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Journal — Inside the Studio

Taking The Guesswork Out Of Product Customization

Taking The Guesswork Out Of Product Customization

Custom work has long been one of Billykirk's greatest strengths. Whether stamping a tray with initials or sewing up a custom card case at the Pop Up Flea, we've always been fans of personalization. But as a small, primarily online company, we've had a hard time translating our custom options to the Billykirk website.

billykirk custom supplies

Of course, at events like the Pop Up Flea, these personalizations are apparent as you literally see Chris and Kirk make it right in front of you! Different colored threads, leather, and hardware line the table in front of the classic Kingsley Foil Stamping Machine, heated and ready to stamp your initials into a card case or luggage tag of your choice. To make things easier at these events, Chris and Kirk created the first version of Billykirk's custom options:

Simple but extremely effective, this sheet of paper categorized the options you could choose from, including leather color, cording color, snaps color, monogram, foil fonts, and embossing options. This simple sheet evolved into the first online versions of the Custom 155 and 92 Card Cases seen below.

While this finally brought our custom card cases to the web, it didn't provide any sort of visual representation of the finished product. When Billykirk first launched the retail website, sites like NIKEiD and Van's Customs were just gaining traction, and the notion of a smaller company paying for that type of software just wasn't realistic.

A year ago, we decided that the Billykirk website needed a serious facelift (which is live by the way!). With that redesign, we wanted to create a more visual custom product experience. We discussed options and began drafting out ideas that would be feasible and affordable. Looking at other custom sites, 3D renders or real product image overlays seemed great, but they were scary expensive. After almost giving up on the project, our designer Connor and I discovered how we could use Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) instead.

While Connor created the digital illustrations of our 092 Card Case, 155 Card Case, and 146 Luggage Tag, I began working on the code that would allow the user to see the custom options live on the Billykirk website for the first time. The photo of the No 146 Luggage Tag seen above was customized and rendered in real time on its product page, a sight that brings a tear to our sore eyes.

We also began adding visual embossing to our normal product line. This feature overlays your initials directly onto the product in the spot it'll be when you receive your item. Currently it's only on our trays and small leather goods, but stay tuned as we add it to the entire line!

Bringing Billykirk's custom work to life on the web has a been a great opportunity. I hope we'll have the chance to expand the custom line even further with more products. In the meantime, try out the new custom card cases and luggage tag. We’d love to know what you think!

We're Back Folks!

We're Back Folks!

After roughly two years of strong focus on the development and improvement of our line, we're back to tell you about our growth and ongoing mission to create the best leather and canvas accessories possible!
For those of you who may be wondering where we've been since March of 2014, allow us to fill you in.
Billykirk is an ever growing brand, and always will be. We settle for nothing less than the best quality available, which sometimes means big changes. Over the past two years, we've been focusing on improving Billykirk in several ways.
 
Image courtesy of Magnusomme.com

#1 The Market

It's no secret that the marketplace has been changing over the past several years. Wholesale has especially seen large shifts since e-commerce began to take over. Designers and stores need to work together to ensure speed and flexibility, meaning some serious alterations to the ordering process. It isn't an easy thing to reinvent, but we hope to improve the overall shopping experience for our online customers as well as the stores ordering our goods and the folks who shop there.

 

Image courtesy of Horween Leather Co.
 

#2 Leather

Knowing the source and conditions of the tannery and farms producing our skins is something we are very mindful about. At Billykirk we work solely with full-grain leather, which is produced without sanding or buffing away natural marks from the exterior of the hide. This preserves the original appearance of stretch marks and minor scars received through the animal’s life. What some see as imperfection, we view as authentic character. Proudly showing these natural blemishes makes each piece unique and pays respect to the animal from which they came.
This multi-industry process can make it a true challenge to find great quality leather, requiring an incredible amount of care from the farm to our studio.

 

Farmer -> Abattoir -> Hide Supplier -> Tannery -> Designer

 

We're proud to continue our work with several of the finest American tanneries, using U.S. hides and old-world finishing techniques to create among the highest quality leather in the world.
Made to last for at least a lifetime, it may feel stiff at first - but like a good pair of jeans, the leather will develop with use. Growing darker in places handled and softer over time, the accessory becomes entirely unique to its owner. This leads to the individual story of each piece, whether tanned in the sun, stained with coffee, or speckled by rain.

 

If you have a worn a unique Billykirk piece, give us a shout! We're always looking for more well-worn pieces to feature in our social media.
 

