Kancha wallets – urban nomad
Ealier this year I came across a wonder accessories brand called Kancha – I can’t remember if they reached out me or if I found them on Instagram. However, we share similar principals and I could resonate with what they’re doing. Embracing the nature of travel and nomadic tendencies working with traditional nomads and modern day ones.
Using a mix of leathers and wools, all the products are made in Kyrgyzstan, sourcing the raw materials there and using local artisans to create the products. Their range includes wallets, tablet sleeves, laptop sleeves and camera straps. Combining efforts with Office Nomads in Berlin between Crafting Nomads in Kyrgyzstan they work on a transparent supply chain source their wool and yarn all around Kyrgyzstan and then manufacturing with locals in Bishkek.
Until the beginning of the last century, most Kyrgyz people were nomads and traveled through the mountains with their bag and baggage. Today, most people have swapped the yurt for a proper house and you can find the first hotspots of urban nomadism in Bishkek.
I got myself the Origami Wallet that has two compartments where I can keep bank cards, notes and coins. I’ve also used it at times to hold my business cards – one compartment for my own and then the other for the ones I collect from meetings. It’s a lovely product with a comfortable feel and handle too. When in my practical workwear clothes and denim it’s a perfect reminder of honest craftsmanship with engaging qualities.
Shyrdak carpets and embroidery are used in lots of the other products and is a big part of Kyrgyzstan craft tradition. For Shyrdaks, ornaments natural abstractions are cut in a positive-negative manner out from two different parts of felt and then sewn together. This requires artistic skills that has been passed on from generation to generation by elderly women. Kancha use these felt designs in the sleeves. In order to make felt from the crinkly hair of a sheep, raw wool is washed, combed and pressed several times. With the processing of raw leather – a waste product of the animal husbandry, which is widespread in rural Kyrgyzstan – is a weeklong process that includes cleaning, cutting and tanning.
The first workshop with Elniza and co is where the artistic patterns are sewn onto the felt. Firstly, the felt is cut out properly, then the outlines are drawn by hand. Afterwards the pattern is sewn onto the felt with an embroidery machine. This step requires skilled fingers, because the embroidery machine needs to be steered accurately to the millimeter. Finally, the sewer hides the open seams in the felt with a special needle. The entire process of making one pattern can take up to four hours or more depending on size and complexity. Once or twice a week, the patterns are brought to the leather workshop. Here, Artur and his team are working on cutting and sewing layers of felt and leather together, embossing the logos and finally grinding the edges. In the past, they were making belts, covers for notebooks or wallets here, now our sleeves for laptops, tablets and smartphones have been added.