Youssef Hazzi, also known as Joe, always had a passion for handcrafts. He always loved to tell stories through his hands. After coming back to Egypt with a degree in visual communication from the school of design, applied arts, and communication (ESDAC) in France. Joe decided to pursue his passion for leathercraft and turn it into the great business that it is now; Joe’s Leather Goods.
We sat down with Joe to know more about his business and its story!
What’s the story behind Joe’s Leather Goods?
After I came back from France, I started pursuing my career in marketing and graphic design. However, I have always had the passion to work with my hands and get into handicrafts. I have always been in love with leather, but I couldn’t find high-quality leather products in the Egyptian market. As a result, I started to follow my dream and I began making leather products as a side job and a hobby.
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Day after day, my work started growing and the people in my circle started liking the products I made. Then, Covid-19 hit and I lost my permanent job. I trusted my gut feeling and took it as a sign to take my dream to the next level and turn my hobby into a full-time job.
When did you realize you had a passion for handcrafted goods?
My love for handcrafts and raw materials like leather, wood, and steel has always been there ever since I was a child.
Even though I had a full-time job for the first two years after coming back from France, the few hours I spent leather crafting at the end of the day were the best part about it. It is where I found myself.
What kind of products does Joe’s Leather Goods offer?
We offer products designed to keep their carrier company throughout their life adventure. Our products range from bags, wallets, belts, and our newly launched leather jackets.
We realized that there’s a gap in the Egyptian market regarding leather jackets. So, we decided to make a move and offer a jacket that reflects quality before everything. JLG’s leather jacket is designed to take care of the person wearing it. It is designed to keep them warm, tight, and sharp.
Walk us through the process of creating a product from JLG, how does it happen?
First, we brainstorm the functionality of the product. A bag is made to carry things, a belt is made to hold pants, and a jacket is made to give warmth.
Sustainability is key.
We use hand-selected pieces of leather from world-class Egyptian Tanneries. We also use high-quality zippers and accessories gathered from the most prestigious manufacturers and brands around the world. Taking all that into account, we design the product to give it a rugged unisex feel. We like to keep the design simple, minimal, and ready for adventure.
Joe’s Leather Goods has a very distinctive aesthetic, how do you come up with the vision for the photoshoots and the general feel of the brand?
I, personally, appreciate nature very much. Nature and the wilderness is the place I run to when I need to fight my insecurities or worries. It is the place where I reunite with myself and find balance in this world. It is where I find the peace I need to be able to cope with the modern complex world we live in today that I am not a big fan of.
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So for me, the simplicity of the good old days means the world. This is mainly how I get the feel for my photoshoot.
I try to reflect on the life I and many other people, would love to live.
What’s your favorite product from JLG? And why?
There is no such product that I can call my favorite; they are all my babies if I may say. Each one of them has its own story that starts with a large piece of leather and ends with a fine product that is of great use for my clients and myself.
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Generally speaking, my favorite products are those that get messy and age with time, those that carry scratches and stains, those that give me company and witness my best and worst days; yet, always remain bold.
Tell us about some of the challenges you have faced since the start of JLG and how you overcame them
Challenges range from starting to learn the craft itself by watching videos to getting to master the craft by myself. Also, establishing connections, and reaching for the best suppliers around the world. Legalizing the company and exporting masterpieces to Europe, North America and the MENA region wasn’t easy at all. It was very challenging for me and my small family, my wife and I, to survive this phase. We have had rough days, but we always received emails, calls, and amazing messages from our clients that encouraged us to keep fighting for this dream we were starting.
Another challenge was doing everything related to the business in-house. Only a couple of people were responsible for the design, production, marketing, photography, editing, PR, and shipping, which was extremely hard to handle. It required a lot of work and attention.
What would you like people to know or realize about your line of work?
I would like people to know that for JLG, quality and practicality come first. Every piece made in JLG is handcrafted by a single craftsman. A lot of effort is put into it to create a unique masterpiece made especially for its carrier. There are no identical pieces.
What are your hopes for JLG in the future?
I hope that JLG takes part in passing the knowledge and experience of old leather craftsmen and passes it to younger generations. But also, still, keep them up to date with the latest technologies in leather making. I hope Egypt regains its place among the best leather manufacturers around the world.
I would love to see JLG be a pride to Egyptians around the world.
You can shop for Joe’s Leather Goods here!