Graphic designer turns scraps into gifts and custom-made products

Hard at work: Leong sewing a pouch at his workshop. He also makes handbags from leather scraps. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

JOHOR BARU: What started out as a way of impressing his wife soon turned into a full-time career for a 47-year-old man who produces handmade products from leather scraps.

Leong Sai Pial, a graphic design graduate and car modification enthusiast, said he initially took discarded car leather seat scraps from his friend’s workshop that were still in good condition and sewed them into purses and handbags for his wife as gifts.

“I picked up the skill for fun about seven years ago while I was teaching photography and designing.

“Five years ago, I decided to go into it full-time because I found it meaningful to turn someone’s trash into treasure for others.

“Giving the discarded leather a new life is also a way of helping to cut down waste, ” he said when interviewed at his workshop tucked within a car accessory shop in Jalan Seroja 39, Taman Johor Jaya, here.

Leong said his first marketing strategy was targeted at women but unexpectedly, the majority of his customers turned out to be men looking for custom-made leather products.

“They prefer leather goods because they find them practical and durable. They also find it a hassle to keep replacing old ones, ” he said.

“The leather I use, although scraps, is of high quality and heat and water resistant.

“I also use nylon threads that are usually used to sew firemen’s uniforms in the United States and heavy-duty zips to ensure that I offer quality products to my customers.”

The father of two said a small purse takes about three hours to produce and he typically spends about nine hours daily at his workshop.

Since the first movement control order was enforced in March last year, he lost customers from Singapore.

“Although it is a laborious job and requires a lot of patience and concentration, I find great satisfaction in producing items such as oven mitts, belts, aprons, cigarette pouches, coin purses, key chains and more from scratch by using discarded leather pieces, ” he said, adding that he hopes to design and make leather shoes soon as it has always been his dream.

“I also hope to conduct my own handicraft class in future to teach people the joys of producing items with our own hands.

“I find that youth these days lack the patience and appreciation for such things, ” he said.

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leather , handmade , trash , handicrafts , johor , leong sai pial


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