MADE IN ENGLAND – HANDMADE LEATHER PRODUCTS WITH PAUL DE NAGY OF DENAGY

F
ounded in 2009 by Paul De Nagy, DENAGY started its humble beginnings supplying a few fellow motorcycle riders with bespoke wallets. Completely self-taught, Paul set out to create exquisite products completely by hand. Learning by way of what the biggest brands do for their product, Paul set out to put every ounce of his creativity and passion into learning his craft. After years of learning and acquiring tools, Paul opened up his own shop. Fast-forward to the present day and now DENAGY has moved onto creating its own exclusive lifestyle collection that sources the finest quality materials and leather available. Each product is made from start to finish by one of his craftsmen or Paul himself. Using time honored traditional methods, such as hand cutting, saddle stitching, edge slicking, burnishing and finishing, results in a product that not only looks beautiful, but will age gracefully and last a lifetime.


WHAT STARTED YOUR JOURNEY WORKING WITH LEATHER? WAS IT TOTALLY RANDOM OR SOMETHING YOU DEVELOPED A DEEP PASSION FOR?

My whole life I can’t remember a time I wasn’t making something as a kid I used to build skate ramps, bows and arrows, spears…you name it – later in life I made surfboards mainly for myself, but i ended up selling a few too. When I owned a hat shop I built the entire shop including the shop front it was originally an open garage,  I used to make hat blocks and hat stretchers, although I could easily have bought them,  I always thought “if you can make it, why buy it” So…you could say that making things was just what I did. Along with the hat shop I was part of a collaborative sales agency, selling brands to stores, we came across an incredible artisan who made leather goods for the “who’s who” of the fashion world – immediately I was hooked.

YOU MAKE EVERY PIECE BY HAND. HOW DOES WORKING WITH LEATHER MAKE YOU FEEL AS AN ARTIST? IN TODAY’S MASS-MADE LIFESTYLE WHY HAVE YOU CHOSEN TO MAKE ONE-OF-A-KIND PIECES?

It really is a sad thing that we live in such a throw away society, even our cars are made of plastic! The feeling you get when you produce something by hand will never be equalled by machines or mass production, you put your heart and soul into the pieces you make, you take a journey through the initial design stage all the way to a finished piece, that feeling is incredible and when someone wants to pay you money for that piece – well lets say that job satisfaction is the name of the game. I do this for the love of it, it’s not going to make me a millionaire, but I don’t care about that.

YOU MENTION THAT YOUR COLLECTION IS INSPIRED BY 50’S SURF CULTURE. IS THAT BECAUSE OF YOU PREVIOUS BACKGROUND WAS IN MAKING SURFBOARDS OR WAS IT MEANT TO BE DEEPER?

50’s surf and skate culture was about innovation, there was no rule book or guidelines, people like Miki Dora, Gregg Knoll and Jay Adams to name a few were adventures, innovators and stylists, they surfed and skated with natural feeling, they didn’t plan the day saying “I’m going to pull this move” or “I’m going to be a hero today” they drew their own lines in the moment and for the most part when doing what they did they were often over it before it even happened. That sense of innovation inspires my entire work ethic, I will often design something out of a situation, not because people are writing to me telling me that I should have this or that in my collection. It’s not about trends, it’s about style.

WAS IT ALWAYS YOUR INTENTION TO HAVE A CREATIVE CAREER?

No, I wanted to be a lawyer, hahaha. I then became a physiotherapist,being creative was just me being me…the career side of it was never by design (mind the pun) doing what I do is me being honest with myself and saying “this isn’t going to make me money, but my life will be full and rewarding”

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE A DENAGY LEATHER PRODUCT FROM START TO FINISH?

Depends what I am making really, a bifold wallet for example has various stages and often you are waiting for edge coats to dry so if you accumulate the time it takes we are probably talking about 5 hours, I can make a bag in a day although larger weekend or travel bags take around 4 days.

LEATHER IS SOMETHING THAT TAKES ON THE PERSONALITY OF ITS OWNER. WHAT KIND OF LASTING IMPRESSION DO YOU HOPE YOUR PRODUCTS LEAVE ON YOUR CUSTOMERS?

Affiliation and ownership – the fact that leather absorbs skin oils, shapes itself around the way it is used and worn means that one of my customers will feel a strong connection to that piece, I love hearing customers stories about how their product feels and looks years later, I would love one day to hear that a grandson has found an old wallet in the attic and has started using it… “they don’t make’em like they used to…” But ultimately I believe that my products inspire trust in me and what I produce…trust that each piece will be high quality and will last a long time.

“I AM A QUIET GUY AND I ENJOY LISTENING TO PEOPLE, HEARING THEIR STORIES, THEIR EXPERIENCES OFTEN TAKES ME TO ANOTHER PLACE AND INSPIRES ME.”

