How Awl Together Leather is reviving the cobbling industry

3 minute read

Meet Awl Together Leather – an inspiring Canadian small business that was selected as a finalist in the Rising Stars category of our Tales of Triumph Contest. This category of the contest is reserved for businesses that have launched in the last two years and are growing quickly. You can find them online and on Etsy. If you’re located in East Vancouver – on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations – you can visit their storefront in person.

About Awl Together Leather

Awl Together Leather is the largest leather studio in Canada with a devoted glue house. It’s co-owned by Ariss Grutter and Tess Gobeil. They offer custom leatherwork and shoe repair, visible mending, denim repair, jacket alterations, small upholstery, wholesale small-batch production and all kinds of industrial sewing. They’re an inspiring, equitable and sustainable business.

A front-facing view of Ariss Grutter measuring fabric on a fabric table, wearing a t-shirt and face mask in front of 2 textile machines.

Mending the future of cobbling

Ariss and Tess are queer cobblers who share a goal of resurrecting and adapting this traditional trade to meet the demands of today’s customers who are interested in sustainability and an equitable society. They are trailblazers in their industry – they hire and train underrepresented staff to help them pave the way for a shift in their industry’s demographics with the aim to grow and become more inclusive. Their mission is to see more industries shift to help marginalized folks reach positions of leadership and power, and for those leaders to enact change that sustains their related communities and our environment.

Tess Gobeil is casually smiling and leaning against a shelf in a tool shop, surrounded by a workbench, storage units, and hanging tools.

Using Kickstarter to piece together a business

Prior to launching Awl Together Leather, Ariss ran BoundAries Leather. After the pandemic, Ariss and Tess saw a unique opportunity to revive the cobbling industry, so they brainstormed together and created a Kickstarter campaign in April 2021 to open Awl Together Leather. Initially, their goal was to raise $10,000, but they reached that target in a less than 36 hours. 30 days later, they had raised an impressive $22,000 for their grand opening. They received a lot of support and grew their business dramatically in their first year. They’ve adapted with good communication and systems management.

Get to know our 2023 Tales of Triumph finalists.

Read their stories

Patching up industry gaps

Ariss and Tess believe in working as a team. That’s why they prioritize training their staff on jobs of all skill levels (without gatekeeping).

They hope to offer community initiatives that include shared studio use and communal mending events while building on their staff training and adding professional development opportunities such as Indigenous-taught hide tanning courses. They also plan to develop their branding and open a second storefront location so that Awl Together Leather can become a recognizable brand across Western Canada that will fill in gaps in the industry with underrepresented, well-trained professionals.

We were proud to recognize Awl Together Leather as a finalist in our Tales of Triumph Contest. Their business is delivering more for underrepresented Canadians and is a source of inspiration for other businesses trying to be more equitable and sustainable.

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