Making your own leather belt in Jakarta

There are many great advantages of living in Jakarta – meeting new people, learning a new language, trying new foods & ingredients, and gaining a better understanding of a new country, but to name a few. 

Another indisputable bonus of living in Jakarta is being able to have items made to your taste and specifications. We’ve shared some of our success stories in past blog posts including Jo’s kitchen stools, Liz’ shoe cupboard and our bespoke Batik bed cover. We have also summarised the knowledge & experience we’ve accumulated through spending quite a bit of time (!) at the dressmaker in our story,  Top 10 Recommendations for Success at the Dressmaker. 

In today’s blog post we continue to entertain our creative side as we take on a new challenge – this time working with leather (or as it eventuated, suede!).  Using the skills of a local craftsperson in my neighbourhood of Kemang, I proudly returned home just today with the newest addition to my Jakarta wardrobe (Woo hoo!).

Here is the story of my new suede belt and what inspired this latest project.

Quite a while back, Liz interviewed the delightful Maria Lucia Maringka of Lucy’s Batik. Whilst waiting for our interview to begin, Liz and I happily browsed Lucy’s beautiful shop during which time I happened upon a silk kimono-style belt ( an ‘obi’, pictured below) in a most striking colour. I knew I ‘needed’ it in my wardrobe so I made a quick (not ‘hasty’) purchase! The belt’s unique design and easy wearability led to the idea of a second one – but this time in a different material with a more narrow width.

I then sought the advice of friends who are far more savvy in the ‘custom-made’ department than me, and they unanimously agreed that I needed to pay a visit to leather workshop, “Ben & Sons”.

After driving up and down Jl. Kemang Timur for quite some time in search of Ben & Sons’ location at No. 28B, we finally stumbled across the shop. It was harder to find than you’d expect as the numbers on Jl. Kemang Timur are not in numerical order (all part of the Jakarta adventure 🙂 )

Look out for ’28B’ on the left as you approach Jl. Kemang Utara

The gate into Ben & Sons – “For sale: Bags and Shoes” but why not design and make your own!
The only signage you will see for Ben & Sons is on the security post window

I met up with Pak Jumat from Ben & Sons and together we discussed suitability of leather type, colour and thread choice.

Leather swatches to consider

I had intended to make the belt in a tan leather but when I visited, the only tan leather that Pak Jumat had in stock was quite thick. As the belt is double-sided, we realised that this would make the belt sit awkwardly. We then looked at other options. Pak Jumat suggested suede and I was sold! However, compromise was required as I had to change my colour preference based on what was available. I short-listed two colours: a burgundy and a khaki green. The green won out!

Suede and leather samples. Once I decided on my suede, Pak Jumat gave me a little swatch for future reference

Next we took the suede outside in the natural light to match up the thread. The difference when looking at the suede and thread inside as compared to outside was remarkable.
I also conducted a quick test of the ‘stretch index’ of the suede as I did not want it to be too elastic. It passed my ‘highly sophisticated’ test (ie, I wrapped the theoretical belt length around my waist under stretch. The suede had just the right amount of give.. that was a big thumbs up!).

Pak Jumat matching thread with suede
The perfect match

Just over a week later I received a call from Pak Jumat with the instruction to come and collect my belt. I arrived at the shop on Jl. Kemang Timur feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Within minutes any fears I had were allayed as Pak Jumat presented me with my new green suede belt. It was perfect. Absolutely spot on!

Thank you Pak Jumat and all the team at Ben & Sons. I’m already plotting my next project… what will it be? 😉

‘Keberhasilan!’ Success! – A new belt may just lead to a new outfit … Off to Pasar Mayestik for a spot of fabric shopping, anyone? 🙂

About Ben & Sons – with owner Ibu Elen

For how long have you had the business, Ben & Sons?
I established Ben & Sons some thirty years ago, with the business located in the same spot on Jl. Kemang Timur for the duration of this time.

Where are you from originally?
I am originally from Tegal – a city on the north coast of Central Java.

Who are your main customers? 
About half of our customers are foreign persons, the other half are locals.

What products are most commonly requested? 
Bags and shoes are our most commonly requested items. Other items that we are able to make include belts, wallets, jewellery (such as cuffs). If the item is made from leather, we can probably make it.

In general, how long does it take to make a bag? a pair of shoes? 
The process of making shoes involves three steps: the initial consultation where we select the leather and measure up for size, then approximately two weeks later the customer returns for a fitting. The following week they are able to pick up their brand new bespoke shoes. 
A bag is more simple to make and the customer normally has it within two weeks. 

A happy customer – Thank you Ben & Sons 🙂
A closer look at the belt.

Ben & Sons
Jl. Kemang Timur No. 28B
Ph: 021 – 7179 0753
(To find Ben & Sons: Continue to the end of Jl. Kemang Timur. Just before you turn into Jl. Kemang Utara it is located on your left… look for number ’28B’ painted on the wall).

Keen to explore more in this area of South Jakarta? Here are our Top Spots to Stop on Jl. Kemang Timur and nearby you should also check out our Top Spots to Stop on Jl. Benda .
Happy Exploring Jakarta Friends 🙂

Words: Jo Stevens  Photography: a journey bespoke

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