WHAT KIND OF PROCESS DO YOU GO ABOUT CHOOSING YOUR HIDES? WHAT’S YOUR STANCE ON QUALITY OF LIFE FOR THE ANIMAL?

I hand pick each and every hide, depending on the product I am making I will look for either a flawless finish or a real aged beaten up skin, both are very telling about the quality of life of an animal and for the most part both are good. A beaten up skin with scars and insect bites probably means the animal has lived a long time therefor has had a full life, a flawless skin can also mean that the animal was cared for and treated extremely well much like Kobe beef… in truth I care a lot about animals and we can only put our trust in the people that look after these animals and hope that they have be treated well.

LEATHER IS QUITE UNIQUE; IT’S TAKEN AS A RAW MATERIAL AND IN SOME CASES ELEVATED TO EXTREMELY HIGH STANDARDS TO BE SEEN AS A LUXURIOUS PRODUCT. COULD YOU EXPLAIN WHY THAT IS OR HOW IT BECOME SOMETHING SO SOUGHT AFTER?

Right or wrong leather has been used for centuries, being that it is a skin, a natural material, itself is robust and everlasting. I believe that we always have to look to the past and realise that the great ages of style have always held one thing in high regard (quality and Durability) a good pair of boots back then was a GOOD pair of boots, they were built to last and last they did! nowadays there are so many different fabrics around and leather imitations, yes they have taken things to a much more diverse level and some of these materials are truly amazing, but leather, well leather has always been there and always will be – why? because as you say it is truly unique, natural and strong and there will never really be a substitute that yields the same qualities. That is why it has been used on luxury products, sadly these days although good quality leather is used, few actually make sure that the product will actually last.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS?

People inspire me, interesting people, seemingly uninteresting people  and everything in between. Interactions with people often inspire me to make something or do something no matter what it is, I am a quiet guy and I enjoy listening to people, hearing their stories, their experiences often takes me to another place and inspires me.

TELL US ABOUT THE LIFETIME GUARANTEE YOU OFFER WITH ALL YOUR HANDMADE LEATHER PIECES. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU’VE ALWAYS HAD OR YOU DECIDED WHEN YOU STARTED CREATING LUXURY PIECES?

Well in the early days, I taught myself how to make leather pieces, so a lot of it was trial and error, it wasn’t until someone came back to me a year after they bought a wallet and said they couldn’t believe how good it looked and that they wanted this wallet for life… It truly blew my mind, not to mention gave me the confidence to really look at the way I made each piece, I would from that point on always make a piece with one thing in the back of my mind “this is, for life” I believe in my products and that is why I believe that putting my money where my mouth is, is the only way to communicate that.

HAVE YOU HAD ANY MENTORS OR INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE THAT HELPED YOU ALONG THE WAY OR WAS IT STRICTLY BY TRIAL AND ERROR?

Other than the Artisan we came across as an agency, I have to say it was mainly trial and error, one of my ex colleagues and good friend would always get excited when he saw what I was doing, so if anyone was influential it was him – it is truly humbling when people believe in you in that way.

BESIDES YOUR CURRENT PIECES, WHAT’S CAN WE EXPECT IN THE FUTURE FOR DENEGY? ARE YOU CREATING ANY NEW PRODUCTS OR STARTING COLLABORATIONS?

Well I have done many collaborations in the past and I am sure I will have more in the future although there aren’t really any upcoming at the moment. I have been going through a bit of a reshuffle with the collection, I want to keep the collection tight and offer variety in colours, I am also expanding the carry goods range i have some small bags in the current collection but I have 4 or five new designs which will make the range a bit more diverse, so watch this space.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON SUCCESS AND FAILURE? COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT A TIME YOU EXPERIENCED EITHER AS A CREATOR/ARTIST?

Life ebbs and flows, success and failure is just life taking a natural form. I have to say that I take each failure with regards to work very personally, it really affects me, it’s like being let down by someone you really needed at a particular time – it hurts, luckily I am pretty stubborn so every time I do have a failure I make sure I just get back up and start again, if it fails it wasn’t meant to be, so I just take a different route and try again and again and again. Generally you always learn more from failure than you ever will from success, so failure is very necessary.

CAN YOU TELL THE AUDIENCE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TYPES OF LEATHERS, SUCH AS CORDOVAN VS. VEG TANNED?

Well in detail that is a whole new article…. but in short these two leathers are very different and are only two types of a whole series of tanning processes and leathers. Shell was traditionally used for very high quality shoes and being that is can only be made from a small area of a skin and comes in small quantities makes it both rare and expensive, veg tanned leather is used in most products and is the go to leather for most products due to the finish, relative inexpensiveness and ageing.


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About The Author: StevenDElliott

Steven is the founder of Genuine Men’s Magazine. He graduated Drexel University with a Bachelor's degree in Graphic Design. Along with his passion for photography and design, Steven loves helping men find new and emerging menswear brands and offer his opinions when it comes to real-life situations.