The basic tenets of luxury are exclusivity, and exquisite craftsmanship and materials. That said, luxury and its accompanying price tag can often be abstract. At least, that’s according to Tanner Leatherstein, a leather expert who deconstructs luxury goods to find out if the quality of the materials justifies the price and if the craftsmanship is truly artisanal. “Large luxury companies take advantage of this lack of knowledge and offer you mediocre products,” he says on his website. “Through Tanner’s Club, we will not only inform you but also entertain you on different leather topics.”
With over 300,000 followers on Instagram and half a million on TikTok, Tanner shoots weekly videos of himself cutting up and burning iconic bags and other leather goods. By his reckoning, most aren’t worth more than $150, including the materials and production costs, though in-store prices can be 10 times that. Of course, the TikToker does not take into account other aspects adding value, such as design, research, the iconic merit of the piece, marketing, retail and manufacturing costs. With the big fashion brands, for example, it is the leather workers who maintain the brand’s heritage and unique craft skills, and their salaries are proportionate to their importance. All these elements push up the price.
“People often use price as criteria for quality, but it rarely works,” says Leatherstein in one of his videos. “Brands that use good leather can’t stop talking about it. You have to look at the labels. Descriptions like ‘genuine leather’ don’t mean anything while others like ‘vegetable tanned’ or ‘natural grain’ do.”
The rather large sum of money Tanner spends each month on luxury goods just to destroy them is, in fact, an investment. Tanner explains on his website that he is from a family of tanners and that he tanned his first leather jacket at the age of eleven. In 2017, he founded two leather goods brands, Pegai and McTroy, which he himself defines as “good quality at a fair price.” And a year ago, he started promoting himself with his compelling videos deconstructing luxury bags.
Not only does he take leather goods apart, he also acts as a consultant: “I created this website to be a tool for entrepreneurs,” he explains. “I’ve been in this industry for five years and my brands have grown.” As he says on TikTok, part of the profits from his brands go to Save The Children. In short, the videos are an exercise in pure branding: in order to promote his own wares, he deconstructs and criticizes leather goods without taking into account the intangible value of the brand – which, like it or not, is the main reason behind its exorbitant price.
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