Over the last decade, raw denim’s rise in popularity, as well as the idea of buying better made goods, has reached levels arguably never seen before. Opportunities for smaller independent brands continues to grow and thrive, particularly as online community of forums and online retailers flourish. We’ve seen this many times with raw denim brands and have highlighted many of them in our One Man Brands section on the site.
One industry that has grown alongside denim brands is the field of leather brands. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since denim and leather have always had a very intertwined history. In the U.S., the number of leather and dry goods brands operated by a single person has steadily increased and what’s even more exciting is that many of them have found ways to create unique, well-made products that will improve with time.
With every convention that we attend, we see more of these brands showing off their incredible work. With the holidays coming up too, that’s got many of us here at Rawr Denim thinking about gift ideas for our own family and friends. Thus, we’ve pieced together a list of brands that you may not know about just yet who are making high quality products by-hand and in America.
It goes without saying as well that there are many more brands out there doing equally excellent work. We hope to cover them in the future, so comment with your favorite label if they’re not mentioned here.
Teppei Teranishi is a man of many talents. Somehow while touring, recording, and traveling as a part of the band, Thrice, he was able to find time to pick up leather crafting and began creating small limited runs of journal covers, belts, and other accessories.
In the last year, Teranishi has grown from a side project to a full-time gig operating out of his studio in Vashon Island, Washington that has gained a following due to his minimalistic but functional designs.
A great example of Teranishi‘s aesthetic is the 5 Pocket Minimalist wallet which has two hidden pockets inside of the billfold instead of outside to maintain its streamlined look. If a billfold is too much wallet for you, the Eno wallet takes the minimal idea and simplifies it even more with a two pocket design that keeps a thin profile but can carry a surprising amount.
One of the standouts from the collection is Teppei’s take on a weekender bag, the Day Tripper, which is a roll top bag made of Chromexel leather that is small enough for everyday use but large enough to use for a short trip. The Day Tripper is unique in that it fits in both in a professional environment as well as more casual environments and regardless of where you use it, it still manages to catch people’s attention. Up close, it’s easy to see the time and attention he dedicates to every detail which explains he suggests ordering the bags 4-6 weeks in advance.
His entire collection is worth looking at and features a pretty wide gamut of products that includes iPhone cases, key clips with interchangeable leather straps, and a variety of carrying cases. In addition the regularly stocked items, he releases limited runs like his super popular Indigo Collection where his regular items are hand dyed with indigo and also the recently released camp hat using a Blackwatch wax fabric and Horween leather.
Like many of the other brands we’re featuring, Hellbrand Leather started off as a hobby to make leather goods for personal use which then trickled out to leather goods for family and friends and at some point, a decision was made to pursue it head on.
For Ed, Hellbrand Leather was born after working for years as a stockbroker that left him feeling uninspired. He made his first wallet after breaking an expensive name brand wallet after only a couple years of use and sought out a local leatherworker to learn how to make his own. It turned out that he had a hand for making leather goods; his side hobby quickly took off with word of mouth and morphed into Hellbrand Leather.
Ed’s work focuses on tough and durable products that are made to last. One look at his year-round staples – such as the notebook cover and chromexcel bifold – and it’s easy to see his preference for creating sturdy products that look and feel more substantial. In creating his products, he always ensures that every piece will not only last but also is functional and usable so even with items like the notebook cover, it’s sleek enough to fit in a back pocket.
He uses a variety of leather from Horween, Hermann Oak, and Wickett & Craig and also creates products such as messenger bags and duffles that combine the leather with heavy wax canvases. It’s also worth noting a great camouflage shell cordovan watch strap that he makes regularly.
In the end, Hellbrand Leather goods are all aimed to be the last goods you’ll need to buy.
2013 has been a busy year for Ed as he continues to add more to his growing collection of products. It seems that Hellbrand Leather will be quickly expanding with more and more retailers calling on him to help create product for their own lines.
As we enter 2014, it’s just a matter of time before we’ll be able to find his products in many parts of the country as well as abroad. Visit Hellbrand Leather for more information.
Ewing Dry Goods
One of the great things about these smaller independent brands is that they can operate out of anywhere. Through their own web shops and social networking apps, they can reach out far beyond their own surroundings; which is exactly what founder, Dan Ewing, has done with his own brand, Ewing Dry Goods.
He lives and works out of his home in Juneau, Alaska and while I admittedly know little about our northernmost state, Dan proudly represents Alaska in the products that he makes by using materials sourced locally and unique techniques not commonly seen in other brands.
