“Leather, with its rugged feel, is arguably the material of choice for barbecue fans.”
“DelVache is our brand specializing in personalized, high-quality leather aprons. We firmly believe that leather inherently provides a durable solution. For example, real protection against fire is very important. This preference for flawless aesthetics ensures that gowns not only meet functional needs but also complement the overall ambiance of various environments. The same level of personalization is applied to our table mats; “Whether you want a custom shape or a tasteful engraving, we are committed to creating something truly extraordinary for you.”
Magazine Leather We are happy to introduce today’s technology and design about leather aprons within the scope of traditional Saddlery products to you, our valued readers, in our interview with DelVache Company with our slogan “All about leather”.
Can we get to know DelVache company?
DelVache’s adventure started early 2020 and was founded by a group of best friends with a friendship spanning over 30 years. The genesis of our story lies with Gunther, a barbecue enthusiast since 2018, who, dissatisfied with the options available on the market, embarked on the journey to create premium leather aprons. The existing products lacked either the desired quality or a touch of style.
As a company owner and entrepreneur, Gunther, equipped with state-of-the-art machinery, including a substantial laser machine like the Trotec SP2000, decided to experiment by cutting and engraving leather. Although the initial results were not flawless, they showed promise, prompting further exploration. Encouraging his friends to join him in this new venture, DelVache was born.
DelVache stands as our brand specializing in personalized, high-quality leather aprons. From the outset, we committed ourselves to prioritize both quality and style. If you seek a supple apron crafted from quality leather with a touch of elegance, DelVache is the destination. For those desiring the pinnacle of customization, inquire about adding a unique personalization to your apron.
While many of our aprons are crafted as unique pieces, often chosen as gifts, we’ve also gained traction among professionals, selling to restaurants and other businesses. The demand for aprons across various industries has revealed the substantial market potential. Additionally, we extend our expertise to create aprons for other brands.
In essence, DelVache is not just a brand; it’s a commitment to excellence, blending quality, style, and personalization for aprons that stand out in a diverse market.
As said in the preceding paragraph, our initial focus was primarily on crafting aprons tailored for barbecue enthusiasts. In recent years, there has been a surge in interest in barbecues and outdoor kitchen experiences. And when we think about outdoor cooking & fire, often evoke images of men. Despite our early intentions to include women in our business model, it became evident that leather wasn’t the preferred material for female apron wearers. Women expressed concerns about the weight and sturdiness of leather aprons, and the inability to machine-wash them further deterred interest.
Contrarily, the association of leather with barbecue culture is deeply ingrained in the male psyche. When envisioning a person at a barbecue, the stereotypical image often involves a robust, bearded man handling a fire with a beer in hand and wielding a substantial fork. While this might sound cliché, several visits to barbecue festivals solidified this perception.
Leather, with its raw and rugged aura, is undeniably the material of choice for barbecue fans. It embodies the expectations associated with someone tending to a fire pit. In the testosteron filled realm of aprons and barbecues, leather stands out as the sole material people consider. As we expanded our target audience to include various businesses, we observed a widespread appreciation for leather aprons in diverse sectors. Interestingly, in these non-barbecue settings, women exhibit a newfound openness to the idea of wearing aprons, especially when presented with a stylish, supple, and lightweight model.
What are the important details in using leather aprons? Also in terms of leather selection or color selection.
When considering many purchases, including aprons, you must determine whether you prefer a durable, long-lasting approach or a more budget-friendly option that may need replacement sooner for a change in style or color. Leather, a material with a range of costs, is available in both inexpensive and high-end varieties. The majority of aprons on the market use cheaper leather, as it tends to sell more easily.
Upon establishing DelVache, our commitment to quality, durability, and comfort guided our choices. Consequently, we exclusively use quality grain and full-grain leather. Our apron collection includes both aniline-finished and pigmented leather. The use of aniline finish in barbecue aprons sets us apart, as most other brands emphasize stain resistance to their customers.
Contrary to the prevailing belief that barbecue fans prioritize stain protection, we found that many actually embrace the gradual patina that develops over time, serving as a testament to the numerous barbecue parties they’ve hosted. A significant portion of our clientele appreciates the natural and authentic touch of an aniline finish.
