When I wrote about my new leather biker jacket last week, there wasn’t really space (without writing the longest ever blog post) to talk about how it was actually made beyond the design amendments that I requested as part of my collaboration with Karen Millen’s Atelier Leather customisation project with Selfridges.

For me one of the best parts about being a fashion writer is getting to discover the hows and whys and wherefores, so before I got down to the nitty gritty of discussing the zippers and hardware of my jacket with Karen Millen’s Chief Creative Officer Gemma Metheringham, and Nick Rossi, their Senior Designer, expert on all things leather, we discussed in some detail how it was actually constructed.

Karen Millen use leather that is tanned/made in Solofra, a region in Italy that is renowned for using the finest techniques, and they have been using the same highly skilled craftsmen to make their leather jackets for over twenty years.

They prefer drum dyed leathers because it allows the colour to penetrate right through the skin giving a richer colour as well as maintaining the buttery softness of the skin. This method also allows the surface of the leather to develop a patina over time, which results in a uniquely worn-in jacket.

(My jacket uses a black mock snake skin. After tanning each skin is individually embossed to create the snake effect and then finally lightly scored to create the texture of the snakes scales.)

The manufacturing process is very labour intensive and each jacket can take up to a day to make. The process begins in the Karen Millen atelier in Shoreditch where the intricate pattern pieces are created for each jacket. Some take up 50 different pieces to complete the jacket.


Because leather is a natural product, after the tanning process there can be very small differences in colour so a highly skilled Italian technician batches the skins according to shade. He then selects up to 8 skins of the same shade to make one jacket. (above)


Next the master cutter individually cuts out each piece taking care to avoid any natural blemishes on the skins surface whilst trying to get the most out of each skin. (above) 


Reinforcement is then applied to each seam of the jacket so the panels don’t stretch out of shape during the stitching process (above)


Because leather can be quite thick, during the stitching process a craftsman gently hammers and glues all the seams creating a perfectly made jacket. (above)


Master craftsmen then stitch the quilted areas and attach them to the jacket. (above and below)


Karen Millen use the highest quality Swiss zips in their leather jackets. The zip teeth are individually polished so they do not scratch your hands when you put them in the pockets and the gold finishes they use on some of the zips even contain real gold. (below)


Finally the jackets are expertly inspected (below).

Karen-Millen-atelier-selfridges Karen-Millen-atelier-selfridges

And here is the proof of the pudding: leather jackets that are never dull, or overly designed.

Karen-Millen-atelier-selfridges Karen-Millen-atelier-selfridges Karen-Millen-atelier-selfridges

The Karen Millen ‘Atelier Leather’ opened in Selfridges on 3rd February 2014 and will run for four weeks. Appointments can be made in Selfridges or by email at

This sponsored post has been written in association with Karen Millen.

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It’s a fascinating process – always so much fun to see how items are made. But I was disappointed that there was no mention of the provenance of the leather. After all, there is an entire back story on how and where the cows are raised. I had been looking forward to reading about the cows’ welfare, etc. ok, it might be a little gruesome for some sensitive readers to go into the detail of how the leather is skinned, but I would like to know if as much care and attention is placed on the back end of the process.


Fantastic! So checking that out 🙂


That was amazing to see! I wish I could afford to buy one, I really appreciate seeing the workmanship and time that goes into making these garments.


I went yesterday. What an amazing experience! Really looked after well. Very excited to receive my custom-made jackets! Can recommed highly.

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