Bilofy.com is no stranger to fine leather goods. We’ve always been fans of well-made leather wares, be they watch straps, belts, or boots. And when we launched our own line of American-made leather watch accessories, we knew that we only wanted to use the finest materials we could get our hands on. But as we all well know, there is a lot of junk out there, and overpriced junk at that. So we’ve decided to dig through the clutter to compile a list of five of our favorite leather smiths from around the globe that should appeal to even the most discerning eye.
The Worcestershire Leather Company
Much like a watch, a belt can be a lifelong accessory. Unfortunately, most belts sold across department stores are not built to last, often made of plasticky leather glued together and padded with only god knows what. Enter The Worcestershire Leather Company, a leather outfit out of the United Kingdom known for producing some of the finest leather belts around.
Owner Tim Hardy has been in the leather trade for over 30 years, with a career that includes stints at Ralph Lauren, Gieves & Hawkes, and Nepenthes. The Worcestershire Leather Company is the culmination of his three decades of experience, with the company taking a made-to-order approach and selling direct to consumers. Hardy sources the best bridle leather from J. & E. Sedgwick & Co.–leaders in the production of vegetable tanned bridle, saddle, and equestrian leathers. The buckles and other hardware are produced by B.B. Stanley Bros., the last buckle-making foundry in Walsall, England. Everything is bespoke using traditional hand skills–the leather is cut, shaped, shaved, stained, punched, and stitched by hand.
Hardy offers a number of interesting colors not often see in bridle leather, with red, navy blue, and British racing green sitting alongside classics like black, nut, and tan. The belt featured here is the Chelsea in dark Havana topped off with a solid brass buckle (Nickel plated brass is also an option). As you can tell from the photo, the leather is quite stiff out of the box, but it will break in over time with continued wear. I own a number of bridle belts from other makers, and this one is by far my favorite in terms of aesthetics, quality, and overall attention to detail.
We first caught wind of Lotuff when they were our neighbors at the Pop Up Flea. To say that we were smitten with the beautiful bags on display would be an understatement, and it was easy to see why this New England brand has built a reputation for being one of the best American bag makers on the market.
But Lotuff is by no means new to the scene, at one point existing as Lotuff & Clegg, a partnership between the Lotuff brothers and renowned leather craftsman Frank Clegg. Founded in 2009, the company quickly built a small following by producing high quality bags and briefcases at a price that was well below that of most competitors. Since then, the two parties have gone their separate ways, with Frank and Joe Lotuff helming Lotuff Leathers.
Every bag sold by Lotuff is built in New England by a handful of skilled craftsmen using only vegetable-tanned leather. They emphasize precise cutting, by which they use specific parts of the hide for different purposes. And because Lotuff uses uncorrected leather (leather that hasn’t been buffed and thinned to remove imperfections), special care must be made to avoid any natural defects in the hide when cutting sections. It’s a meticulous process, and one that many don’t bother with, but for Lotuff it’s a point of pride.
The Leather Zip-Top Briefcase shown here is one of the brand’s most popular models.
Makr is a refined minimalist leather goods-and-carry brand founded in 2005 by designer Jason Gregory. What began as a side project quickly evolved into a fully involved endeavor, with Gregory leaving his career in architectural branding to pursue Makr. Today, the brand sports a full catalogue of beautifully made leather accessories, with a range that includes bags, wallets and card holders, eyeglass cases, phone and notebook covers, and belts. All of Makr’s products are designed and made at the Makr studio in Winter Park, Florida, using mostly American-sourced leather and shell (with some hides coming from Italy and Japan). The aesthetic is stripped down and rustic, perfect for the customer only interested in quality materials and not in needless embellishments.
Highlights include the flap slim wallet, the round backpack, and the Macbook tab media case.
Corter Leather & Cloth
In 2007, Eric Heins began Corter Leather & Cloth (then just Corter Leather) as a side project. At that time, Heins made and sold his wares online out of his college dorm room in Allston, Massachusetts. It didn’t take long for the young leather smith to gain a following on message boards and fashion forums, and soon enough he was doing one-off custom orders, producing everything from leather guitar picks to wallets. In 2012, he launched a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign for the Bottlehook, pulling in 1,200 orders.
In 2013, Heins opened up a shop in Cape Cod, where he and one assistant manufacture most of his product line. He uses a wide range of vegetable-tanned leathers from across the world, with hardware designed in-house and produced in California and Georgia. Corter also saddle stitches everything by hand–a labor-intensive technique that results in a much sturdier product. No two pieces are identical.
Heins is also in the middle of launching Albatross Leather Goods, a price-conscious diffusion brand that will be made in Mexico and the USA. It will feature largely different designs (with the hopes of one day expanding into footwear), and it will be made using machines rather than being done entirely by hand. Nevertheless, Heins is committed to producing a fine product regardless of price.
Viberg is a family owned and operated company known for producing some of the hardest wearing boots around. Founded in 1931, Viberg has been outfitting loggers, miners, hikers, and average Joes for 3 generations, with production (more than 200 individual steps) based out of their Canadian factory. In the last 5 years, the company has expanded into the lifestyle market, creating fashion forward boots and shoes without sacrificing build quality. Viberg sources brass tacks from England, heavyweight leather insoles from Spain, Vibram outsoles from Italy, and only the finest upper leathers from renowned tanneries in the USA and Europe.
The Service boot is their most popular model, based on a pair from the company’s archives dating back to the ’30s.