Alright, whoever's tired of hearing the phrase "heritage brand" raise your hand. Yes, I love Filson, Bean and Sperry as much as the next guy, but there are so many smaller companies that need our love, support and dollars during these dark days. Besides, it's easy to fall into that heritage hole and end up looking like every other trad-addict out there wearing grandpa's shoes. Of course, just because a label's new doesn't mean the company has forsaken old-world craftsmanship. Here are three up-and-coming leather lines worth looking into.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in Minnesota, Chris and Kirk Bray have had the name of their line under their belt since they were kids. "My father called me Billy Kirk, melding my name William and Kirkland together as a term of endearment," explains Kirk. "It's a very southern thing to do." They started off with watchbands—using only the finest domestic and Italian leathers while hand treating the hides with natural oils and beeswax. While living in L.A., they apprenticed under a third generation leather maker and learned the many tricks of the trade. After moving east to New York, they began utilizing the talents of the Amish. The result was a match made in heaven. The Pennsylvania people hand make many of the belts, wallets, satchels and bags which are then finished off in-house. The results? Handsome lap top bags, belts and even unconventional pieces like a swank pair of cufflinks.
Jason Gregory's sturdy collection of leather goods—all hand sewn and assembled by family run companies in the US—were inspired by rustic relics found in his grandfather's basement. A pilot who traversed the globe, his granddad's old camera cases and luggage brought Gregory out of his corporate job mentality and into the world of luxury leather. In 2005, the Orlando-based designer started with made-to-order pieces, but demand grew and he launched a full line of goods including card holders, wallets, totes and, of course, camera cases. Contrast is a subtle signature of the line. Leather is laser cut, yet hand sewn and soft deerskin is paired with industrial wovens. This spring, he'll release the new 1.5 collection, focusing on even less adornment and swankier materials. And keep an eye out for an expanded selection of wallets as well as three top-secret products, all made in his workshop in small batches.
Another brother duo, this time hailing from Montreal, Dexter and Byron Peart unveiled their leather goods collection in the winter of 2006. The twins, who both have a background in fashion and marketing, conceived the company out of a want for the luxury trappings of travel's past. While the collection was influenced by old world luggage, the guys were more inspired by mid-century modern architecture and furniture by Eames and Prouve. The collection can easily be identified by the gold and silver zipper, as well as their timeless style. The DeGaulle bag, for example, could've fallen out of Serge Gainsbourg's closet. Hand crafted in Italy, the sporty label has been much hyped for their stylishly innovative iPod cases as well as their dapper briefcases and passport holders. New for Want is a line of eco-minded (and down right affordable) "rolled bags" made from 100% organic cotton.
They're not distracted by the world's marketing machine. They have no idea who the Rolling Stones are or that we're at war.
- Chris Bray of Billykirk, on working with the Amish.
Leather looks better beat up. Age leather by dampening, then tossing into the dryer to slightly crack and soften the skin. Add subtle wear and scratches on edges and corners with sandpaper.
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