing and hand-stitching sustainably-sourced kangaroo leather.
The first person who bought one was my physio, and then I started giving them away for 21st presents,” Richardson said. “I whacked up a website to see what would happen, and it carried on from there.” Still a part-time gig, Richardson said it was his casual approach which let him take risks that “probably wouldn’t fly” if it were his full-time job. “If I was depending on it for income, I’d probably be doing lower price, higher quantity, using cheaper material. I definitely wouldn’t be hand-stitching them because that takes ages,” he said.
Richardson said he promised a lifetime guarantee on his products. His driving wallets are sold for $149, and travel folios for $169. He buys the leather from an Australian company, who sourced their leather through the sustainable kangaroo quota system regulated by the Australian government. “The kangaroos get so ridiculously overpopulated they tend to ruin the environment for other native species, so they have to keep the population under control. “If there was a synthetic material that I could get the same properties from, I’d use it in a heartbeat. This is as close to a sustainable leather that you can get.”
“Essentially Sonder is a big experiment into whether people care about who is making their stuff and that it’s made to last,” he said. Check out Sonder here.