When he came up with a new way of digitally printing leather this January, British designer Bill Amberg realised he was on to something. ‘Printed leather is either niche and expensive or has a nasty finish that looks like paint and is not hard wearing. It struck me that no-one had been approaching its creation from the process point of view.’ Together with a tannery in Europe, Amberg spent three years developing a technique that results in the high quality, long-lasting print that had eluded him, and with 30 years’ experience of making bespoke leather products, interiors and furniture, behind him, he knew where to look.
His new technique is complex. ‘The leather has to accept each colour and allow it to penetrate properly, and dark blue and black are the hardest,’ he explains. Each five sq m hide, taken from European bulls, is then finished with a durable dressing that retains the grain and handle of the leather.
Amberg then chose five design pals to create a debut collection. Tom Dixon has created four patterns, and these, along with pieces from Faye Toogood, Timorous Beasties, Alexandra Champalimaud and Natasha Baradaran, will be launched at Dixon’s showroom during the London Design Festival. Dixon will strip down one of his iconic ‘Wingback’ chairs, convert it into a chaise and upholster it with the new leathers.
Others will display their hides on their own furniture. Toogood’s design, with its abstract and painterly brushstrokes is, says Amberg ‘almost a piece of art that works just as well as a wall hanging as it does on upholstery,’ while Baradaran’s pink and white lace pattern in two colourways could almost be mistaken for a textile.
Amberg plans to launch two collections a year, each time with different designers. With each hide costing around £850, leather interiors are about to get a whole lot sexier.
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Emma O'Kelly is a contributing editor at Wallpaper*. She joined the magazine on issue 4 as news editor and since since then has worked in full and part time roles across many editorial departments. She is a freelance journalist based in London and works for a range of titles from Condé Nast Traveller to The Telegraph. She is currently working on a book about Scandinavian sauna culture and is renovating a mid century house in the Italian Lakes.
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