The Casual Sophistication of La Matera

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Travel can be one of the best research tools available to any creative. There is just something about discovering new sights and situations that motivates the senses. But the penultimate measure of any trip isn’t so much where you go, but the interactions you have along the way.

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For Alex & Brook Stroud, their experiences abroad inspired them to launch La Matera – a small, unisex accessories label that produces handmade belts & leather goods. In homage to their time spent amongst the gauchos in Southern Argentina, the designers capitalize on traditional fabrics found throughout the region. The result is a collection of casual, yet sophisticated pieces with an unfamiliar allure.

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Palmer & Sons – Family, Brawn, and Leather Goods

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Having the hindsight and benefit of working in a family business, I can attest first hand to the ups and downs of sharing space with loved ones. At times it’s not an easy thing (in fact I venture to say that most people couldn’t do it) but there is a special synergy that you discover when you are more than just coworkers. This in part is why I have so much respect for Palmer & Sons. As you might have guessed, this Canadian leather goods label is comprised of a father and son who work together to design, prototype, and produce each piece in their collection entirely by hand.

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Initial-Backpack

One of the aspects I most admire about the label is their distinct Herculean aesthetic. With thick hides and bountiful rivets, their goods seem almost gratuitously sturdy. But therein lies the appeal: their bags are built for a lifetime (or three or four). To guarantee this, Palmer & Sons rely on traditional production methods, tools, and knowhow. Furthermore – and perhaps more unusually – each piece is crafted one at a time from start to finish.

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Tannis Hegan – Handcrafted Women’s Accessories

A collection of belts & handmade brass hardware

A collection of belts & handmade brass hardware

Working in the film industry is an interesting prerequisite to launching one’s own fashion accessories label, but that’s precisely what happened for designer Tannis Hegan. Drawing on a decade of experience as a leatherworker and costume designer, she decided to break off and launch her self-titled line back in 2007. Since then, her work has won her a notable reputation for her immaculate eye and uncompromising emphasis on quality.

Goatskin, canvas, & wood carryall

Goatskin, canvas, & wood carryall

earmuffs made of recycled vintage fur and custom made spring steel

earmuffs made of recycled vintage fur and custom made spring steel

Her most recent collection certainly showcases both of these characteristics. To start, almost everything is completely handcrafted – even down to minor components like solid brass hardware. One of the more rewarding aspects about her designs is that she seems interested in the natural beauty of her materials. A particular favorite is her clutch (below), which features a hand molded wooden handle.

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Cause & Effect for NeedSupplyCo – A Limited Series of Handmade Belts

The purveyors of all things good at Need Supply Co. recently released an exclusive collection of three handmade belts by Cause & Effect – a small label out of Tennessee that specializes in benchmade leather goods and custom metal work.

One Lined Buckle Detail

One Lined Buckle Detail

Like the rest of the goods from Cause and Effect, each piece in the series is crafted entirely by hand. The belts are cut from premium vegetable tanned leather and are then adorned with custom-cast brass or copper buckles. Yet what’s unique about the  Need Supply Co collection in particular is that each belt is hand-painted as well.

Two Lined Belt Profile

Two Lined Belt Profile

There are three different motifs that combine various color and stylistic elements. My personal favorite is the incarnadine belt, which features two etched lines around its circumference that reveal the natural leather underneath. Overtime, these stripes of exposed leather will darken and will thus support an ever-changing contrast with the red. As a final touch, the rustic hand-hammered brass buckle pulls everything together.

Be sure to check out additional images of the collaboration in the gallery below. As always, you can learn more about these pieces and other by visiting the respective websites for Cause & Effect or Need Supply Co.

Teranishi Handcrafted – Single Hole Bespoke Belt

It never occurred to me that a bespoke belt could have a single hole to mark the user’s specific size. In that sense, this piece from the Teranishi Handcrafted archives speaks to the fundamental values of the brand; it is an understated and carefully constructed leather good with a unique life to live.

