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Leathersellers’ Alumni

Saher Samman

22 March 2024
Reading time 3 mins

Q&A with Saher Samman. Saher received the Leathersellers’ Emerging Talent Award upon graduating from the London College of Fashion. He currently works as a leather costume modeller for HBO.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, education, and interests?

I grew up in east London in a mixed heritage background family – I’m English, Palestinian and Lebanese. London is a fantastic melting pot of cultures, and I was immersed in the world of art and design from an early age, and which I’m very passionate about to this day. I discovered my love of leather crafts in 2007 while serving an apprenticeship with a dear friend Wolfram Lohr. He taught me the foundations of leatherwork and I continued to work with him until 2009. In 2010 I became a student to broaden my knowledge and learn the design process, which was a fantastic way to understand how many different fields and professions converge, from fashion and architecture to industrial design and film

When did you receive a grant from the Leathersellers’ Foundation?

I received the Emerging Talent Award from the Leathersellers’ Foundation in 2012, when I graduated from London College of Fashion having studied accessories design.

What did the grant enable you to do? What impact did it have on you and your future?

I was able to attend a short course at the Institute for Creative Leather Technologies (ICLT) at Northampton University where I gained valuable knowledge and understanding of the science behind leather, far beyond the curriculum at design school. We also got to be inventive and experiment with different creative leather finishes; great fun! The ICLT is next door to the Leather Conservation Centre and the British Leather Institute, which was inspiring and gave an insightful look into the historical significance of leather.

Gaining an understanding of the technical aspects of leather was fascinating, and proved useful to me when, not long after attending the course, I found myself in a tannery in the United Arab Emirates and was able to communicate design ideas confidently with the tanners. This enabled me to develop custom articles of leather, specific to the designs I produced during a design residency at Tashkeel in Dubai in 2014–2015.

Where do you currently work? What does your role involve?

I’m a leather modeller in costume and have been working for HBO on “House of the Dragon”, the “Game of Thrones” prequel, since 2021. I produce a variety of stunning leather creations, from suits of armour made of wet moulded leather for pyrotechnics – where stuntmen are engulfed in flames – to ensuring that an actor has good visibility through a helmet with a face plate whilst riding a horse in a jousting contest. The exquisite designs, inspired by historical artefacts, are often very complex and require innovative techniques and use of materials to push the limitations of not only the key material of leather, but also of my skill as a craftsman.

Can you tell us more about your career path/journey?

In 2017 I founded a bag brand called Terracotta Row, making backpacks and all sorts of bags using discarded factory waste that would otherwise be destined for landfill. The highlight of the brand’s journey was a collaboration with a prison reform charity. Together we delivered custom made designs to the Tate Modern and V&A for their gift shops in 2020–2021, as well as teaching workshops with young people at the Design Museum in London.

What do you love most about your job/career?

The exciting new techniques and innovative ways to use leather as a medium that arise from design specifications and client demands always enthral me, and the fact that I never know what I’ll be working on next keeps me passionate and in love with my work.