The Kents have earned a reputation for excellent quality, both in their exceptional leather goods, and in the strong relationships with their customers throughout Australia and beyond.
They have opened a new store and workshop near Stanthorpe, the culmination of 25 years honing a craft throughout the northern half of Australia. Lyle Kent has had a passion for leather most of his adult life, and continues to take a yearly trip to distant, but much valued clients, with wife Helen, just as they first did in 1991. However, things have improved greatly on the four-wheel drive, tents and trailer in which they and four kids made the first journey. The trip is now in a custom-made ‘truck shop’, ready to spend four months away supplying outback stations.
Having repaired his own saddles as a young stockman sparked Lyle’s love affair with leather. Once settled in Amiens, the Kents set about finding time away from their farm, to travel, perfecting techniques and settling on designs for the station workers across the top of Australia. Leah, Ben, Daniel, Jamie, Paul and Jessica Kent have grown up with the business. With many of them returning with their own families after time away, the saddlery business has become a true ‘family affair’.
Despite increasing demand, the family has maintained stock of an astonishing array of leather goods and related items, all handcrafted wherever possible. Over the years they have sourced liked-minded suppliers and endeavoured to support businesses as close to home as possible, or in rural settings. Saddle trees arrive from northern New South Wales, and horse care products from Toowoomba. Construction of their flagship store was done by Stanthorpe design team, Altitude950.
The range and quality of products are a direct result of Lyle and Helen’s commitment to meet the needs of their clients ¬ working stockmen and women. The modified Fender saddle is a cornerstone piece of gear for any horseperson, and a work of art in its own right. Developed by Lyle more than 24 years ago, with a process taking some weeks to complete, a Kent saddle often lasts a lifetime with care. Sons Ben and Daniel, alongside Tom Garland, craft each saddle to order, beginning with a saddle tree (moulded base), and handworking the leather to provide a comfortable fit, unique to each horse and rider. Daniel has recently developed a new saddle, specifically for campdrafting.
Traditional skills have also been brought to bear on less traditional-sounding items, like lip-balm pouches, radio pouches, and camera pouches.
As might be expected after 20 years travelling through the outback, a strong affinity has developed with families who have made the outback their home. The Kent family has responded by sharing their own story, (humble beginnings in a stone shed in Amiens), with those who, in many cases, have become friends. The Kent family also support remote initiatives, provide training in leatherworking and continue to keep alive skills that might otherwise be lost.
Words by Leigh Cusack | Images by Cory Rossiter