Leather lovin’ in metro Detroit 

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Unlike most retail shops covered by MT, this week's local business sets up shop primarily online. The Detroit Leather Co. is one of the many small companies opened by Rochester Hills resident Morgan Kollin. While the leather company faces other competitors like Shinola and Douglas and Co., it differentiates itself not just with its unique inventory, but also because it doubles as a leather works school.

Selling products that appear to be inspired by steampunk and olden time accessories, the Troy-based company also offers to teach people how to work with leather. While leather work students come and go, the company has about three to six people handcrafting their products. Kollin says most products take about three to five days to complete, but the end result is always satisfying. "We try to focus on doing everything almost entirely from scratch," he says. "We pride ourselves on doing everything by hand."

A former Navy telecommunications specialist, Kollin says he always had a passion for sewing and crafting, a hobby he adopted from his mother and grandmother ever since he was 12. A big fan of the Japanese hand-drawn or computer animation, aka anime, Kollin combined his love of sewing and his enjoyment of anime to create his first business. "While I was still in the Navy, I started my first anime company, which was Anime Tailor, and that was back in 1999, where I started doing costume commissions by anime directors," he says. "After that, I determined that I finally wanted to expand my costuming experience over to leather works."

Fast forward to 2007, and the Detroit Leather Co. was born. Different from his other entrepreneurial endeavors, which include three other crafting offshoots and the 10th largest anime convention in the U.S., Youmacon, the shop's products are strictly made from leather. "You could only go so far with fabric. Leather was just the next step. I wanted to start designing armor and other accessories and things that I just couldn't do with cloth or foam," he says.

Leather armor and accessories are just a few of the products customers can purchase through the company's website or at their workshop. Among the best-sellers at conventions and craft shows, where Kollin also offers his products, are leather-bound notebooks. Detroit Leather Co. also accepts custom orders, which can range from $60 to thousands of dollars.

From working with computers to working with sewing machines and leather, Kollin says his career is a long stretch from what he did while in the Navy. "I'm just glad I had something I was really passionate about, and I was able to build something that I'm able to share the enjoyment and passion with others," he says.

Ultimately, Kollin says he's proud of what he's accomplished and is excited to see what the future has in store for the company. "We have so many things in the works right now, and I really can't wait to see where it all takes us," he says.

More by Luanne Lim

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