Our original production schedule for the Weekender Duffel had us receiving our first batch of leather towards the end of November/beginning of December. Then we could start making duffels by the end of December and into January. Our goal was to start shipping the first production of duffels to our Kickstarter backers in late January, and to begin fulfilling website pre-orders by late February/early March.
That did not happen as planned.
The leather used to make the top part of the duffel is tumbled to make it softer and more pliable. The bottom piece is not tumbled and remains stiff to help the bag maintain its shape. When we did our first tumble of the colored leather, the brown colors changed and did not match the hard leather it was made from and intended to match. The darker the brown, the more dramatic the change. I say "color change", but really it was more than that. The leather took on an opaque milky haze and looked like it had been painted, leaving it dull and lifeless.
The best example I can think of to describe what was happening is to compare the leather to waxed paper. When waxed paper is new it is transparent, but when it gets wrinkled, it turns white and becomes opaque. This is what was happening in our finish for the Whiskey and Mocha, but not on the Black and just barely on the Natural.
This sort of painted look is common enough in leather used in clothing, car seats and furniture, as well as bags. But it is not what we wanted, and frankly, I think it looks very ugly. During the campaign, I spoke a lot about how beautifully vegetable-tanned leather ages. Well, if the finish is opaque, you would barely be able to see any patina and we might as well be using much cheaper chrome-tanned leather or vinyl.
Needless to say, I was not happy with the look of the leather and I didn't think you would be either. It was not what I committed to delivering, and so I made the decision to fix the problem in spite of the delay it would cause.
It has been two months of frustration working with the tannery to figure out just what part of the dye and finish was causing the color change. I had expected there to be a little color tweak needed and allowed a few weeks in the timeline to make an adjustment (tumbling usually lightens the leather a little so you must start with a darker color than you want in the end.)
Nothing goes quickly with vegetable-tanned leather because of the time required to tan and dye the leather. Each reformulation experiment takes about two weeks to run, and then the holidays didn't do us any favors, costing us an additional three weeks. It took six or so tries and a personal visit to the tannery to isolate the particular agent that was causing the problem. It actually turned out to be three things: a wax, a pigment and a sealer. This is partly why it took multiple tries to completely solve the problem.
Now the good news: the leather I saw yesterday via Skype looks good (I was not at the factory when it came in, but those physically present agreed the problem was corrected). The tumbled leather now matches the untumbled leather. I will get physical samples later this week for a final sign off, and I will take pictures of the "before" and "after" for the next update. I'm confident you will all agree that delaying production to fix the leather color was the correct decision. I am not happy about the delay, but I believe it was worth it to make your duffel as beautiful as we can.
The tanning will begin this week, which, worst case, will take six weeks to complete. The tannery is aware that this delay has set us back, and I intend to stay on top of them to see if we can recoup any of the lost time. Once the leather has been delivered, we will begin making the bags. The projections are that we can produce up to 150 bags a week, once they are in production. At that rate, it will take four to five weeks to get through all the pre-orders. Kickstarter orders are about 70% of the pre-orders and will get first shipping priority. Of the Kickstarter orders, the "early bird" and "first production" rewards will ship first.
Shipping of website pre-orders now looks like it will start sometime in April, a full eight weeks later than we had anticipated. I am truly sorry for the slip in the timeline and hope you are in agreement with my decision to prioritize the color of the leather and the overall quality.