journal of authenticity

The blue-eyed barbarian travels the world to meet some of the most authentic small businesses and brands. His aim is to collect and share their experiece with the ones who are only on the beginning of the road.

The oldest leather business in Denmark, Dahlman1807

Dahlman has been making high quality leather goods in the heart of Copenhagen even since it was founded by Master Saddle Maker Wilhelm Ludvig Dahlman in 1807.

It is still committed to create beautiful handcrafted products, celebrating the old and proud traditions in a contemporary context.

Picture by Monocle Magazine.

 
Quote from Monocle Magazine, May 2007: "As offers from superstar architects flood in, the brothers are adamant they won’t expand. “We don’t have the time or resources to train new employees – so, by the time we retire, there will be no one to take over.” Head to Copenhagen and buy into two centuries of history while you still can. The brothers will be waiting, but for how long?"
 

10 years after that article was published we headed to Dahlman workshop in Copenhagen. From the street we saw a time-worn sign and a mess inside. Right in the window there was a working table with many leather cuts scattered and a young man working on a belt. We were afraid the business was already closed and the last work is being done right now. Dahlman founded this workshop in 1807 and it is now the oldest saddlemaker in Denmark. Being owned by Dahlman family and then by the family of an employee Hendriksen saddlery provides most of the riding schools in Denmark with an essential leather equipment. They also have been making really quality belts when famous designer Arne Jacobsen came and asked to make him a special version in black. Other designers wanted the same belt after that. So the "architect belt" has become a piece of Danish design history. Dahlman also worked with designers to make leather parts for their objects, but then decided to focus of the main saddlery business.

When we entered we asked about Eric and Frank Hendriksen, two brothers that run this business from 1959. “They are well into their 70's and already retired. I’m a one of the new owners actually. Sorry for the mess, we are making a renovation here” - said Jeppe Dencker. He is the one who knew Hendriksen brothers for years and had found a common ground with them to take over the business.

 

Jeppe Dencker's Instagram, 19 Oct 2017: 

We are now finally ready to reveal what we've been working on for so long. We have taken over Dahlman, the world's oldest leather goods company, with an amazing history dating back to 1807. For the past five months we've been renovating their beautiful shop right in the centre of Copenhagen and on November 10th we will re-open under the name Dahlman1807. It's an absolute honour and privilege to be able to continue 210 years of passion and craftsmanship - And I can't wait to get started!

 

Keeping the heritage

Dencker used to have his own leather brand for 7 years. He came frequently to this house owned by The Saddler Guild from 1460. Gradually he became very acquainted with the brothers. They have been talking for years and when the time has come for them to retire they wanted to give this business to Dencker although they were offered much more money from others.

 
We also decided to get working table from the back of workshop to its front. I want people to see how much work we put here, I want people to come inside and explore the store themselves
— JD

Many brands in this market can be snobbish but Dencker is working to create a more friendly and inclusive space. He wants people to see the craftsmanship. On the second floor there will be a cashier desk and a room with two more tables for craftsmen. The wall of that room will be made from glass so when people can see again how much work and time is needed to make a bag or a belt.

 
 

Restoring the glory

Dencker showed us the place still being on a renovation stage. The first floor will be the actual workshop with us working. Guests will be welcome to check in and then get to the shop on the second floor. This place haven’t been renovated since 1930's but Dencker's team found old pictures of the shop when the brothers have just moved in and restore it to that condition. The floors and the railings are new though.

 
 
I think when you don’t use the heritage and just buy new things instead you lose a lot. We contacted the Danish national museum and they sent a guy who renovated all these cabinets.
— JD
 

New product strategy

Product strategy is to focus on consumer goods as opposed to supplying riding schools. In addition to belts Dencker is going to revive Dahlman bags. Just like belts, they will are put in a premium category but not extravagantly luxurious. He doesn’t want to make products overpriced or hard-to-buy.

 
 

Slowly scaling the production

There are only 3 people who make products and they all work in a headquaters shop. In order to scale business Dahlman will slowly start production in another location in Italy. It took almost a year to find right people in Tuscany. They are good friends with Dahlman’s vegetable leather tannery partners.

 

Slowly increasing sales and awareness

At first people can only buy products in Copenhagen workshop. Later Dahlman is going launch its own webshop and start sales in a few selected shops worldwide as soon as Italian partners slowly start setting up the production.

 

Marketing and promotion

"The marketing budget is zero. In Denmark it’s easier to get your story out. I’ve been doing this for 7 years so I know exactly who to call and ask to write an article. So we think that before the opening there’s going to be 3 articles in the biggest Danish newspapers. And that’s pretty much it. Press will write about us for free because it is a good story. There’s no a place like this in Denmark actually, that’s why it’s so interesting." – JD.

 
 

The blue-eyed barbarian explores authentic businesses worldwide, documents their success stories in this Journal of Authenticity and spreads the most fruitful practices in regard of business development, communications and creative solutions. Here's more stories that you might like:


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