FASHION Sibirien Stockholm’s leather accessories are luxurious and sustainably sourced, but it’s the individual care by its founder that makes them truly special, writes Jack Yan
Photographed by Petter Backlund
Jack Yan is publisher of Lucire.
Daniel Ankarstrand’s Sibirien Stockholm label, named for an area in the Swedish capital’s inner city once considered isolated, is an example of a brand that came into being through the tenacity and determination of its founder.
Self-taught, with an obsessive attention to detail, Sibirien Stockholm offers luxury wallets, watch straps, and a bum bag among its designs, and its website describes them as being ‘made from sweat and tears’. They will accept commissions for bespoke products. The materials are sustainable, with Ankarstrand opting for salmon leather from Nordic farms that has been tanned in Iceland, and chèvre and calf leather from family-owned tanneries in France.
Launched in 2016, Ankarstrand had spent many years before that learning and honing his craft.
‘It started with an Ipad case I received as a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law in 2011. It didn’t suit me, so instead of just getting another, I wondered how difficult it would be to make one myself,’ he recalls.
To learn the craft, Ankarstrand read extensively, and watched videos online to see how professionals worked with leather. ‘I was instantly obsessed with the craftsmanship and put an incredible amount of time refining my techniques. I spent several months sewing stitches before I even made my first product. I wanted the slope and length of the stitches to be perfect. When I felt I could sew, I went over to make the edges perfect. My wife usually tells me how I lay and felt and inspected the edges I made during the day before I fell asleep. It was almost like a state of “illness”.’ Two-and-a-half years later, his label was born.
Originally, Ankarstrand saw Sibirien Stockholm as an upcycling label, using crocodile leather. ‘I started buying old portfolio bags at [Swedish second-hand chain] Myrorna that I sewed into phone and Ipad cases. Then I went on to buy old crocodile bags to make high-end watch straps. The watch industry is quite conservative and I wanted to bring in a fresher alternative.
‘Unfortunately, rules and bureaucracy put on the brakes. In order to recycle crocodile products in Sweden, you must prove that they were manufactured before March 3, 1947. This is to prevent sales of non-CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora]-labelled goods to flourish, which is a good thing, but it was completely impossible to get hold of bags with the receipt inside from [before] 1947.’ Ankarstrand also felt that going back to making products from portfolio bags wasn’t an option by now, as they wouldn’t have the quality he sought.
He was determined to stick with ethical sourcing, and came across salmon leather accidentally. After ordering some samples, he fell in love with the material immediately.
‘Salmon leather is a fantastic material æsthetically and it is a byproduct of the fishing industry. The leather comes from fish farms in the North Sea and much of the Icelandic coast, and is then tanned by an Icelandic tanner. The leather is incredibly sustainable and durable as the fibres cross each other, compared to “plain” leather, whose fibres go lengthwise like wood. At the same time it is incredibly thin, so it has to be lined with another material inside. The leather has almost the same feel as suede with the character of snakeskin, but a more irregular pattern,’ he says.
Ankarstrand says he is proud to work with an exotic leather that is entirely Scandinavian produced.
He makes everything himself at his studio in Sibirien, and takes his time to get it right. ‘I do not want to compromise on quality just to sell more products at a lower price.’ A Sibirien Stockholm piece is special, something where the artisan’s hand has had a real input. The watch straps, for instance, might look simple, but they present some of the toughest challenges for Ankarstrand: ‘It is so incredibly precise as it’s so small. There is no margin for error.’ The bum bag, which appears on Sibirien Stockholm’s website but not in its regular catalogue, is the most complex product he has so far produced. Ankarstrand has has made a portfolio bag, too, but it was strictly to practise his techniques, and took several weeks to complete.
His favourite is the waist bag. ‘I see it as a sculpture hanging over the chest. It is interesting with a functional product that has been so out of fashion for many years, and is now super-trendy.’ To reconnect to the idea of function, Ankarstrand purposely uses a plastic buckle for the waist bag.
In spring 2019, Ankarstrand expects to release more small leather accessories, at at least one bag. The release schedule is dependent on the commissions he gets, and presently he has plenty of special orders to complete. That influences his availability to do new designs. But, like any true artisan, Ankarstrand persists in his own time, having found a passion for well designed leathercrafts that happen to be on-trend and sustainable, too. •
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