by Pauline Chan
Jasmyne Koh expertly cuts a piece of brown leather on a green cutting board with her fair dainty hands. Then she picks up a mallet and strikes an alphabet stamp placed over another piece of leather several times and shows us the impression the stamp makes on the leather. Her worktable is a picture of tools, leather pieces of various shapes and sizes, pen knives and embossing stamps, illuminated by an overhanging white table lamp. This is where Jasmyne feels most at home.
Jasmyne, who is the co-founder and designer at Juste Leather, didn’t plan on becoming a leather craft maker. Although she pursued a degree in Art and Design and went on to work as a multimedia designer, she decided that she would rather be making beautiful things with her hands. While doing a product design course in Korea, she felt that leather was the material she wanted to work with and immediately enrolled herself in classes on leather crafting, expanding her knowledge through online tutorials and DIY books, and started Juste Leather in Brunei to sell her simply-styled handmade leather products that have a natural look and feel.
Jasmyne conducts workshops too for people who want to try their hand at creating their own leather accessory. It’s not all just fun and tinkering with tools but one can learn a lot about the qualities of the leather she uses too. “We want to educate people about what they are actually buying rather than just buying a product because it comes from a famous brand. We explain why we use vegetable tanned leather that is free from harmful chemicals, their characteristics and other useful information about leather.”
Jasmyne’s first attempt at leather craftwork was a strap keychain – she wanted to make the simplest possible item so she could finish it quickly and see what it looks like when assembled. “Most of my initial designs come from my own practical experiences in life. Later on, we decided to take people’s feedback as a reference so we can improve our products.” Her favourite piece is the Envelope Clutch. “As a designer, you want your brand/design to be easily recognised and this clutch is actually one of our best selling items which I am very proud of.”
Jasmyne intends to continue with her signature minimalistic style in her designs and hopes to take Juste Leather outside Brunei, to the international market. But in the meantime, she is carving out a niche market for her homemade leather goods and bringing chic simplicity back into a world of excess overload.
Tel No: +6738328688
This article first appeared in the January-March 2017 issue of Borneo Insider’s Guide magazine.