Located in the famous chicken street of Share-Naw in Kabul, Ahmad Wali Shirzad manages the Qoy Leather Shop. Qoy means ‘leather’ in Uzbek and Ahmad Wali and his family have shaped ‘qoy’ into a heritage-filled and successful livelihood. Wali’s business is three generations strong, passed from his grandfather to his father and now to him. Abdul Haq started the art of leather works prior to the civil war and trained Ahmad Wali’s grandfather sixty five years ago. Wali started to work at the age of ten and now 38 years later he runs his family’s shop.
When Qoy started, the initial business labelled luxury items, limited to elites in Afghanistan. As it commercialized, the demand for leather goods increased and so did the shop’s customer base. Sadly during the civil war, the only business the Qoy shop had was to produce leather gun holsters; and more painfully, during the Taliban regime they made ‘Shalaq’ used to punish disobedient citizens. Ahmad Wali refused to leave his leather works business even during these hard times, staying in Afghanistan to work.
Even after the civil war ended and the Taliban has been routed out of Kabul, the shop has failed to garner strong amounts of business. Before the civil war, the shop employed 28 people, but now due to the challenging security situation, there are only five workers. At some points after the war, Ahman Wali’s business has seen a resurgence. Yet the customers do not come to the shop like they used to, most just asking for prices and leaving without purchasing. Part of the reason for the loss of business is the large amount of expats who have left Afghanistan.
Yet in spite of these difficulties, Ahmad Wali and his shop have endured for the last ten years. He strives to make beautiful leather works, crafted and designed in the ways his father taught him. Despite a limited staff and budget, the Qoy shop sources local materials and uses the natural methods of processing leather. He takes inspiration from local design and blends them with generations-old craftsmanship skills to produce authentic leather works that can be used commercially but also can be sold more globally. He proudly uses the logo ‘Made in Afghanistan’ on every Qoy shop product. He says its because it gives him a sense of happiness and reminds him of his grandfather’s legacy that he carries on.
For the past 10 years, a few companies have reached out to Ahmad Wali to partner up to give his unique products a chance to access the global market. Unfortunately, the little success in those endeavors has made him lose hope in global commercialization and made him worry about the future of his family’s shop. When Ahmad Wali met with Aseel for the first time, he was hesitant to try and partner again. Yet after we shared our business plan with him and he toured his shops with us, he saw our vision for what his business could be. Qoy’s Leather Shop is another valuable partner of Aseel. Ahmad Wali’s shop and its story encapsulates the heritage, authenticity, and resilience that one can only find in Afghan-made products. Please take a look at the Qoy Leather Shop’s merchandise on our website and help us help Ahmad Wali revitalize his leather works shop.