Among the many disparate careers Tom Farrah has embarked on – working on a cattle station, as a ski instructor, at an art auctioneering house and as a fly-in-fly-out worker – the role of designer is closest to home.
Design was always a fixture of dinner-table conversation in the Farrah household. Farrah’s father, Tim, and brother, Monty, were industrial designers and influential figures in his life. Despite being sidetracked from his own study of industrial design by the promise of adventure elsewhere, he never forgot the lessons learned back home.
Farrah is now the designer behind his namesake line of leather goods, as well as the product designer at The Field Equipment Company. “My background encouraged me to look at the actual potential of the material and how it can be used differently,” Farrah says. “The thing with industrial design is, if you research the material enough, you can do pretty much anything with it.”
Farrah’s line of handmade leather products – wallets, belts, notebooks and cufflinks – are intended to last forever. His pieces are what he calls “life equipment”.
He applies to Farrah the same thinking as he does as the product designer for The Field Equipment Company, his second business. It concentrates on quality, everyday products such as stainless-steel tongs and most recently a collapsible, steel, charcoal barbecue. If anyone were looking for a modern definition of Hard Yakka, Farrah’s products would probably be it.
Farrah’s goal is to avoid constantly cutting, stitching and “over-machining” materials, which creates friction and weak spots that lead to quicker wear and tear.
This is most evident in his leather belts, which are free of both rivets and stitches. The wallet is equally simple, comprised of kangaroo leather and a steel clip.
“I think it’s a good feeling for people not to have to buy one of these every 12 months,” Farrah says. “People know someone has put the effort in and they are willing to fork out the extra money for it.”