What Goes Into Making a Custom Leather Belt?

The Artists Method (for Custom Leather Belts Anyway)

So you’re in the market for a custom leather belt?  Wondering why they cost so much more than a belt from the department store?  Read on.

Hand carved leather belt with floral design and silver and turquoise buckle
Hand carved leather belt with floral design and silver and turquoise buckle

Having a belt custom made to your specification takes a surprising amount of work.  This is especially true for the carved or stamped belts that I make.  

Usually the process starts off with a question about making a belt with a specific kind of design.  Maybe it’s a basket weave design or maybe something more complex like a floral carving.  One of the first important questions is what length the belt has to be.  There is a specific process I follow to make sure the belt is the right length for your waist and it goes beyond just knowing what size jeans you wear.  People are usually surprised to find out their belt length is longer than their pants waist size!

Once we work out the belt dimensions it’s then a matter of determining the design.  Sometimes this is easy as the customer is ordering a standard design from my shop such as one of my standard floral designs or a particular geometric design.  But sometimes they are looking for something more custom.  I’ve had a request for a grape vine design from someone that owned a vineyard.  Or someone might want me to make a design that matches something else I’ve made for them like a carved notebook or wallet.  In those cases I need to draw a belt design that will work on the size of belt they want and that matches their request.

A custom belt design including carving artwork and belt templates.
Custom belt being designed on my bench.

The width of the belt is a consideration too.  Some people like wider belts and some like narrow belts.  Or maybe they want something that is mostly wide but is tapered around the belt buckle.  We can do that too, and those changes in width may need to be taken into account when designing the artwork for it.

And do they want it personalized?  Maybe they want their name on the back or initials on the billet?  Maybe they want their brand on the belt?  These are all considerations when working with a customer to develop a custom belt for them.

So there are a lot of design steps and things to consider.  This is what you are paying for when you work with a professional leather crafter who is making you a custom belt, and it is reflected in the price.  But the end result should be a belt that will last you many years and that you will be happy to show off.

If you want your own custom leather belt, contact us now to get the process started!  We would be happy to work with you!

The Quiet Luxury Trend and how it Effects Leather Workers

The Quiet Luxury Trend

In the midst of difficult economic times, rising inflation and some of the highest interest rates in decades, it easy to say that consumers in the US are under pressure.  From groceries to gasoline to electricity, costs are up across the board and families in the US are definitely feeling the pinch.  The leather goods business is not immune to these effects.  I’ve personally seen my orders slow down the past year while the costs of raw materials has increased.

A leather money clip with a black lizard skin inlay.
Leather Money Clip with Lizard Skin Inlay

One trend that is currently appearing in the US economy is the Quiet Luxury Trend (its also sometime called the ‘Stealth Wealth’ trend) and in may be a direct result of the tightening in the economy.  It generally refers to a shift in luxury item purchases away from flashy designer logos or traditional high end brand names in favor of less flashy, more understated items and more thoughtful shopping.  It has also been described as avoiding flashy brand logos and focusing more on the quality of an item and whether or not it fits your lifestyle. The quiet luxury trend also has been described as still using expensive materials but in muted tones or less flashy ways.  Some analysts have even claimed that this trend is partially driven by the wealthy looking to avoid flaunting their wealth at a time when many others are struggling to pay the bills and living paycheck to paycheck.

So does this effect leather workers?

So how does this trend away from flashy luxury affect the business of most leather workers?  Maybe not much and it really depends on who your target customers are.  If you are a saddle maker and much of your business is saddles and working gear for cowboys, you probably won’t see much effect.  If you are making high end notebooks, wallets and handbags (like much of my business is) it could be an issue.  If people are not looking for flashy luxury leather items it may make some of our customers think twice before they purchase a fully carved leather handbag or bifold wallet.  

There are a couple of ways you can approach this trend.  You can make more muted and less flashy versions of your standard products.  Maybe you use less flashy hardware or a more subtle leather to make your item.  In my case I’m exploring items that have less carving and focus more on the quality of the leather.  I’ve got a clutch wallet in the works now that fits this bill.  Or maybe you continue doing things they way you have been.  If you have established a customer base already they most likely come to you because of the style or look your leather work has now, and they are more likely to choose your work because they know your quality and will pay for your work.  So you wouldn’t want to alienate these loyal customers just because of a current hot trend.  

Perhaps the best approach to this quiet luxury trend is to experiment with more subtle items.  That’s what I’m trying now with items that focus on the luxury look and feel of the leather instead of the intricate work of the carving or stamping.  But I won’t be giving up leather carving.  I’ve already got enough orders for carved items (plus a few cool ideas I want to try) to keep me busy throughout the summer.  And then we’ll see what new fashion trend comes around the fall.

Leather Clutch Wallet made from blue embossed crocodile
Blue leather clutch wallet.

A Little History of Handbags and Purses

For a long time I’ve been working on handbag and purse designs.  They have almost exclusively been custom orders for people but recently I’ve made one design (a cross body bag) available in my shop for purchase.  

A soft leather handbag with a carved front flap.
Cross Body Bag

The history of handbags and purses is fascinating!  Handbags and purses are a key part of many modern women’s wardrobes and often make a statement as an important accessory.  But that wasn’t always the case.  According to this Wikipedia article, the term handbag didn’t come into common use until the early 20th century.  While both sexes had carried a ‘purse’ which was primarily used for coins for many years prior to that, the term ‘handbag’ began appearing in the 1900’s as a description of men’s hand luggage.  However apparently over time women’s bags grew larger and more complex and the term ‘handbag’ became more associated with women’s bags.

The First Luxury Handbag

The first set of ‘luxury handbags’ is believed to have been made in 1841 as a custom order for an English Industrialist, Samuel Parkinson.  According to history (and the same article referenced above) he ordered a set of traveling bags from a London shop called H. J. Cave.  As part of the order he specified a “traveling case or bag for his wife’s particulars after noticing that her purse was too small and made from a material that would not withstand” long journeys by train.  He also requested that several be made in different sizes for different occasions and he specifically stated they needed to be made of leather.  While this was good news for me and other future leather workers like me, it wasn’t that popular at the time.  The finished bags which are considered the first ‘modern’ handbags were considered too heavy by many critics of that time.  They were concerned that the bags were so heavy that they would result in back injuries to the poor frail women of the era.  H. J. Cave apparently only made handbags occasionally and stopped making them in 1865 except for certain customers.  Like the Queen of England and other royalty on request.  They would start making luxury bags again for the general public in 2010.

Fortunately for me and my interest in making custom leather handbags and purses, the idea did eventually catch on and now they exist in all sorts of shapes, sizes and artwork designs.  If you are interested in a custom leather handbag or purse, please feel free to contact me.  I’ll be thrilled to add my work to the history of handbags and purses!

Carved Leather Purse

This article has been sponsored by Loveland Heights Cottages near Estes Park, CO and along the banks of the Big Thompson River.  They have played host to many luxury leather bags over the years.  The cabins have been around almost as long as there have been modern handbags for women but the cabins still have modern conveniences like WiFi.  Check out their website to contact them and arrange reservations for your Rocky Mountain summer getaway!