Leather Jacket Transformation
Designer: Randa Roberts
Hello! I’m Randa Roberts of So Comfy Designs. Maybe you’ve seen some of the projects and work I’ve shared with OLFA, but if you haven’t, my specialty is upcycling. Specifically upcycling leather jackets into custom crossbody bags.
I often get asked how I started doing this, and the short answer is that I got an idea, purchased a leather jacket from a thrift store, and started designing very simple styles. Through social media and word of mouth, I started getting requests from local customers who wanted to turn their old leather jackets into custom crossbody’s, and they haven’t stopped coming. That was back in 2014, and now I proudly describe myself as a self-taught "Bagineer".
I must admit, I’m very excited to write this blog series for OLFA and share my creative process, from selection to finishing touches, and how my OLFA tools play an instrumental role in every step! It’s very hard to capture it all when I’m busy working with clients to design their custom bags, so this chance to slow down and document it is very welcome. I’ll also be sharing some tips and tricks I’ve learned and developed over the years that I hope will help and inspire you to look at a jacket a little differently.
The first step is finding a leather jacket. Maybe for you that means checking your closets at home because you might have one sitting there, ready for a new purpose. For me though, that means a trip to my local thrift shops.*
Over the years I’ve worked with zebra, goat, and even eel leather. These exotic types of leather are very soft and thin, yet still are durable and long lasting. The most common leather used in jackets and clothing comes from cow hide because it’s tough, durable, and affordable.
Those have always been a favorite of mine to cut and sew, and there are many to be found in thrift shops across the world. You can often find the type of leather used on inside materials labels, but not reliably because sometimes they’ve been removed or have worn out. You just want to check labels for “100% Genuine Leather”.
Now, lets go shopping.
After a quick browse in the women’s section (closest to the front door) I found 3 jackets that I wanted to give a second look at.
The red jacket jumped out, the green one pulled me in, and a classic soft black will always get a second look from me. These three jackets ranged in price from $12 - $17, which I feel is a reasonable price for raw materials. Lets have a closer look at them:
- Great color and condition
- Beautiful Color-matched metal zipper to repurpose
- Zippered pockets that I could incorporate into the design of the bag
- Leather is stiff, not supple at all
- Small, cropped style, not a ton of usable leather
- So soft, excellent condition, beautiful trendy color
- Made in Canada!
- Large size
- Non-metal zipper - that is all. I love this jacket!
Black Danier Leather Jacket:
- Lots of leather
- Reputable leather brand (in Canada)
- Nice long metal zipper
- Extra worn out, tired leather
Three choices, with a clear winner (green!) but before I make my final decision, I had to stroll through the men's section. There are always large sizes and a variety of styles to check out.
Wait, what’s THIS?
Being from a border town in Ontario, Canada, right between Detroit and Toronto, this caught my attention. Hockey fans will get it right away.
Well, a quick google search revealed that there is in fact a Toronto Red Wings Hockey Club, and one of their jackets ended up at my local Value Village. After a giggle, I realized that the leather had a rich color, visible grain, luxurious look and feel, beautiful brass zippers, and there was a lot of it. It’s the type that gets softer as it gets worn in. Plus, it came with a backstory. It’s an upcycled Toronto Red Wings jacket!
I’m sorry green, I’ve found my winner. So I bought this jacket, which was about $10 more than the other jackets I’d seen, and started to get some ideas for what style to create. Structured? Hobo fringe? Fold-over? This leather would be perfect for all of them.
When I work one on one designing custom bags, I have to ask some questions such as:
- “What do you carry every day?”
- “How many pockets would you love?”
- “What side do you wear your bag on?”
- “What’s your ideal style? Can you show me a picture of a bag you love?”
- “Is there anything I could add that would make your purse even more useful?”
These are all important to consider if you have the opportunity to have a custom made bag. I’ll be thinking about all of those questions as I decide on a style of bag to create for this blog.
I hope you’ll join me next month to see which style(s) I’ll be making, and go behind the ‘seams’ as I take the jacket apart and start cutting out the shell and lining. I’m also sharing a few of my secret tips for sewing zippered pockets. I can’t wait to show you how easy my OLFA tools make that process. Thank you for reading and joining me in my process!
One last look at the ‘Before’….
*I am not affiliated with Value Village or any other thrift shop. I just enjoy shopping there.