Signature Style

Crafted in Copenhagen: Skagen Denmark and Copenhagen’s LeatherProjects Create a Capsule Collection

By Helen Russell

Denmark has long been described as a “design society,” and good design and craftsmanship have been integral to the Danish way of life since the 1920s, when the government decided that design was a priority, integral to well-being and happiness. Since then, Danes have invested in public art and sculpture as well as the design schools that have produced some of the greatest designers of the 20th century. Specialising in the connection between form and function, Danish craftsmen have placed a strong emphasis on natural materials that are hard-wearing yet beautiful, such as wood, stone, wool—and leather.

Børge Mogensen made use of leather in his iconic Spanish chair; Poul Kjærholm used it to create his famous PK22 lounge chair; and the leather version of Arne Jacobsen’s Egg chair has been popular for generations.

“Denmark has a real legacy of using leather in furniture design because it ages beautifully and it’s really versatile,” explains Jeppe Dencker of the Copenhagen-based LeatherProjects. “Then, in the 1970s, leather enjoyed a revival in Denmark in terms of fashion, with Copenhageners embracing the trend and companies such as Graae [the famous Danish leather brand whose clients have included members of Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones] getting big.”

Danish leather tends to be imported from Italy, and today there are very few craftsman working with leather in Denmark. So Dencker saw a gap in the market: “I’ve always loved leather, and so I wanted to develop a sort of 21st century craftsmanship using the best traditional methods and combining them with modern techniques such as laser cutting.” Dencker set up his own company, LeatherProjects, in 2011 to do just that, and it was his stylish, contemporary approach to high-quality craftsmanship that first drew the eye of Skagen senior concept designer Frederik Thrane.

Skagen’s Frederik Thrane on Jeppe Dencker of LeatherProjects

“I was looking for someone who was producing beautiful leather products made in Denmark, and I liked Jeppe’s way of seeing things: he focuses on high-quality, aspirational products and simple solutions. He has a nice dichotomy between old and new, and his products never look ‘crafty.’ Jeppe doesn’t sketch his designs, he just makes them, so he has a greater proximity to his medium and he’s creating all the time.

“I asked Jeppe to create three pieces for Skagen designed to age beautifully so that they could take on their own personality with wear and become portraits of the wearer’s life. Jeppe and I worked together over meetings and email until we had a capsule collection: a clutch that’s beautiful yet functional; a simple minimalist wallet; and a watch strap that’s subtle but never nondescript. They’re the perfect combination of Skagen and LeatherProjects values.”

LeatherProjects’ Jeppe Dencker (above) on working with Skagen

“My brief was to work with Skagen concepts and execute them in a way that embodies the LeatherProjects approach to design and craftsmanship. I started by making prototypes; I’d change a fold or a fastening, then send mock-ups to Fred for him to see and share his ideas. This was a new way of working for LeatherProjects and our biggest commission to date, but I’m pleased with the pieces we’ve made.

“It’s great that [the people at] Skagen are supporting smaller, newer businesses and our ethos of combining traditional skills with new technologies. We use high-quality leather from Tuscany and tan it naturally with vacchetta vegetable dye, but we’re also embracing laser cutting for a clean, neat finish. Each piece takes a long time to make—I’m working 13- or 14-hour days at the moment, but I love my job. It’s worth it!”

The Collection
Skagen and LeatherProjects have collaborated on three limited-edition pieces:

- 40 clutch bags with optional straps in maroon and navy that can be worn across the body for day or hand-held for evening.

- 40 handcrafted wallets in navy.

- 80 pendant watch straps in navy that can be worn around the neck or through a belt loop. Each strap is 13” long and can be paired with Skagen’s Hagen watch. 

The collection is sold in Skagen stores worldwide, via and at the LeatherProjects boutique in Copenhagen.