The Turkish TikToker cutting up designer leather bags online: ‘It feels like plastic'

Volkan Yilmaz has found a global audience as millions watch him slice up Chanel and Dior bags

Volkan Yilmaz has caused jaws to drop on TikTok as he cuts up designer bags, purses and shoes to evaluate their leather and craftmanship. Photos: @TannerLeatherstein
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If the idea of someone taking a pair of scissors to a brand new Chanel bag has you screaming “fashion murder!” and running for the hills, then look away now.

Turkish leather worker Volkan Yilmaz, who lives in the US, has been racking up the views on TikTok thanks to his very hands-on approach to revealing whether the quality of the designer bag you paid a few months’ rent for was worth the investment.

Yilmaz, 36, who posts as @TannerLeatherstein on the social media platform, has garnered more than 580,000 followers and counting, who watch videos of him cutting into the leather, pulling apart the seams and breaking down the quality of some of the most expensive designer bags in the world.

‘If you see a very high price … it is for the status, not the leather’

“Worth it?” Yilmaz often asks his viewers, before breaking down what he believes is the cost of the leather and craftsmanship of various items including purses, bags and shoes.

One of his videos has had more than two million views, in which he takes a new — not second-hand — Chanel wallet and cuts into it. He estimates that it retails for $1,200 but costs only $130 in materials and craftsmanship.

“As a consumer, you get to know how much leather or craftsmanship typically costs and deduct how much premium you’re paying,” he told The Cut. “Leather is not cheap but never astronomically expensive either. If you see a very high price, then know that it is for the status, not the leather.”

Water, scratch and quality tests

Prada, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Loewe Dr Marten, Fossil and Coach are a few of the designer brand-name products which have gone under Yilmaz’s knife.

He performs a scrape test to ascertain the quality of the leather and cuts into the fabric to check for scratch and water resistance. He also burns sections of the leather to check tanning and dyeing agents.

“In my estimate, $35 should be enough to cover the leather,” he says during a deconstruction of a Gucci Dionysus Super Mini. “It’s a sophisticated complex craft, so $80 to make it, and in total $115 should be able to cover the cost of material and craftsmanship. I paid $1,100 for this bag … but, of course it is Gucci, it comes with status.”

Vintage vs modern bags

Yilmaz moved to the US from Turkey in 2009 and worked as a cab driver in Chicago before settling down in Dallas with his wife and two children. He set up his own leather goods brand, Pegai, and regularly deconstructs those items on camera as well.

Fans of his TikTok account send in their own vintage bags for Yilmaz to cut up to see how durable they are, with a recent video showing him slicing up a 20-year-old Coach bag and a vintage Michael Kors tote.

He also educates his followers on what different leather terms such as “patina” mean, as well as on cactus leather, the acetone test and how to remove ink stains from material.

“Can you believe I paid $2,200 for this bag?” he says, slicing into a small, black Prada bag. “It’s from Prada, made out of their Saffiano leather. It feels so much like plastic to me … in my opinion $120 will make a bag of this sort and style.”

“Leather is a feeling thing; you don’t need any knowledge,” he told The Cut. “Smell it for the earthy pleasant tones; the lower-grade stuff usually gives off a chemical smell.”

Yilmaz added: “Sometimes I just enjoy the cutting process, and sometimes it hurts.”

Updated: December 19, 2022, 11:22 AM