Tsatsas was founded by Esther Schulze-Tsatsas and Dimitrios Tsatsas in Frankfurt in 2012, though its story began nearly 30 years ago in the leather workshop of Dimitrios’ father in nearby Offenbach. ‘I always liked to be in my father’s workshop’, recalls Dimitrios. ‘He would draw a butterfly on a piece of wood, but instead of pencils he would give us pieces of leather to fill the spaces. His approach to teaching was always playful.’ 

Dimitrios had no doubt that he would follow in his father’s footsteps, but Tsatsas senior asked his son to go and see the world before committing to leatherwork. Dimitrios graduated in industrial design, then joined a creative agency, where he met the architect Esther Schulze, now his wife and business partner. After a decade working in architecture and design, the pair decided they wanted to do something more hands-on. But it wasn’t until Dimitrios realised that there was no bag on the market that he wanted to buy that he decided to make his own, and turned to his father for help. It took three years before he arrived at the perfect match of function, aesthetics and execution.

The meticulously crafted ‘Lucid’ bag set the quality benchmark for the Tsatsas collection to come. ‘At the time we didn’t have money for enough material, so we started to take out parts from “Lucid” [prototypes] to build new designs. One bag was left with just one handle and we hung it on the wall for months; the leather on the front started to drape and our second design, “Fluke”, was born,’ Esther recalls. The shrunken nappa version became an instant bestseller. 

The Tsatsas showroom in Frankfurt, opened last November, is dotted with designs by the likes of Konstantin Grcic and Michael Anastassiades. A floor-to-ceiling shelf showcases the collection of bags and accessories (though not the one-off ‘Kage’ luggage system, designed for Wallpaper* Handmade in 2013), while at one end of the room is the model workshop, where the designs and prototypes are developed. 

But all Tsatsas’ bags are still made at Tsatsas senior’s workshop, using aniline-dyed calf or lambskin that comes from animals farmed for meat production in Europe, India or New Zealand. The leather is dyed to preserve hides’ natural marks: ‘The imperfection makes it a very honest material,’ says Esther. Dimitrios has persuaded his father to try new methods, such as using high-tech tape usually found in firemen’s clothing to connect a bag’s handle. This innovative solution took the father-and-son-team months to perfect. Twice a year the couple present their designs at Paris Fashion Week, yet the bags and accessories are not seasonal. ‘For me, the important thing is the end result. A bag may look super-minimal, but it has to be made in such a way that all the details are hidden, which actually maximises complications in the manufacturing process,’ explains Dimitrios.

As originally featured in the March 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*204)