The Custom Experience
I've been in the making business for ten years now.
Me out front at the shop, 18th Street
As with most things in my life, there's no set plan. What had started as the simple desire to craft something other than clothes (my day job at the time was at Banana Republic as a menswear designer) proved to be my ticket out. I left my job over a year ago and spend my days at the shop, making things.
18th street is still peaceful when I get to the shop. Traffic hasn't backed up yet. The early morning sounds of the city street are different. The sssshhhh of the 33 bus as it pushes along. Dog tags jangling on the collar of the unleased chihuahua walking with his owner. The early morning hours are my favorite. It's when the city is a small village.
After ten years, I don't know that I'd have done anything much different. When I unlock the shop in the morning each morning, I turn the lights on, get Julio out of his cage, feed the pigeons outside, clean up a bit. As far I can tell, it might as well be 1918.
Ten years later, I've built a few styles that people know me for. The Paper Bag, the Air Tote, The Zip Top Tote. Way before those styles were built, I was a man bag guy. I started as a custom shop out of my loft in West Oakland, building stylish briefcases and travel bags for men and women who wanted bespoke design and quality, without the branding tags seen on bags from the established houses. Discretion is and was always at the center of my design philosophy.
Ten years later, I am still a custom bag maker. It isn't as apparent now that I've got the shop where I sell readymade pieces. But it's my favorite part of the business. Working with a client to develop a bag is a great way to get to know someone. It's also a cool way for a client to dig in and get creative.
The process is free-flowing, a conversation that can sometimes be as much a therapy session as it is a working session with a tangible end goal.
I usually start by asking what the purpose of the bag is. Is this something for everyday use, as a tote? Is this a bag to bring to office? Both? A travel bag?
Generally speaking, the shop has a bag shape that will be a good point of departure for any possible need. I suggest using one or a few of the styles to piece together elements to create a bag that addresses all the needs that we are discussing.
Then comes the fun part, where we get to looking at the various skins. Colors and finishes are important to a design, with the right skin being key to the best outcome. I've built a large collection of skins from the best tanneries in the US, as well as Italy. I also have skins that I've hand carried back from Argentina, from a tannery that is near my cousin's house in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
I've also collected fabrics for many years, letting the client choose from the simplest of cotton canvas or rare Japanese kimono silks from the 1920's. I always suggest to let the mind wander. Enjoy the process. Be part of the process.
Working remotely is very much an option. Creating a design, choosing skins, linings and hardware options is something that we can do through internet and mail.
Designing a bag
Cutting the leather for a custom bag
The final product- a Soft Brief in a sturdy oil tan skin with vintage cotton velvet lining.
Come on by the shop and visit. Or drop a line and let's talk about how I might help you to make the bag that you'll use for the rest of your life. And that's no small thing.