Timaru business selling product globally to luxury high-end buyers

Last updated 07:38 04/08/2017

Light Leathers employee Ellen Roux feeds leather into the spraying machine.

Managing directer David Cassidy, left, and sales manager Barry Parsons inspecting a piece of leather.
Light Leathers employee Adeliza Alamo takes skins from the ironing machine.
Managing director David Cassidy with wet deer pelts.

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A Washdyke tannery is making big strides in global markets, supplying deer leather to a number of high-end luxury brands such as Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton, as well as to popular New Zealand brand Deadly Ponies.

New Zealand Light Leathers attributes its 40-plus years of success to "edgy" innovation, quality and "building relationships", sales manager Barry Parsons said.

The business' main markets are Europe, the United States and China's domestic market, he said. 

The company received special requests from time to time.

"Luxury brands produce garments for movie stars and musicians. We've assisted in supplying them with their bespoke items," Parsons said.

"It's a privilege to do it for them ... we're more than happy to assist."

The business was currently working on leather for a jacket for a well-known British musician, but declined to name the recipient for client confidentiality reasons.

It is a far cry from where the business began in 1974, as a tannery set up to process lamb pelts for the French shoe market.

The market did not last, but the business quickly evolved into a deer napa tannery, he said.

Light Leathers had to be innovative, Parsons said.

"We're a fashion market, our tannery supplies the fashion market, so we have to be edgy in terms of what we're offering to those markets. We have to come up with, each season, with new product ranges, new looks on our deer napa." 

Parsons attributed Light Leathers' success to having built strong relationships with its clients.

"We've built up a relationship with many of the leading luxury brands over the world over several years," he said.

"We've worked with these brands for many years. We visit them annually [and] some visit us."

It was important to meet the brands' product expectations and to ensure them of a consistent supply of products, Parsons said.  

Light Leathers competed with many tanneries globally, but its deer leathers had "built a global reputation". 

The business has close to 5000 different colours on file, which it has developed on request from different businesses.

Light Leathers asked its clients what kind of lighting they were using in their stores, and then set up a lighting booth in the factory in using the same lighting, so that staff could ensure the leather looked the same as it would on sale. 

The business is the only finishing deer tannery in New Zealand, and it uses all New Zealand farm deer.

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