Photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
Markus Frenzl
May 15, 2013
It is often the case that quantity trumps quality nowadays and the leather industry is no exception. The new handbag label Tsatsas consciously takes a different approach. The bags it makes not only demonstrate flawless craftsmanship; they are also wowing the design world with their clear-cut forms.

The leather industry is home to countless variations of leather processing, durable saddle stitching and vegetable-tanned leather. However, leather imitations have been around for a long time now, leather off-cuts with the cheapest of linings and surface coatings that render the material beneath it practically unrecognizable but still pass off as “real leather”. We see decorative seams, an array of tricks used to conceal inherent flaws and an attitude toward craftsmanship that dictates the arbitrary running of an additional seam across the layers of material should the whole thing refuse to hold together – a shortcut that is to the complete detriment of aesthetics. Something that once determined the quality of handcrafted leather goods has been almost completely erased by the flood of cheap goods that is omnipresent on today’s market.

As such, when they recently founded the Tsatsas label in Frankfurt, Esther Schulze-Tsatsas and Dimitrios Tsatsas made it their goal to return to the traditional craftsmen’s values that once shaped the leather industry and to make use of the expertise relating to high-quality materials and production processes that is still very much on tap in Germany. At the same time they wanted their bags to evidence a timeless elegance without being bound by traditional aesthetics. The designs with which the duo founded their label last year are the fruits of many years of hard work. The pieces are unpretentious and unobtrusive, each and every detail the result of careful consideration; a combination of hand-crafted quality with straight, contemporary cuts. Impressive in their formal simplicity, it is the material itself that stands in the limelight – as can be seen from the bags in the “Lucid” series, which play on a highly specific material aesthetic. As is also the case with the “Fluke” bag, which boasts unusual cuts and is made of shrunken New Zealand lamb nappa leather. What’s more, the bag comes as a classic gym bag, the likes of which we know so well from our school years, whereby that childhood love is rekindled on the first touch.

One of the Tsatsas’ key principles is that their designs place the beauty of the material itself center stage. The designer couple uses only the best materials – selecting particularly high-quality aniline-dyed leather from certified tanneries in France, Italy and Germany, even for the lining. The wide strips of leather aren’t backed or reinforced, there are no coatings or unnecessary elements, and all the layers that make up one bag are held together with a single seam. And when it came to selecting other elements such as zip fasteners, the makers were no less ardent in their search for top quality, traveling, for instance, to Switzerland to source zip fasteners that are burred and polished. However, they do not purchase elements such as the square zip tag ready-made from suppliers, but let them be produced by a German manufacturer after their own design, thus advancing the label’s own discreet microcode.

Each bag is made entirely by hand in the workshop belonging to father Tsatsas, who channels his over 30 years of experience as a craftsman into his son and daughter-in-law’s design project. Every bag bears the logo discreetly branded on the inside and is serially numbered; thus evincing the expertise in craftsmanship and design that flowed into making it. The designs are conceived and executed with the greatest care and attention, and that right down to the smallest detail. They radiate an elegance and incidental implicitness that makes them ideal companions for everyday life.

Only having launched their label as 2012 was drawing to a close, the Tsatsas have already been commissioned by design, fashion and lifestyle magazine Wallpaper* to design a trolley suitcase for this year’s edition of the “Wallpaper* Handmade” exhibition. And here too they certainly did not lose sight of their principles: Premiering at Milan Design Week in April 2013, the design for “Kage” is inspired by the leather chests that shaped travel in the late 19th century and exhibits flawless craftsmanship. Boasting clay-gray leather on the outside, on the interior the leather lining has a blue hue. And as with their other products, the layers of leather are held together with a single seam. The handmade brass handle takes up no space inside the suitcase – whose dimensions make it perfect for use as carry-on luggage – instead forming a striking, visual design element, which the user can simply fold down on the top when carrying. But the suitcase, which also displays the serial number 000127, is equally impressive with its reduced form, intelligent interior compartmentalization and cluster of intricate details that reveal its Tsatsas DNA, such as the polished zip fasteners and the characteristic square zip tab.

Each Tsatsas bag communicates its origins in the hands of designers and craftspeople who venture the risk to enter the market with products of the highest possible quality despite the long-standing role played by cheap goods from the Far East in shaping price expectations among consumers. For, of course, the high-quality products by Tsatsas come at a price. And naturally there are some who say that only established luxury brands can demand such prices. However, the duo behind the Tsatsas brand hope that there are people who can appreciate the heart’s blood, the passion for the material, the faultless craftsmanship and the sheer effort expended in search of such a striking, contemporary form that constitutes the backstory for each one of their products. There’s still time to secure one of the first of their kind. But soon – and here there is no doubt – you will be seeing Tsatsas bags on the books of the most prominent concept stores. One seam less than the rest can prove very convincing.
The “Niche” bag can be carried both in the hand and on the shoulder, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
Only the best high-quality aniline-dyed leather from certified tanneries is used for the bags, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
“Fluke” is made of shrunken New Zealand lamb nappa leather, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
Formal simplicity: The model “Lucid“, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
All Tsatsas bags are made entirely by hand in Germany, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
“Lucid Ninety“ of Lombardy calfskin, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
Each bag is marked with a serial number, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
“Xela“ remembers us on classic gym bags from our school years, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
Timeless elegance without traditional aesthetics: The “Lucid” bag, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
The first collection of the designer couple Tsatsas consists of six models, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
Down to the smallest detail: Swiss-made zip fasteners and specially designed zip tags are used for every product, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
Over 30 years of experience in craftsmanship distinguishes the atelier where the bags are produced, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
Because of their clear-cut forms, nearly all Tsatsas bags are unisex products, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
“Xela“ is made of really soft glove leather on the inside as well as on the outside, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
The trolley suitcase “Kage“, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
Laptop, magazines and the travel documents are easy accessible inside ”Kage“, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
“Kage“ was designed for the “Wallpaper* Handmade“ project which was presented in April 2013 in Milan, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
Clay-gray on the outside, pacific-blue on the inside: the suitcase is made completely out of leather, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
Three custom-fit bags serve as toilet case and storage for travel utensils, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
The handmade brass handle, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann
A smart solution: A simple mechanism transforms the suitcase in a pullable trolley, video © Gerhardt Kellermann
The combination of hand-crafted quality with straight, contemporary cuts characterizes also the trolley suitcase, photo © Gerhardt Kellermann