For the love of leather
How Naresh Kumar is making a mark one stitch at a time
In a city filled with big brand names like Gucci, Versace and Louis Vuitton, it can sometimes feel stifling. The options seem varied at first glance, the brands are synonymous with luxury and high-end fashion, but even men at some point need to own something that no one else owns. Isn't that the point of fashion? To be different, to stand out in a crowd of the well-dressed, identically polished, fashionable set of Dubai?
This is the exact reason why when we come across something bespoke, tailored, handcrafted, locally made, we can't help but think - Finally someone has opened the windows and we can breath a little through the smog of international commercial brands and mass production.
That's why you need to take notice of locally based brand 24th Street by Naresh Kumar. It's one of the few brands that offer a completely bespoke approach to designing your accessories from bags, card holders, wallets, lap top sleeves and more.
"24th Street is a bespoke luxury leather goods company. It's for the individual who has a distinctive style and taste," Naresh told City Times. "We combine design and craftsmanship with the finest materials to make luxury leather goods that not only look great but are functional," he added.
Naresh left the world of advertising, where he worked as an Associate Creative Director, for the love of leather. Since then, 24th Street and its products has been his main focus. We spoke with Naresh about leaving the advertising world to follow his passion, the importance of handcrafted material and the design world in Dubai.
Was it a difficult decision to leave your full time job to work on 24th Street?
Yes, apart from the safety and comfort, advertising is something I love. Leaving one passion for another was a difficult decision. This being said, I have been in the advertising world my entire adult life and wanted to take my love for leather further, giving it full attention. I am someone who can't live with 'what-ifs' so I knew it was now or never!
Where do you get inspiration for your designs from?
My father is my biggest influence for the craftsmanship that goes into 24th Street. He used to make knives as a hobby - I remember him sharpening and polishing his knives religiously every week. For my products, I draw inspiration from classic traditional leather goods, but play with material and colour to give the item a more up-to-date look; a makeover of sorts. I strongly believe that every single detail adds to the overall design of the product, hence even for the thread I offer over 14 colour options.
Can you describe the design industry in Dubai?
I honestly feel the region is slowly getting the recognition it deserves internationally. When I'm on vacation in Singapore, friends actually ask me about certain artists and designers from Dubai. This wasn't the case five years back when I moved here. And there is a lot of support locally as well with spaces and events for the art and design crowd.
What are the biggest obstacles you faced starting your own brand?
It's something I brought upon myself. Being very detail oriented, I work on everything myself. All my products are hand stitched by me, which is very time consuming. The one step I have taken towards overcoming an obstacle is with the leather - I used to dye all the leather myself but with time some colours stood out as being more popular so I started getting predyed leather from my supplier. I still do hand dye when a client has something very particular in mind. But the rest of the process is pretty much the same.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking of starting up their own creative brand or business?
I'd say take a leap of faith and experiment as much as possible. And ask me again in a year.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
By discovering new techniques, materials and designs and taking on some challenging pieces. I just delivered a cross-body bag, aside from being one of the bigger items I've made, it was also the most challenging as the client picked a vintage ostrich for the sides and I had to dye the main body to match the tones. And to give it a pop of colour, I lined the inside with Prussian blue suede. I'm always learning something with each piece I make.
Where can we buy your designs?
Everything is made to order. I usually meet my clients with leather swatches, thread options and with my guidance, we design and a make a quick sketch what they'd like. It's just like getting a bespoke suit made. I like keeping it personal for now. You can visit 24thStreet.co to learn more about the brand and there's also a full page there detailing the process of getting a bespoke item made.