TOCCO TOSCANO - #EffortlessElegance
Tocco Toscano, meaning "Touch of Tuscany" in English, originated in Florence, Italy with the Stefano family, who specialised in bespoke leather products sold in a small exclusive boutique. The spirit of Tuscany is centered on the pursuit of beauty and infusion of art into the aspects of everyday life. Similarly, the label strives to create dynamic works of living art in the form of functional items.
With a focus on handbags and other small leather goods, Tocco Toscano offers a wide range of different product types and styles that complement all aspects of the modern individual’s lifestyle.
Each Tocco Toscano product is hand-crafted by experienced professionals and known for its durability, richness, smooth texture and lack of physical imperfections. In addition, the leather is tested and certified by International Quality Certification Firms. Only high quality hardware parts (brass and zinc alloy) are used. Each piece is individually plated, polished and brushed to ensure consistency and ultimately – perfection.
Today, Tocco Toscano is present in several countries. With a strong flair for design and an accumulation of 30 years of manufacturing expertise, the brand is helmed by the father and son team James and Joseph Lor, who manage the business from the production end and the front end respectively.
About the Founder
Founder James Lor credits his success to life lessons on resilience taught to him at a young age - he had, to say the least, very interesting formative years. The youngest of four children growing up in a poor neighbourhood in Chinatown, Singapore, he learnt that he needed to be tough to survive. James found an early taste for entrepreneurship, where he resold lottery tickets for profit. Unfortunately, he fell into the destructive culture of drugs and gangs, which was prevalent in less effluent areas in the 1960s.
Drugs and Prison
Starting with marijuana at the tender age of 11, he moved on to harder drugs such as opium, morphine and heroin in his early teens and dropped out of school by the age of 15. He joined a gang and by age 17 he saw the insides of a jail cell for the first time. Subsequently, James spent most of his late teens to mid-20s getting in and out of prison for a multitude of drug and gang-related offences.
Upon his final arrest, instead of sending him back to prison, the officer-in-charge decided to refer his case to Pastor Neville Tan (a missionary back then), who ran a Christian drug rehabilitation centre. As part of the program, James was required to bind leather bibles, giving him his first encounter with the basics of production with leather, such as cutting, stitching and embossing. Interest soon developed into passion and this provided him with the resolve he needed to get his life in order. After his release, he sought a career in leather craftsmanship.
Unfortunately, he experienced great difficulty in finding employment due to the stigma of hiring an ex-convict. Faced with constant rejection at job interviews, he decided to start his own business. Miraculously (given his criminal and credit background), he managed to secure a small loan from a local bank and started to purchase leather and metal buckles to produce his own belts. With assistance from his parents, he sold his wares door-to-door for a year before convincing department stores to carry his products. This initial success boosted his confidence and fuelled a strong desire to create more complex products such as bags and wallets.
Apprenticeship in Florence
James knew that his knowledge and abilities at that point in time were inadequate for this endeavour and he set out to find a leather master craftsman who would take him as an apprentice. Soon enough, he was referred by a friend to Valecchi Stefano who ran a small workshop in Florence, Tuscany. Stefano also owned TOSCANO – the label under which he sold his leather merchandise, mostly bespoke items, to a niche local clientele. During his apprenticeship, James was so impressed by the skill, intricate techniques and attention to detail that the Italian craftsmen exhibited, that he felt the need to introduce these quality products to the Asian consumer at an affordable price. Stefano eventually granted him licensing rights to TOSCANO in South-east Asia.
TOSCANO in Asia
In 1987 James returned to Singapore and launched TOSCANO in various department stores throughout the country. His early goods were imported directly from Stefano’s workshop but did not sell as well as he had hoped. He quickly realised that although the quality and essence of TOSCANO was to be maintained, he had to implement certain design tweaks to better appeal to the local market. His first iconic collection DURAN (1988) featured an emerald green textured PVC body trimmed with full-grain vegetable tanned cowhide and proved to be extremely popular. Over the next few years, the label grew from strength to strength with the launch of several other iconic collections such as Breezy (1990) and Eodia (1995). Customers particularly appreciated the style, quality and attention to detail – key traits that is still upheld today.
In the mid-1990s, James bought the trademark over. Soon after, the focus for the brand was shifted towards alignment with current fashion trends instead of the classic Italian style. With that, TOSCANO was rebranded as TOCCO TOSCANO.
Moving Forward with Technology
Emphasis on Data Analytics
In September 2015, the brand developed a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag - based on sales and inventory management system. Aside from increasing the efficiency of performing administrative tasks such as stock takes and tracking at the product level, the system allows Tocco Toscano to run sales data models to better determine what customers want from a product perspective.
Faire Leather Co.
As of August 2017, Tocco Toscano has entered a joint venture with the Y Ventures Group, a data analysis driven e-commerce retailer and distributor recently listed on the SGX-ST for the marketing, distribution and online retail of men's leather accessories under an online only private label line, Faire Leather Co. (www.faireleather.co).
The partnership aims to leverage on Y Ventures Group's proprietary data analytics and specialisation in online retail and distribution channels and Tocco Toscano's in-depth experience and expertise in leather craftsmanship to create functional, luxury products without the luxury markup, bringing value to consumers worldwide.