Originally conceived as a way of mimicking the natural patinas leather goods accumulate over years of use, the process of dying is transformed into an art form by D’Alembert. Their unique wallets are instantly set apart by hand painted finishes that elevate decoration to an entirely new level.
Starting with the finest French calfskin and carefully apply dyes, creams, pigments, and waxes, a captivating effect is created that brings out the leather’s natural detail and beauty. And, because each wallet is hand dyed, each has a unique finish, often striking itself, that is rarely seen on leather goods. Our wallet, the Diderot, is truly unique in it’s deep vermilion red finish and the exacting craftsmanship is yet another hallmark of this brand’s obsessive attention to detail.
Their wallets are compact and elegantly simple. However, that apparent simplicity is deceiving. We have a host of credit cards, identification, insurance cards,and a business card or two in ours and the wallet’s smart design allows for real-world use. The spine is wider than it appears, which allows the wallet to easily close without bulging when full. As you use your D’Alembert wallet, the leather softens and conforms to its contents even more.
Of course, it all starts with selecting the right leather. Most leather is typically tanned using chemicals and then finished by applying a pigmented surface coating (typically a polymer) to the skin. While this technique is relatively simple and inexpensive, more often than not it imparts a plastic and unnatural texture to the leather.
D’Alembert uses calfskin from France that is preserved using natural tannins, but otherwise is left unfinished. Because the leather is unfinished, D’Alembert’s artisans have almost total control in finishing it themselves. Instead of using pigments, which coat and cover the leather’s surface, they employ special dyes that penetrate into the leather, thus preserving its natural feel.
Their calfskin is also ideal because it contains very few flaws that could inhibit the dying process. Additionally, the hides used by D’Alembert are very sturdy. In fact, leather of this quality is typically used for products that undergo large amounts of strain and wear, such as bespoke men’s shoes, and is rarely seen in smaller leather goods.
All of the dye colors are hand mixed in D’Alembert’s workshop in order to control the delicate process and achieve the desired hue. When dying the leather, a variety of colors and shades are used to bring depth, contrast, and dimension to the wallet.
Typically, the artists paint in a manner that mimics the leather’s natural patinas, which take years of use to achieve. However, they also use artistic license to brings a pleasing and unique sense of movement to each wallet.
In order to achieve such a desired effect, the dying stage usually involves six carefully painted coats.
However, this method of dying is often unpredictable. It is a common challenge as leather is a natural substance and one never knows what will happen or how the dye will react. Therefore, it becomes a delicate dance between the artist and the leather; sometimes the artist leads the leather, but sometimes the leather leads the artist. You may wish to push the leather in the direction of your vision, but you also have to go where the leather takes you. The end result of this highly personal, and personalized, process are leather goods with true character.
At this point, the leather is nourished and conditioned by massaging a variety of creams and oils into the wallet. Depending on the individual patina, colored creams are sometimes applied to add further movement and variation.
The final stage of the process is waxing the wallet. By rubbing wax into the leather and then buffing it away, they are able to achieve a high shine that gives the wallet a glassy, ethereal look, while at the same time protecting it from the elements.
Because of the extreme complexity inherent in this type of leather work, the artists of D’Alembert had to travel to Europe for research and training, including studying old leather-working texts dating back several centuries.
D’Alembert’s totally unique hand painted leather wallets are remarkable and unlike anything out there in the world of men’s furnishings. OTC highly recommends this distinctive brand.