NOTE: After I wrote this I realized "Boy, this is a friggin' pitch." See definition number ten. But then I thought about it for a day or two, asked my wife about it and decided "Yes, its a pitch, but it is an honest pitch." I have no stake in the product or the company. I gain nothing from talking about it. And most importantly, this is a beautiful piece of work. I fashion myself as a woodworker and I truly love working with my hands. If I made something nice I'd love the feedback, so, pitch or not, here is my honest opinion.
I am working on a multi-post project called the List which will, hopefully, be a clearinghouse of information for people looking for gear from small, custom producers here in the US. When I mentioned that idea in a state of the blog address, Jazeps Tenis of Inkleaf Leather Co. contacted me and offered a Moleskine cover for review.
I am a lawyer and though I carry an iPhone to serve as my primary calendar, often times the judges want us to have physical calendars with us up at the bench for scheduling. Also, I really, really depend on my calendar so a physical backup is a requirement, at least for me. To that end I picked up a Moleskine about three years ago and I have had one, up to date, with me everyday since. It is one of the few items that I ALWAYS have with me at work. As the iPhone has received more legal focused apps the need to haul around a bunch of reference books has diminished, so I can get by with my iPhone, a pen (usually my modded Zebra F-701), and my Moleskine. It slides into my suit jacket pocket nicely and serves as a bit of protection for my iPhone. It also has a few business cards and a list of cases I use on a regular basis in it.
Lots of people know and love the utility of the Moleskine or similar styled black covered notebook calendar, but pretty much everyone laments its staid stylings and less than robust cover. I have never had a Moleskine last its entire life, all three of mine have fallen apart before their dates are all used up. I am brutal on my work gear, so I don't necessarily blame them, but they are not super robust.
Enter the Inkleaf Leather Moleskine Cover. Here is a picture of the version they sent me (the small in walnut):
Here is a shot of the cover when it is open:
The stitching, which is all done by hand, is absolutely gorgeous. The rivets are nice touch that keep the cover clearly in the "gender neutral" camp. The worked logo is even well done and thankfully placed on the interior of the cover. The pass through for the cover band is perfectly sized and works well.
I carried my moleskine in the cover for two weeks and it all but halted the wear and tear on the little calendar. Importantly, the calendar still slid into my suit jacket pocket. It is no longer jeans pocketable, but I don't wear jeans at work all that often. Overall, it work very well. Additionally when I took the calendar out for bench conferences, invariably I got a comment or two. It is an unmistakable touch of class.
The leather itself is of the highest quality, full grain leather (note: I made an error in the original post, it is FULL grain not TOP grain leather) 4-5 ounce from Hermann Oaks. The leather is vegetable tanned using natural tree extracts over a period of a month, compared to the "flash" tanning done using chrome and other modern chemicals. The result is some of the finest leather I have ever seen. My sister is a connoisseur of hand bags and recently got the famous Chanel handbag for Christmas. Suffice it to say, that bag is the Spy 007 of handbags. Even its supple leather was lacking when put up against this little gem. The Inkleaf cover was as clean as the Chanel leather, but it was somehow more solid, smooth, and hardy. The coloring is very even throughout.
I truly enjoyed carrying this beautiful piece of craftsmanship, a daily reminder that there are still people out there that are both skilled and work with their hands. It dressed up a piece of daily kit and made it easier and better to use. For $60 it seems impossible to imagine a scenario where it will last you less than 20 moleskine calendars, even the 18-month versions. Also, as a sample of Inkleaf's work, I think it demonstrates that they are players. Before the internet only huge companies could produce stuff this high quality and sell it to people. Now, with the power of direct marketing, companies like Inkleaf and Saddleback Leather can make stuff and get it to us without the costs of overhead in a store and a marketing campaign. I'd rather my money go to quality goods. Great product for a new company.
By way of comparison, the Inkleaf aesthetic seems a bit more architect and little less Indiana Jones when compared to the Saddleback vision. This is not to say one is better than the other, I just think that the Inkleaf bags have cleaner, quieter lines than the Saddleback stuff. It is a matter of preference.
By the way, Inkleaf is a husband and wife team that does all of the stitching, design, and leatherwork themselves. They are a perfect example of a small producer trying to connect with consumers through high quality products. Hopefully these are the kinds of companies that will turn things around in this dismal economy. If you are a Moleskine user, this is a great gift to receive in December. You might have to pull a Ralphie and tuck a print out of their website into your significant other's copy of Look magazine.
PS: Inkleaf was kind enough to let me give this piece of craftsmanship away. It will be added to the pot for the give away I am doing. It will be this, the "Midnight Mini Griptillian" (a custom all-black Mini Grip with S30V steel and a thumbhole), and a few other things that I am not at liberty to reveal just yet. Once the Adsense money reaches the $140 mark, I am going to announce the contest and pick a winner. Here are more details. We are at about $47 bucks right now after 3 months of ads (which I hope aren't too intrusive).