Handcrafted wallets and bags made from exquisite vegetable leather made right here in Australia and better yet surrounded by the beautiful landscapes of Tasmania, Henk Berg Leather brings to you, our Life Instyle visitors an incredible range of fashion accessories that won’t even have time to be sitting on your retail shelves before they are snapped up by your customers. Durable and on trend make sure you meet the team from Henk Berg leather at Life Instyle Melbourne to get your hands on their unmissable designs.
Life Instyle: What is the 15 second elevator pitch that defines your business?
Henk Berg is renowned for high quality vegetable-tanned leather goods that are durable, functional and timeless. Our products are proudly designed in Tasmania by the same founding family and handcrafted globally by skilled small-scale craftspeople.
Life Instyle: The theme for Life InStyle Melbourne this season is Return to the Source, what does this mean to you and how did your story begin?
Return to the source to us means understanding the story behind the people and their products.
Henk Berg Leather began as a one-man workshop in Tasmania more than 35 years ago by my father. Dutch-born craftsman Henk van den Berg. He sought to provide discerning individuals living in a ‘throw away society’ with leather products that would last.
When dad started the business, it was a one-man operation, but as demand for his bags grew he could no longer keep up with demand so he sought out skilled craftspeople. It was important to ensure the bags were handmade rather than churned out by a factory in order to retain the quality that Henk Berg was known for. We have worked for many years side by side with the same talented team of small -scale, skilled craftspeople.
Growing up I was always immersed in the family business. It was always hoped that the business would stay in the family. So when it came time for my father to retire my husband and I left our corporate jobs and carry on the legacy.
Life Instyle: Where do you find inspiration?
Our island home of Tasmania is our inspiration. From the ancient trees in our beautiful old growth forests to the endless white sands and giant red rocks on the coast, our southern state is one of the most diverse and incredible places to live.
There is a reason why so many amazing products are designed and produced on this little island of ours- this environment breeds creativity.
The beauty and ruggedness of the natural environment and its climate, the stillness of the state and the authenticity of Tasmanians is what inspires our designs, which are known for being minimalist, functional and timeless.
Life Instyle: What was your biggest challenge when starting your business and how did you overcome it?
Like most family businesses there is never a clear delineation between work and leisure time. When you are passionate about what you do, you want to be the best you can. Let’s face it most of us could work 24/7 and it still wouldn’t be enough. So for us, our biggest challenge is to achieve some degree of work/life balance- particularly as we have three children under five!
After learning this the hard way, we have now applied some structure around where and what we spend time on, and, in what order. Sometimes it will as simple as saying it’s 6pm let’s turn the phone and computer off, have a wine and not talk about the business. And it works (most of the time!).
Life Instyle: What was your best YAY US! moment?
Fortunately for us our ‘yay’ moments are frequent, it’s one of the reasons we love what we do. We get a real buzz when a customer comes back 20 years after they bought one of our bags with it still proudly slung across their shoulder.
Or when a new customer who has bought a bag online takes the time to email us to say that it is more beautiful than they could have imagined and that even though we have never met them, we made them feel special and valued because of our impeccable customer service.
Another moment that always leads us to literally say ‘yah!’ is when we see Crown Princess Mary of Denmark ( who is also Tasmanian) spotted out and about with one of our beautiful leather clutches.
Life Instyle: What advice would you give to a new designer/retailer reading this post?
It’s all about relationships, whether it’s with your suppliers, makers or customers. Listen to what people want, keep in touch, don’t loose your integrity and never compromise on quality.
Love what you do, have confidence in your product and remember that success that lasts a lifetime takes high quality products, hard work, passion and dedication.
Life Instyle: Where do you see the future of retail heading?
Shopping online was not heard of a decade ago, whereas now it is commonplace. As a society we have become busier than ever before. Customers expect businesses to have professional online systems that allow them to shop with ease whenever they choose. Social media means customers are more empowered and educated than ever before. They can do research, buy products and give instant feedback with a few keyboard strokes or a swipe of their phone.
We believe this growth will continue, but that there will always be a place for bricks and mortar retail. Nothing rivals the tactile experience of being able to touch, feel and even smell a product.
We find customers almost unconsciously reaching out and touching our soft leather bags or slinging them over their shoulder.
We also believe that as shopping moves into the virtual world, exceptional customer service and a personal connection with brands will become even more important. It must be an essential part of any business strategy, whether it be online or in store.
Life Instyle: What would a tarot card reader find in your future?
They would find a family business that has continued to grow, but remained true to its values.
We believe growth should be sustainable and it should never compromise your core values be that of work or family/life.
Life Instyle: How has your business grown over time?
Henk Berg Leather started as a one-man workshop on the Island of Tasmania more than 35 years ago.
Now the business has moved onto the second generation of the same founding family. It has grown into a thriving business, supplying amazing leather products to wholesale, retail and online customers.
Life Instyle: What should our visitors be expecting to see from your brand at Life Instyle Melbourne 2016?
Our latest range of timeless handcrafted leather backpacks, folios, messenger bags, totes, wallets and purses.
We exclusively use the ancient technique of vegetable tanning to help tell the story of the leather by allowing the individual grains of the hide to shine through. It also helps the leather retain its inherent softness and strength.
Each of our products is made by hand and is unique. We can’t wait to share them with you!
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