Ewing Dry Good‘s most recognizable products are his leather cuffs where he finds and collects walrus teeth, bear knuckles, and antlers and features them on the cuffs. The idea behind the cuffs is to find parts of an animal that are no longer alive and giving it a second life where it can age again (even the string used to hold the cuff together is a deer skin lace).
This approach coupled with a choice of leather results in a truly unique piece where no two cuffs are exactly the same. In fact, it may be one of the few leather goods out in the market that doesn’t use any man made materials at all. Along with a wide variety of goods like key clips (check out his Survivor clips that uses a HK style gun clip), lanyards, and bolos (yes bolos for your scarf and bandana!), Ewing Dry Goods also produces a sturdy belt that uses a heavy 10 oz. leather that almost is white in color and will surely darken well with wear.
Dan’s approach leans heavily towards a simpler Native American inspired design that uses as many natural materials as possible. Even the burnishing of all of his leather goods utilizes a bear fat and beeswax mixture that helps the products be more durable and water resistant.
What’s great about Ewing Dry Goods is that Dan seems to have an insatiable obsession with searching for materials that are limited and hard to find. When he does, however, he seizes opportunities to create limited runs of products – like his Antique Tobacco Felt Pouch that utilizes some tobacco flannel made sometime before the 1920s.
Expect more things to come from Ewing Dry Goods as it becomes Dan’s full-time focus. Visit Ewing Dry Goods for more information.
Leather goods have a history deeply rooted in workwear and with workwear seeing a huge resurgence in popularity these days, people have turned to brands like Hollows Leather to get accessories made from heavier and sturdier materials cut in a utilitarian and timeless style.
When you read about Nicholas, the sole owner/operator of Hollows Leather, and his love for heritage brands like Filson, Carhartt, Red Wing, and White’s, it’s easy to see where he gets his inspiration from with his own products.
Operating out of his workshop in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Nicholas makes many of the staples such as wallets, notebook covers, key lanyards and bracelets. His approach is simple in design with little embellishment, but due to his attention to the small details, he manages to make each product unique to Hollows Leather. A great example of this is the triple-wrap hook bracelet, which takes on the familiar idea but utilizes a rich leather, Japanese brass hook and finished with a waxed thread that gives it a subtle but distinct look.
Embracing the workwear heritage aesthetic he’s put into his work, he recently released a batch of leather suspenders, the Crossroads Leather Suspenders, that uses Horween leather and a deadstock US military elastic. It’s decidedly only for a specific small group of people but it’s this kind of statement piece that tells the story behind Hollows Leather.
Nicholas seems to release products less frequently and in smaller batches, but it could be due to him meticulously working on several prototypes for future releases and also for other brands that he collaborates with (look out for a special Rogue Territory X Hollows Leather collab in the near future).
His products regularly sell out, which is a good problem for him to have, but means you’ll have to check back often or sign up for email updates to make sure you grab what you want before they’re gone. Visit Hollows Leather for more information.
Homestead Supply Co.
Last in our short list of upcoming brands is a newcomer located in the middle of the Rust Belt: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Once known for being a leader in the steel manufacturing industry, the area has since seen a pretty large decline in recent years. However, the folks behind Homestead Supply Co., John and Mike, still embody the work ethic and ideals that was common in the heyday of the steel industry.
Taking their name from a now defunct steel mill, the Homestead Steel Works, Homestead Supply Co. makes a variety of leather and metal goods that takes the traditional workwear blue collar aesthetic and combines them slightly with a more updated and simple design.
It seems like their focus is on the modern middle class worker that has less need for bulky wallets and belts, and instead wants sleeker and simpler designs that doesn’t lose the rugged aesthetic. Homestead Supply Co‘s Horween Chromexcel Wallet is a good example of this with its 3-plys of Chromexcel leather that allows you to carry cash in the larger pocket and cards in the smaller exterior pocket. Their leather bracelet featuring English bridle leather and a buffalo nickel conch is also a standout among their regular offerings.
While they regularly offer their standard goods, much of Homestead‘s work comes in custom orders where customers can work with John to create a custom piece made from a large variety of materials. Their current offerings on their site is just a glimpse into their catalog of work that they’ve done (you can see some of their work on their Instagram account).
From what we’ve seen, their willingness to experiment with different ideas gives their products a certain whimsicalness not found in a lot of well made leather good brands. For those in the Pittsburgh area, you can check out a lot of their work at Midatlantic Merchantile that is not yet readily available on their website.