On Vigo Street in Mayfair is a shop door entirely clad in crocodile-printed leather. The gorgeously weathered Vienna Black Gold design was custom-made using a gold base and black faux crocodile – a striking finish that’s a fitting entrance for bespoke leather maker Alma.
Founded in 1938, the company produces a full range of bespoke commissions, from small accessories – personalised iPad cases (from £50), travel trays (£160), suede cushions (from £30), leather coasters and keyrings (both under £5) – to more extravagant requests such as, for one client, a red crocodile golf bag, or the moulded-leather walls and skirting created for the Monaco apartment of Christian and Nick Candy, the Candy Brothers. Ian Schrager, Donna Karan and Giorgio Armani have also been clients.
Bespoke furniture is particularly popular; pieces range from sofas and chairs (from £3,000) to tables, such as the console that one client requested in four colours of stingray (£8,000). All work is carried out in Alma’s 1,550sq m factory in Whitechapel, east London – the same place it houses its library of 100 styles of leather in 700 colours. Smaller pieces such as bags take as little as 48 hours to produce, with furniture needing six to eight weeks.
Back in the Mayfair townhouse (first picture), visitors will find some of Alma’s more extraordinary bespoke creations, including a staircase – and bannister – clad in 60 custom-stained silver-grey stingray skins (second picture), a bathroom decorated with wall-to-wall leather cutout tiles, an exercise bike and dumbbells wrapped in an orange, Hermès-like leather, and a kitchen floor fully laid in luxe crocodile-print leather.
But by far the most impressive project to date is the Qatar National Convention Centre (third picture), a multicoloured structure that is billed as the world’s first leather-clad building. The $1.2bn project involves 7,500 individually cut mosaic pieces, all wrapped by hand, and showcases the versatility of Alma’s bespoke service.
“We can make pretty much anything a client wants,” says managing director Saeed Khalique. “One woman came in looking for pieces for her Florida and Aspen homes. She liked our suede skins so much she requested we make them into a skirt – designed, incidentally, after the one she was wearing. She returned to Claridge’s and sent the skirt to us by bike – we made two for her that afternoon, delivered them to her hotel and she left the next day. She is still a client now.”