Leather Master-ji

EhsaanLeather Master-ji

Deconstruct to
reconstruct

In 2014, Ehsaan bhai, a factory unit’s sample maker with five years of experience, was called upon to realise the prototype for an Italian company’s Spring-Summer collection of women’s leather handbags. All he was given were reference pictures. A team from Italy was also sent to guide him on how to deconstruct patterns and cut neatly for each bag.

The first lesson lasted half a day, where Ehsaan bhai patiently observed the construction of a hobo bag with myriad tools used by the Italians. Then, it was Ehsaan bhai’s turn. The Italian team was awed by his skill, for he finished constructing the bag in one-third the time, with one-third the tools.

Ehsaan bhai’s story is quintessentially one of frugality and a clever application of skill, honed by many years of practice. Beginning work at a very young age, Ehsaan bhai laboured in varying capacities. He has experienced what it's like to be a ‘typical factory worker’, engaged in repeatedly performing the same task—whether glueing elements together or stitching one piece of a handle—day in and day out. Eager to learn further, Ehsaan bhai went on to apprentice, without pay, as a pattern cutter at an export house where he slowly developed an in-depth knowledge of the technicalities involved.

Today, he proudly claims to be able to deconstruct the patterns of any stitched item by merely looking at its photograph. While others require a compass to make perfect circles, Ehsaan bhai uses his well-trained eyes and a free hand. Despite an early onset of Parkinson's that now makes his hands shake, his years of experience and love for the craft never seem to fail him. With China pulling most leather production jobs from Western Europe, Ehsaan bhai worries about the future of Kolkata’s leather industry—its tanneries and factories. His hope remains for his children to go on and become engineers or accountants. Inshallah!

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