#unCOVERED – Meet the Man who sets the benchmark for Functional Luxury
Behind the history of Tocco Toscano lies James Lor – a veritable artisan in his own right who had the temerity to choose the road less travelled to establish a fashion house. James has handed over the reins of the family business to his son, Joseph Lor. Under his father’s tutelage, Joseph has taken Tocco Toscano to greater heights, while maintaining his artistic individuality through the launch of his own functional luxury brand – “Faire Leather Co.”
Meeting the Man Behind the Brand
COVERED: Would you like to tell us more about the history behind the brand and the man behind Tocco Toscano?
JOSEPH LOR: Tocco Toscano is an Italian leather goods label now owned and operated by my family. I started working for my father, James Lor, 8 years ago, and I have always respected him for his creativity and work ethic.
The youngest of four children, he went through the school of hard knocks in 1960s Singapore. A chance opportunity to work on binding leather Bibles gave him his first encounter with the basics of leather production which grew to become a lifelong passion. This is what fueled the successes of first TOSCANO, then TOCCO TOSCANO.
Fast forward to 2015, I was finally ready to take over as CEO. This gave my father some breathing room to focus on his passion; designing and creating leather goods. I drew up plans to improve operational efficiency and grow the business.
COVERED: Your father sounds like a man of great passion, fortitude and ambition. Would you like to tell us more about your apprenticeship journey under your father?
JOSEPH LOR: In terms of the craftsmanship aspect, I have only learnt the basics. My primary duties are on the distribution end of the business, which I have since taken over. My father is the brain that focuses on product development. So while I contributed a lot in terms of the design of Faire Leather Co.’s products, I relied on my father for the manufacturing aspect. However, I do love design, drawing and arts and crafts in general. I designed the second iteration of my father’s company logo when I was 9 years old. So one day, I do hope to take on the challenge of moving past product design and into product development one day.
COVERED: Would you share with us some of lessons that you have learnt through your apprenticeship? How does it feel working in the family business and continuing to build his legacy?
JOSEPH LOR: My father managed to turn his life around completely. He raised a family and built a business without the traditional privileges of money or education. Instead, he relied solely on undeniable passion, a hardcore work ethic and God. To me, that’s a pretty inspirational story that has taught me that good old-fashioned hard work and focus can overcome life’s obstacles and lack of privilege.
JOSEPH LOR: As a kid, I remember how tiring it was for him to constantly travel and work late. Being the first-born child in my family (I have 2 younger siblings), I feel that is my responsibility to carry on his legacy. But don’t get me wrong, I am not doing this purely out of duty, being a part of this journey has been both stimulating and enjoyable too.
Building a Legacy: Faire Leather Co.
COVERED: We understand that you have decided to forge your own footprints and started your own new label: Faire Leather Co.. Would you like to tell us more about Faire?
JOSEPH LOR: A contemporary take on men’s leather goods, the idea for Faire Leather Co. was sparked when my business partner, Ryan Choy, and I observed the lack of well-priced, quality leather goods that combine classic style with functional design.
Ryan is your typical male working professional who needs a laptop, notebook, power bank all in a stylish bag. But he didn’t feel like there was anything available that was solving a truly simple and fundamental problem. This problem was a messy bag which made it impossible to find anything. This was when he approached me to see if we could figure out a bag designed to neatly fit literally all the essentials.
COVERED: What is the inspiration behind The Bond Collection and The Specter Collection?
JOSEPH LOR: Faire Leather Co.’s products are sleek and polished, as befitting a men’s luxury label. We have named our debut collections after iconic television and movie characters who are both timeless and stylish. It isn’t about just how good they look, but how well they go about their daily lives. Our debut collection, The Bond Collection, pays homage to James Bond, a man’s man who always keeps his tech and gadgets in their proper place. This way, they’re easily accessible – and they help to get the job done.
COVERED: Would you like to share with us more about your factories and business model?
JOSEPH LOR: One of Faire Leather Co.’s hallmarks is its direct-to-consumer (DTC) pricing. This means that it is without the mark-ups that typically inflate the pricing of luxury brands. In addition, Faire Leather Co. is a vertically integrated company – we run and own our factory, the same factory that has also produced for several luxury brands.
This means Faire Leather Co. controls every process from production to delivery. We make savings throughout the entire production process, which we then pass on to the consumer. This sets us apart from other DTC brands, since we never have to pay a manufacturer’s fee or a sample production cost. This keeps our costs low, ensuring that we offer great value for a fair price compared to everyone else.
The Next Business Dimension
COVERED: Will you be coming up with more products? Where do you envision the brand to be in the next 5 – 10 years?
JOSEPH LOR: We are planning to offer customisation options such as a monogramming service and interchangeable bag straps of different colours, materials and designs. In addition, we are also looking to expand our product line to include:
- Functional business card holders
- Key pouches
- Unisex diaper bags
- A matte gunmetal hardware option for all products
In 5 to 10 years, we hope Faire Leather Co. will be synonymous with Functional Luxury at a Fair Price. We aspire to be the go-to label for leather goods. Our consumers believe in our commitment to quality. Each product we create, not only make their lives easier, but also make them look good. We do all of these at the same time, without charging exorbitant prices for it.
COVERED: In the past decade, fashion aficionados have seen interesting uses of technology in fashion and on the runway. With the rise of e-commerce, will Tocco Toscano or Faire Leather Co., be joining in the fight to capture a share of the fashion pie?
JOSEPH LOR: Data is paramount for Faire Leather Co., the result of a joint venture earlier this year between Tocco Toscano and Yventures Group. Yventures is a Singapore-founded, data analytics-driven e-commerce company with a presence in over 20 online marketplaces around the world. The partnership has provided Ryan and me with insights into consumer mindsets and behaviours while guiding us to offer great value, leveraging on Y Ventures Group’s proprietary data analytics and specialisation in online retail and distribution channels.