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Made from premium vegetable-tanned leather, the natural hue is certain to develop an exceptionally rich caramel patina based on the rigors of daily wear. But what is particularly intriguing about this belt is that it exudes a sense of tailor-made confidence and stability. Conversely, it may also allow the wearer a certain savoir-faire in punching his/her own additional holes. (Perhaps this user interaction might even lead to unique decorative embellishments. Who knows?) Either way, the belt is a telling symbol of the wearer’s personality.

 If you haven’t already, be sure to take a look at Teranishi Handcrafted’s line of handmade leather goods, which includes everything from other wearables to wallets.

Some Special Goods (For Holding Up The Trousers)

For Holding Up The Trousers is a refreshingly down-to-earth accessories label that specializes in handmade belts and suspenders. Although the label is proudly based in Denmark, it draws inspiration from late 19th Century Americana both in terms of aesthetics and quality.

Each creation in their line is crafted from honest, durable materials that often include recycled components dating back to the WWII era. There are many one-of-a-kind pieces that reuse vintage hardware, elastic, and even the original leather depending on their condition. If the found materials don’t measure up, they are discarded and replaced with modern components like custom-made ceramic buttons and straight vegetable-tanned leather.

Aside from crafting modern relics, For Holding Up The Trousers produces the majority of its line from scratch. Take for example their “West End Roller” belt (above), where the leather is folded forward around the buckle to reveal a small area of nubuck that is customarily hidden. While scrolling through the images, be sure to keep an eye out for other small innovations like this that play with color, texture, and materials.

For Holding Up The Trousers + Trestle Shop Collaboration Belt

The label is relatively new, but already has an impressive portfolio. Only a couple pieces are shown here, but you can view the rest at their website. You can also see some more work in person if you visit one of their many stockists throughout the US, Europe, & Japan.

Tender Co. – Oxidized Keeper Belt

Belt Profile

This belt from England’s Tender Co. is pretty understated in most respects, but the solid-brass buckle is a particularly engaging element. The vibrant blue is achieved not by paint, but rather by a calculated oxidation process. It’s a unique take on patina in that the buckle is left raw and unpolished to achieve this effect. Rest assured however, the buckle will last longer than any of us. It is hand-cast in England using an especially time-consuming, but quality-driven lost wax method.

Oxidized Buckle

The leather used for this belt is also incredibly special. It is cut from the “stirrup butt,” which is the thickest and strongest section of any cowhide. The leather bark-tanned in England for 18 months and is left natural for a patina to develop over time. They then apply mutton tallow and fish oil to the leather by hand, using traditional brushes and scrapers. To keep everything sturdy, the belt is crafted with waxed “tiger thread” for prolonged durability.

Waxed “Tiger” Thread Detail

Check out the gallery below for detailed images of the belt (courtesy of Hickorees Hard Goods). You can also find out more about Tender Co. on their website, where they have many other to-be heirlooms for you viewing pleasure.

Black Creek Mercantile & Trading Co – “Trap” Belt

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 It’s always a pleasure to find straightforward goods. This unisex belt from Black Creek Mercantile & Trading Co. is a great example of elegance via restraint. It consists of two components—a single strip of American bridle leather and a cold rolled steel buckle to hold it in place. Structurally the steel rod functions in the same manner as the gigantic, ostentatious cowboy buckles we see on TV. It is finished up with solid copper rivets and burnished edges. Check it out in both colorways below.

Rileau – Knotted & Tapered Belt

During the second World War, pretty much all of the metal working was diverted to outfit the military. Civilians had to make do or be resourceful. Roger Rileau thus crafted two belts – neither of which relied on rivets, buckles, or even stitches. In addition to being made of one piece of leather, each belt is cut by hand without a pattern.

Knotted Belt

The “Knotted Belt” is the first of the buckle-less belts. It uses a rather intricate knot system which nonetheless is reputedly easy to learn. As an insurance policy, the belt comes with a woodblock print which demonstrates the step-by-step. (Points for some serious era-specific processes going on here).

Tapered Belt

The second and more elegant version is the “Tapered Belt.” Rather than using one vertical slot, this belt uses one vertical and one horizontal slot through which to loop the belt. Both are designed to be worn by both men and women, but I think these belts over the years have accrued a somewhat feminine slant. But no matter who has it on, the important thing is to appreciate a great moment of ingenuity in American craftsmanship.

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