However, practical considerations come into play in specific settings. In upscale establishments like fancy restaurants or chocolate boutiques, where a pristine appearance is paramount, we recommend pigmented leather. The pigmented leather used in our barbecue aprons achieves a natural look and supple feel. Locating the ideal tannery for this particular leather involved an extensive search, but ultimately, we secured exactly what we envisioned. Given the myriad types of leathers and finishes available, it may take some time to pinpoint the material that aligns with your preferences.
When it comes to colors, the intended use of the apron makes a significant difference. For instance, establishments like Nespresso would likely favor a uniform color over a washed-out or cloudy effect. The visual presentation in such high-end shops often demands a polished and consistent appearance to align with the brand’s image. This preference for a pristine aesthetic further underscores the importance of selecting the right leather type and finish, ensuring that the aprons not only meet functional needs but also complement the overall ambiance of diverse settings.
Leather aprons used in industry and various environments have been used as methods of protection since the past, but in this case, which types of leather are used for durability?
We firmly believe that leather inherently provides a durable solution. The critical distinction lies in how well the leather ages and the level of comfort it offers when worn. We acknowledge that cheaper ‘genuine’ leather often feels akin to cardboard, lacking the supple sensation characteristic of high-quality leather. However, even within grain leathers, there exist substantial differences in finishes.
For instance, consider the scenario of welding, where genuine protection against fire is paramount. In such cases, the priority is functionality over aesthetics, and individuals may accept that the leather is heavier and more rigid for the sake of genuine fire resistance.
Conversely, envision the excitement of acquiring a new, expensive, and stylish barbecue. In this context, the desire is not only for protection but also for the apron to enhance one’s appearance, mirroring the coolness of the iron pit. The emphasis shifts towards a blend of functionality and aesthetics, where the apron becomes a stylish accessory complementing the overall experience.
Do you use specific designs for your customers’ apron selection? Or can designs be shaped according to the customer’s wishes?
Let’s delve into what truly sets us apart from our competitors. Four years ago, we embarked on this venture with minimal knowledge about leather and the intricate art of cutting it. While we hold immense respect for the traditional and time-honored methods of working with leather, our entry into the industry was facilitated by a single, formidable asset — a substantial laser machine at our disposal.
Once we mastered the capabilities of this magical machine, it transformed our approach. Our design process unfolds seamlessly on the computer through Adobe Illustrator and Coreldraw. Once the design reaches completion, a swift transfer to our laser cutter initiates the cutting process within minutes. This eliminates the need for the laborious and expensive process of ordering dies for the click press.
While the click press remains the most economical solution for substantial quantities, our niche lies in catering to smaller batches. And in many cases even unique pieces.
We’ve tailored our designs for a diverse range of individuals, accommodating the unique needs of basketball players towering over 2m and individuals measuring 1m60 while weighing 160kg. Our versatility extends not only to design adaptation but also to cost-effectiveness, proving that we can deliver tailored solutions without breaking the bank.
Do you have any other products other than aprons?
Under our DelVache brand, our primary focus lies in crafting aprons, encompassing both full-length and waist-down styles (particularly popular in the restaurant industry). Occasionally, we venture into creating novel items, often catering to specific requests. A example is the ‘Barbecue Survival Kit’ a pouch equipped with a small bottle, designed to be attached to aprons or belts. This ingenious addition has found widespread popularity within the barbecue community, enhancing the ritual of fire cooking with the convenience of carrying drinks. But we showcase this product mainly to show what we can do. Companies can come to us with requests to make something similar, but with their dimensions and styling. We draw and we execute.
As our expertise, knowledge of leatherworking, and network within the realm of quality leather have matured over the years, our capabilities have expanded. This evolution prompted the creation of a new brand: DelAranda. Under DelAranda, we specialize in crafting exquisite (recycled) leather placemats, desk mats, and various products tailored for the leather industry, cut and shaped to meet our clients’ unique requirements.
Have you ever noticed the mismatch between round tables in restaurants and the square placemats often placed upon them? Recognizing this incongruity, we provide elegant solutions, ensuring that our placemats seamlessly fit any table shape. The same level of customization is extended to our desk mats whether you desire a special shape or a tasteful engraving, we are dedicated to creating something truly exceptional for you.
What are your expectations from the markets in general?
