Everytime I visit the leather market in Lagos (Mushin market ) and see young leather designers bargaining with the traders, I remember with nostalgia my first time buying leather there. When I started designing leather products (some many moons ago), I left the sourcing of the leather, hardware, and other paraphernalia in the hands of the artisans because I had no clue as to what, where to buy, and how much.
After some really bad shouting sessions with my artisans for getting my orders wrong, I decided enough was enough. Buying leather and hardware was not rocket science, I would source everything myself so my blood pressure, sanity, and peace of mind would be intact.
As usual, I consulted my very good friend ‘Google’, and researched the different leathers and thought to myself; really, ‘how hard can it really be buying leather?’ So I thought, and set forth to the famed Mushin market.
My excitement grew when I got to the market(after a few wrong stops), and saw stalls and stalls of different leathers, exotic skins, and other add-ons. It was like being in a candy store, the rush of happiness that coursed through my body was akin to that of shopping for clothes. In my euphoria, i proceeded to ask the traders for the different leathers I had in mind to buy, and got the shock of my life. They all said “no they didnt have” or they didn’t know what I was talking about. I asked for ‘croc'(crocodile skin ), they looked at me like I had sprouted two heads. Then I asked for Patent leather, Alligator skin, Ostrich skin, Fur, Woven leather, etc, pronouncing each one as though i was in an English class. It was the same response everywhere I went ; ‘we no get, I no know am’. At this point, I was confused, frustrated and at a loss of what to do, and I knew there was no way I would concede defeat to my artisans (‘after prouding’[making mouth] ). After walking about and sweating it for 2 hours, I decided to sadly give up on my leather expedition. I told myself I would be more patient with my artisans, and leave the rest to God, after all he gave me the vision and would make a provision. Just as I was about to turn and leave the market, I decided to just buy any leather instead of asking for the specific ones I couldn’t find. As I browsed the stall of one of the traders, I saw some of the leathers I had previously asked for. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I brought out the leather and admonished the trader, saying I had asked for Croc leather and Ostrich skin. She looked at me, laughed and said; ‘na pimple leather we dey call am, no be ostrich leather’, as also the croc was called ‘animal skin, skin or crocodile’. Short of words, I pulled out the other leathers and promptly got a tutorial on the market names of the leathers.
Here are some names and market lingo:
Patent leather -Wet lips
Fur-Hair leather or skin
Alligator -Animal skin or skin
Snakeskin (all the different types )- Animal skin or snake
Woven leather- Mat or Basket leather
Rabbit skin- Animal skin or skin
Faux leather – Synthetic
Cowhide- Hair leather
After the education of the market names, I had a blast choosing the different leathers I wanted, and was happy at the fact that I was no longer at the mercy of the artisans.