To longtime Valet. readers, the name Read Wall likely sounds familiar. We've followed the young designer's progress from a charitable collection brand to full-on lifestyle brand. His latest venture is going to the dogs... but not in the way you'd think. Having run his own menswear brand for a couple of seasons, Wall's new project, Terrier Bags, aims to reconcile American manufacturing with a keen eye for detail and a higher taste level than most guys willing to just find something made in the USA. Wall knows that where something's made isn't as important as how it's made. And he's out to show that we're still making some pretty damn good things in America. We caught up with him to see if Terrier Bags' bark is as big as its bite.
From a design standpoint, I think you have to make things that you understand and love to wear. I don't think it's a coincidence that our best-selling items are the same ones I reach for every day when I get dressed. Equally as important as design, though, has been our relationship with our factories. Being meticulous in identifying skill and craftsmanship is crucial for creating exceptional products. This generally means working only with factories that focus on a particular skill that has been developed over time—and in some case generations.
Duffel bag, $295
I think the general public has a pretty significant disconnect with the way clothing—or any sewn item—is made. The term "handmade" is extremely over-used: just about everything you put on your body is made by hand. The quality determinate then becomes the skill of the hands that made the item. A lot of factories will have a long list of items they can make—but that doesn't mean they make them well. As cut-and-sew production in the United States has decreased dramatically over the past 20 years, many factories have been forced to diversify their offerings in order to stay afloat. In most cases, this means taking on industrial cut-and-sew jobs, like mattress pads or medical products. There are different standards and skills used for industrial jobs, and the focus is more on efficiency than artisanship. But these old artisan factories do still exist here—and it's important to note and support the expertise that goes into a well-made product.
Dopp kit, $125
I love visiting factories and watching the true skill that goes into making things, and I've been lucky enough to visit some incredibly skilled factories over the past few years. When I was exploring factories for this project, my experience with the Manolucci Factory was an immediate fit. They are a second generation factory operating in New Jersey and are making a concerted effort to meet the demands of modern customers. They have made bags for some serious luxury labels and take pride in making beautiful things. But their story is all too common—those huge orders that used to fill up their production schedule have moved abroad, leaving them with a workforce that is a fraction of what it could be. This experience made clear a second goal for Terrier: to get this great factory working at full-capacity again.
I don't think people should necessarily expect to pay more for an item just because it's made in the US—I think people should consider the value in everything they buy. An item like ours, made at a skilled factory from quality materials, is guaranteed to provide a lifetime of service. It has an increased value because it's made better and will last longer—not simply because it's made here. If you also consider the prices we are able to offer by selling direct (retailers would generally mark them up to about $700), Terrier bags are an absolute steal.
A terrier is a breed of working dog that has a regal history but they are driven by purpose. My parents have a Jack Russell—Roper—and he has this incredibly distinct personality. When I was thinking of names for the line, I started to research the Terrier breed a little more and there were these awesome quotes that popped up in every search: active and fearless; sturdy, tough and tenacious. And each kind of Terrier had their own equally quotable descriptions, so we named each bag after a Terrier that we thought matched the characteristics of the bag.
I'd have to say it's our Jack Russell Duffel. I wanted to make a bag that was essentially two bags in one—I've had weekenders that buckle down like ours, but when I unbuckled the sides for some added space, the straps would flap around and be really annoying. So we added a hidden snap that keeps the leather strap in place and allows for a real dual-use bag. It's a simple detail but it makes all the difference.
When I was putting together this first collection, each item—the tote, dopp kit and duffle—were commitment items; the kind of thing that you buy to use, not to sit on a shelf. It made sense to introduce an accessible, entry level item that would bring people into the Terrier fold. A coozie ($25) fits all the Terrier values: keeping beers cold is as loyal as it gets.