Visiting Artist: Introducing Hemlock and Hyde

Each 4th Friday of the month, all the businesses on 4th street stay open an hour later to celebrate our community. Each 4th Friday at Moon + Arrow we celebrate by offering 20% off Moon + Arrow jewelry, serve refreshments, and highlight a local maker through the weekend. This 4th Friday January 24th-January 26th Hemlock and Hyde will be here at the shop with us!

We sat down with local leather makers Leanne and Nick from Hemlock and Hyde to get some background information on their business, life in Philadelphia and their extraordinary mission in creating sustainable leather goods.

Q: What made you want to start a business together? Can you give us any background information on the beginnings of Hemlock and Hyde?

Nick and I have always been creative people, who love to make, it's just in our blood. We met at the University of the Arts here in Philadelphia, while we were getting our BA's in illustration. I have always had a love for fashion; after graduation from UArts I worked for 9 years at Printfresh (Philadelphia based textiles studio) starting as a designer and eventually becoming the Art Director. Nick has always had an entrepreneur's mind; since college he has been working for Whole Foods Market running the sea food department for years and eventually becoming a Store Assistant Manager. His book shelf is full of self improvement and business books, titles which would make you think he's planning to take over the world.

One day, a good friend of our's, who at the time was working at a well known shoe store, came into possession of a trunk load of vintage leather hides. After finding out that the window display of leather, would be simply taken to the landfill when the seasonal display was changed out, he thought of us and asked if he could take them. A few days later he dropped off about $3000 worth of hides to our tiny apartment! The hides sat in our art studio for a while, I would make a few bags here and there for myself and gifts for friends and family. Nick saw this and after making a few wallets for himself, he knew we had a potential business on our hands.

In the fall of 2017 we signed up for the Fishtown Flea and made our first bit of profit. With that money we invested in a some industrial machinery, made a website and things got rolling.

After our son, Wesley, was born, in the summer of 2018, I decided to quit my full time job to focus on being a Mama and to push Hemlock and Hyde forward to see what we could really do with it. If I'm being honest, I think I always new Nick and I would start something together I just didn't know it would be this.

Q: What is the drive behind Hemlock and Hyde

The drive behind Hemlock and Hyde is to create high quality, ethically sourced, durable leather goods with unique shapes and designs. Our hope is that we can create a long lasting, enjoyable product that our customers will cherish for years to come.

Q: How do you both conquer parenthood and running your own business?

Such a great question and one we are still figuring out! Currently, I get up between 4:30-5am in order to get 3 good hours of work in before Wes wakes up. And as soon as he is down for his afternoon nap, I'm down in our shop getting more work done. On top of designing our men's line and most of our waxed canvas products, Nick does our marketing and runs our website and thanks to technology, he can do a lot of that from his phone. 
We are also incredibly blessed to have the support of our friends and family; between loaning their strength to get machinery down to our studio, helping us set up our booth at a market, giving us business advice and lots of babysitting hours, we really couldn't do this without them. We work really hard and as efficiently as we can so that when we are together we are truly together as a family. 
Q: How do you find your materials and what is the significance behind creating sustainable leather goods?

After creating most of first designs with the vintage hides that our friend had given us, we realized that eventually we would need to purchase new leather in order to keep going. But we wanted to make sure that we could do that in an ethical way, by supporting other U.S. based businesses, keeping our carbon footprint as small as possible and doing everything we could to not add to the incredible amount of pollution that many fashion brands contribute to.

(Featuring the Aurora day dress by Voloshin available at Moon + Arrow) 

Nick started researching... we learned a ton about the deep history of leather craft, including the intense tanning process. We learned that most of the worlds leather goods are created with Chrome Tanned leather. Chrome tanning is a process of treating leather that involves a ton of harmful chemicals, it is fast and cheap and unfortunately not very good for our planet. But there is an alternative; Vegetable Tanned leather, during this tanning process vegetable matter and tree bark are used in place of many of the harsh chemicals of chrome tanning. This process is long, taking up to 6 weeks to tan a hide, but the result is beautiful, durable, high quality leather that will last longer than chrome tanned leather and will patina over time. And the best part, we found out that one of the last vegetable tanneries is located right in Pennsylvania, Wickett and Craig.

After finding Wickett and Craig we made the commitment to work exclusively from vegetable tanned leather and to get all of our materials from as close as possible; all of our brass hardware we get from Massachusetts and our waxed canvas is from New Jersey.

(Featuring the Luna Tiered Day Dress by Voloshin available at Moon + Arrow)
Q: How did you come up with the name Hemlock and Hyde?
Our name is actually inspired by the vegetable tanning process. Vegetable tanning it involves all sorts of vegetable matter but they mostly use bark from the hemlock tree. We wanted to make sure our commitment to vegetable tanned leather was cemented in our name.

Thank you so much to Leanne for answering all of our questions and being so willing and able to participate in a pop up here at Moon + Arrow. Join us and Hemlock and Hyde January 24th to the 26th to shop their gorgeous leather bags, backpacks and more! 

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