#3 Quality

Quality is our backbone. We design every piece to last at least a lifetime. Seams may weather and stitching may fray, but the bag, wallet, or belt as a whole are built to last. Seams and stitching can be repaired and rivets can be re-driven, so rather than strive for the impossible goal of "indestructible," we endeavor to design pieces that develop gracefully. Able to age and be repaired, our goods grow more handsome with each passing year.
We're an all-in American brand. Working with domestic factories steeped in utilitarian tradition, we incorporate their specific skill sets to create the best quality possible. From California to New Jersey (and several places in-between), the craftspeople we partner with employ years of practice in each design.
Admittedly, there aren't many factories making high-quality leather goods in the United States, and those that do exist are often schooled in very specific techniques. This means one manufacturer makes the best handles, one cuts the cleanest belts, and another sets the best zippers. But these limitations have made us who we are. They encourage creative solutions and an understanding of what's available. We stand by our American manufacturers and are proud to do our part in keeping these artisan trade alive.
It certainly isn't the easiest way, but it's the best way.
 
We're excited to reopen this Journal and share stories of our brand and what we're all about with you. Happy trails!
- The Folks at Billykirk

Happy Holiday Wishes

Happy Holiday Wishes

Today, we’re sending warm wishes to all of our customers, collab partners and friends. Here’s a glimpse of the view from Billykirk’s home office in Bucks County, PA, where we craft our American-made items – from our family to be passed on in yours.

Here are a couple views from our home office.

Happy holidays!

Leather boxes for simple wrapping with style

Leather boxes for simple wrapping with style

The logic behind wrapping gifts feels flawed: Spending time putting something together that’s intended to be ripped apart. So we’re putting together something that you’ll want to save. Hand-stitched, American-made leather boxes.
These are in the works, and may be available in more colors soon. You won’t find them on our site, but can request orders by contacting us.
If you’re last-minute shopping for this holiday season, be sure to check out our stocking stuffer ideas, as well as our seasonal bags and menswear ideas.

15 Years of Leather and Canvas Design

15 Years of Leather and Canvas Design

Even before we’d made a product, my brother Kirk and I had the name Billykirk for our family business. It was our father’s nickname for Kirk, whose full name is William Kirkland.  Being from TN, the melding of the first and middle names is common. We wanted to make the kind of things our dad wore that would last as long as the items he’s given us. You just look at them to know they're made right, and they have a history. We still have our leather boots from when we were kids (see above) - and our dad's boots from the 1940's.
We would go to a lot of swap meets and flea markets to find ideas, and we met other designers and artists who gave us inspiration. We still get new ideas this way. Historic websites, family albums, military surplus shops, old movies … they all provide ideas to build from. Ultimately, it was a watch strap from a vintage shop in Santa Monica that got things started.
Kirk bought the strap off of a real pain-in-the-ass shop owner who, at first, didn't want to sell it to him without the broken watch.
This was the late 90s, and leather cuffs were somewhat popular, but Kirk's got a lot of compliments. Most of the cuffs you could find on the market were thick punk style ones made with real cheap leather and shiny hardware, but his looked like a family heirloom. One day, Kirk looked at me and said, "Let's make this."
The leather cuff was our first product (one of our earliest editions, featured right). We got there from a vintage watch strap, and a ton of lessons in leather craft and care (from our first mentor, Arnold).
Now, almost 15 years and a lot more stories later, we’re starting our blog to share some great information about American handmade bags, wallets, cuffs and others designs with you.
We want to give you a lot of good insights and images about what we make. This is a place where we’ll share updates from events and designers shaping our style, and you’ll get an inside look at some of our new collections and what's on the market. We’ll also give you tips on how to take care of your leather, and you’ll hear from our customers about how their items look when they’re well worn.
We’re going to update our blog regularly – and you can expect a good mix of:
  • Designer interviews talking to people who inspire our work
  • Product spotlights highlighting new goods you can customize
  • Leather care tips to help you preserve your own heirlooms
  • Event features taking you inside the design shows and art fests we draw from
  • Posts from the Billykirk community: Our customers, partners and friends sharing their well-worn goods
If you have something you want to say, email us and we’ll give you a voice here. And otherwise, subscribe to our newsletter in the footer below and keep reading: We’ve got a lot in store!
p.s. Here’s a look at how our leather cuff has transformed over the years.