Navigating the market is undoubtedly challenging, particularly when confronted with the low prices from some mass-producing competitors. The difficulty lies in distinguishing the quality of leather, which may not be readily apparent in pictures. It’s all too easy to create aesthetically pleasing images, even for aprons of subpar quality. With the added use of Photoshop to enhance appearances, customers can inadvertently be misled. In today’s predominantly online shopping landscape, where decisions are often based on images, disappointments upon receiving a cheap apron at home are unfortunately common.
While we’re gradually making our entry into physical shops, this transition necessitates a significant investment in sales teams to cultivate this market. In a brick-and-mortar setting, customers can immediately comprehend why some of our aprons are priced higher than the competition. I firmly believe that shops should adopt a tiered categorization system for customer convenience, offering options across different quality levels: low quality, midrange, and premium. This way, customers have the autonomy to choose based on their preferences and priorities.
Do you have a market all over Europe?
At this moment, our primary market presence is in Belgium and France, but our aprons have found homes in numerous countries. Did I mention that we are doing this as a side activity? Meaning we have a full time and also very challenging job next to this! We work for DelVache in the evenings and weekends.. Consequently, our efforts for DelVache unfold during evenings and weekends. While this approach might not result in the rapid growth seen in companies where owners dedicate all their time, it comes with a distinctive advantage we’re not reliant on it for our livelihoods just yet.
From day one, our outlook has been positive, and although our growth is gradual, we’ve sustained this venture solely through reinvesting our earnings. This deliberate and measured approach aligns with our commitment to building a sustainable and resilient business.
What are the challenging stages when implementing the business with your team in the leather and leather products profession?
Believe it or not, most of our aprons are still crafted by our own hands, during our evenings and weekends. Cutting, engraving, and riveting these tasks may not require advanced leather skills, but they demand focus and precision. After all, quality leather comes at a price, and mistakes can be costly.
Recently, we’ve welcomed assistance from my associate’s son and his girlfriend, and it’s starting to feel like a family business. The young man, having just completed a Master’s in engineering, brings valuable skills in software drawings and adept handling of the laser machine.
Yet, like in most starting (little) companies, there’s something equally crucial to skills. And that is ‘trust’. Allow me to illustrate the significance of trust with a seemingly simple task: rough cutting aprons from a large hide to prepare them for refined laser cutting.
From the start, we decided to craft our aprons from single pieces, valuing the elegance of a seamless design over what we term ‘Frankenstein’ aprons. However, the challenge lies in the size of the pieces needed, as larger pieces result in more losses on a hide due to imperfections that must be avoided. On average, we’ve calculated that each apron requires about 1m². This means that from a 4m² hide, we typically cut four aprons. With puzzling and some time to reorder our cardboard molds, we sometimes manage to extract five aprons from the same 4m² hide, depending on its characteristics.
So, this task requires a delicate balance in deciding how much time to invest in puzzling to maximize apron yield versus labour cost. Also, for some imperfections, we need to decide if this will be accepted by the client or not. So, this ‘simple’ task of rough cutouts before the lasering has a big influence on our margins in the end.
The same goes for the handling of the laser. There are many variables to take into account when defining the correct laser settings. When you forget something or upload a wrong drawing, the impact can be important.
I know that every company faces these kind of decision making. Hiring employees and give away some control. At this moment, we are very close to have to make those decisions.
Finally, what would you like to say to people who have devoted themselves to the profession?
Similar to many other professions rooted in ancient techniques, leatherworking is undergoing rapid evolution. New machines and methodologies are swiftly supplanting practices that have endured for centuries. In this dynamic landscape, my best advice is to invest a substantial portion of your time exploring the latest and most efficient techniques available on platforms like YouTube. Relying solely on seasoned leatherworking masters, while valuable, may not encompass the cutting-edge methods emerging in the field.
Consider online tutorials as a godsend. What once took years to acquire in terms of specific knowledge can now be mastered in just a few minutes, provided you find the right tutorial. Always prioritize enhancing efficiency and accuracy. In our highly competitive market, your competitors can surge ahead unexpectedly, leaving you a few steps behind before you even realize. While tradition holds significance for many leatherworkers, if your aim is to make a living from this craft, it’s imperative to board the technology train and remain on course. Embracing advancements ensures that you not only stay relevant but also thrive in an industry that continually evolves.
As Magazine Leather, thank you very much for the valuable information you provided.