Tucked away in an upstairs room of his Timperley cottage, Simon Glenday is leading a quiet revolution against the modern world.
In here, armed with hand tools and materials that have barely changed for centuries, he is busily reintroducing craftsmanship to leathercraft.
His collection of small leather products – from wallets and purses to bracelets and belts – stand as a rebuke to the modern trend for mass-produced, cheaply-imported goods; each item is individually designed, expertly handmade, and guaranteed for life.
“The actual process is almost identical to what they would have done 400 years ago,” he said.
“With the industrial revolution everything changed, which is why there are almost no tanneries in England anymore, so you just get this mass-produced leather coming out of places like India.
“But I don’t want to make a handmade version of what everyone can buy in a shop. The whole point is to make something that is unique and will last a lifetime.”
His company, Leather & Thread, first launched back in 2013 when Glenday was working for an advertising agency in Manchester.
Fascinated by wallets since childhood when he would collect battered old wallets from car boot sales, the 32-year-old had tried in vain to find a suitable replacement when his bulky wallet disintegrated.
“So I just decided to make one – I thought it can’t be that hard. I bought a load of leather tools, bought some leather, did a load of research and made my first wallet. It was absolutely awful! It was not even worthy of a dog chew. But I didn’t lose faith, dusted myself off and started again.”
Glenday kept trying, working in his workshop for two hours every night after work. He developed a signature wallet – a stripped-back, two-pocket design that forces the user to carry only their essential cards and notes, and not the bulging array of train tickets, receipts and vouchers that are a feature of many people’s wallets. His design started to get noticed.
“I found I was in meetings and people would say ‘where did you get that from?’ and I’d tell them that I made it. They would then ask me to make them one. The defining moment was when I was on a photography shoot in London, and a well-known food photographer pulled one of my wallets out of his pocket. At that point I though wow, I could make a business out of this.”
So late last year, disillusioned by the career he was carving out in advertising, Glenday took the plunge.
“I went into work one day, sat in traffic looking at everybody looking miserable, and I just thought why I was doing it? I’m chasing a promotion I don’t want, to get more money that I don’t need, to get more responsibility that I definitely don’t want, and I wasn’t building anything that was mine. So I spoke to the MD and handed my notice in.”
Leather & Thread hasn’t looked back since. He can turn out up to 20 items a day now, but every one is unique: every hole is punched one by one, every stitch sewn individually and every item coloured using traditional oil dyes.
He uses locally sourced vegetable tanned leather made from animals that, his website states, “have been allowed to have a life”. Linen thread is preferred to the synthetic material usually used, and each item hand-waxed with natural beeswax.
“I’m not trying to make millions of pounds, I just want to grow it organically as a cottage industry,” he added.
He wants to have a shop inside five years with three or four leathersmiths working for him.
And who’s to bet against him – like the products he crafts from his Timperley workshop, Glenday’s own cottage industry is very much getting better with age.
Leather & Thread is offering Altrincham Today readers an exclusive 20% discount on all orders – simply quote the discount code ‘ALTYTODAY20’ when checking out.