I hate faux stitched app leather as much as I love real stitched leather — for certain things. This is one of them: the PicasoLab's MacBook Pro Retina sleeve that I've been using for a year now, handcrafted in the USA by Alex Ngo. I love it.
It's really as simple, clean and pretty as it can get. Black outside, deep red inside, with big red double stitching. Durable too. The (really) thick leather and stitching in mine has resisted constant battering for 12 months. It feels indestructible.
And I love it especially because it's not made in China. Alex runs a small one-man operation that makes leather sleeves of all kinds, for computers and phones. He even has a special 500-unit limited edition signed by Steve Wozniak himself.
I talked to him via email to ask more about the process:
Jesus Diaz: How long does it take you to create each of them?
Alex Ngo: It takes roughly about 45 minutes to an hour to make a case, with an additional 24 hours of curing. I can only make 5-8 cases a day. I stop when fatigue sets in and begin answering emails from customers.
JD: Do you buy the leather as is or do you prepare it?
AN: I buy my leather from a local supplier in Napa, California. These guys do a much better job preparing the leather than I can. Most, if not all of materials used in making my cases are local and are made in the U.S. I'm most proud of our matte black leather used in my cases. I have yet to see a better looking matte black hide anywhere else.
JD: What's your background? What made you start doing this?
AN: When my daughter came home with a neon green plastic shell on her Macbook (2005), I was surprised. Usually, she and I have very similar taste, but that green thing was hideous. We searched around for a quality case for her first Mac and found several nice cases. As beautiful as they were, they were pricey, too pricey, and one costs half the price of a new Macbook.
I thought to myself, these cases are probably made of exotic materials like unicorn or polar bear hide, because cow-hide is about $US7-$US10 per square foot. I placed my order for 10 square foot of basic hide from a local supplier and started going at it. I cut, I sewn, I glued and I grinded for the next four hours in my garage. Taadaa! I made my first case, and it was good. It wasn't gorgeous, but it was good. Good enough for her to ditch the plastic cover on her Mac.
I started to receive requests from her friends then friends of her friends, then uncles and aunts of her friends. I no longer can afford to buy the leather on my own. I ask for the cost of material, if someone wanted a case. I explored better quality leather and tweaked my designs a dozen times to what it is today. A simple case, made with a high grade, premium Napa leather, with a solid edge to protect drops and bumps of daily use. The entirely case is made and construct in California, with simple tools.
I don't stamp my name on my cases, because it is tacky, and because I'm not the owner of the case. So, I offer to laser emboss your name on your case. It does add a personal touch to your Mac and it looks gorgeous.
JD: I applaud that decision! It's one of my pet peeves when it comes to these things: stupid brands nobody cares about destroying clean surfaces. How long have you been doing it?
AN: 6 years. ~3000 cases made. Demands for my cases have risen since I'm offering my cases online. I am now working with 3 craftsmen to make your cases.
The MacBook Pro Retina 15 model goes for $US118. Alex has a new collection now using textured leather. You can check all his models here. [PicasoLab]