‘Winning Women’: Artisan Stephanie Leman
Walking down via dei Serragli, a door opens to reveal a woman – foreign, no less – who is actively upholding the artisan tradition of Florence’s Oltrarno neighborhood.
Stephanie Leman from Germany has been working in the leather industry for close to 10 years now. The name of the shop is “Frau Leman” Leman in tribute to her roots, and her work is extremely unique in the way it is created because she uses strictly upcycled material. Instead of buying brand-new leather from a tannery, she goes to stores and fairs that can supply her with leather that other artisans have not bought that would go to waste otherwise. This creates much less of an environmental impact, without sacrificing the quality of the leather that she is buying.
Leman is an incredibly talented artisan, with many beautiful and unique pieces available at her store. She designs mainly bags, wallets, and key chains, each created by hand with immense care and attention to detail. Her style is unmistakable: clean, modern lines accentuated by not only the classical colors of leather but also blues, reds, and a touch of pink.
Leman found her path in 2013 after discovering an internship opportunity in Berlin, Leman has now become an extremely talented and successful Florence artisan. The inspiration to begin learning more about the art of making leather goods began after she wanted to start sewing her own clothes, which served to be a larger challenge than she first anticipated it to be. After practicing this, and creating small gifts for her friends and family, she felt she was ready to move on to learn more about how to create and restore bags, wallets, and other leather goods. She became aware of a leather store in Berlin and reached out to see if they had any internship opportunities. There were, and Frau Leman was able to visit the store and have her sewing abilities tested, before being accepted to intern at the store.
After a trial period of a week, where Leman was observed to see if she would be the right fit, she began working three days a week, and eventually full time, with three other women interning. She was first tasked with simple repairs and restorations, such as reattaching handles and fixing rivets. As she began to learn more about the craft and the quality of her work increased, she was trusted with more responsibilities and began to learn more complex skills. Along with this internship, Leman was also taking business classes that she attended once a week. This business school is what eventually gave her the opportunity to work abroad the year after her final exams, through the Erasmus program. Since Florence is an iconic city for leatherwork, specifically bags, Leman felt that this was the perfect city for her to continue working on and perfecting her craft.
Upon her arrival in Florence, she was able to buy a storefront on Via della Chiesa and begin to create a name for herself in the city. Although the beginning was slow, as people did not know who she was and that her store had opened, once more people started coming into her shop, her work became more popular. Her storefront on Via Della Chiesa did not see a lot of foot traffic, however, as many who walk on the street are locals who are not looking to shop. She decided to move her storefront to Via dei Serragli, which she has just opened up last month for customers to shop at. Along with the good she sells in-store, she also takes commissions from customers, who are able to completely customize their bags, including color, lining, and interior and exterior details.
Her hours are currently irregular because she has a baby at home that she cares for, however, she is available to contact through her website or Instagram, to see what days of the week she will be working at Via Dei Serragli 61r. (Sofie Refojo)