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MITZI GUIDRY:: LOS ANGELES LEATHERCRAFT

MITZI GUIDRY:: LOS ANGELES LEATHERCRAFT

By The Hundreds

What originally attracted you to leather craftsmanship?

I had a women’s knitwear line back in the early 2000’s and I started to incorporate leather trim, and eventually entire leather pieces, into the last few collections. I became really interested at that point in leather so when I discontinued the line I sought out a job where I could work with and learn more about leather. I completely lucked out and found a job as a Product Developer for Wrangler Western accessories at Chambers Belt in Commerce, CA. There was an incredible sample department staffed with craftsmen who had been handcrafting leather accessories for 25-30 years. On my lunch breaks or after hours I would design accessories for myself and friends and the sample makers would teach me how to make them. I fell in love with leather at that point.

When and why did you start Los Angeles Leathercraft?

So fast forward 2 years from my magic moments in the sample room.. Chambers is sold to a large corporation who eventually moves all manufacturing out of the US and closes the doors to one of the last standing leather belt factories in the US. When this happened I was left unemployed. Myself and two business partners had the opportunity to join forces with three of the craftsmen from Chambers and we started Los Angeles Leathercraft. It was a perfect opportunity to put our combined manufacturing experience to use for ourselves instead of going to work for another big corporation that sees no value in a high quality, handcrafted, American made product. In the end, we won. We get to work for ourselves and build a company based on our own ethics and our friends have a job doing what they know and love.

Leather is a living material in a way. Based on many factors,quality and cut of the hide, levels of oils & fat within the hide etc,it changes with each cut, split and emboss.

What types of merchandise do you create?

We are a manufacturer specializing in private label, leather accessories. Our clients range from footwear and apparel brands to home goods and furniture companies.. the majority of them based in LA. We’ve done seating, bags and every type of accessory including leather jewelry. This year we want to get into footwear. We just finished our first prototype of a pair of sandals that we’re really excited about. I’d love to be able to offer our clients some simple footwear styles that they can add to their product lines.

What are some of the blessings and curses that come with working with leather?

Leather is a living material in a way. Based on many factors,quality and cut of the hide, levels of oils & fat within the hide etc,it changes with each cut, split and emboss. These things are what make leather fascinating and fun to work with, however to a client that doesn’t have a lot of experience with leather and its natural inconsistencies, issues can come up. We try to educate our clients at the beginning of the development process so they know what to expect with the leathers they choose to use.

What is a driving inspiration behind your designs and the company as a whole?

We are very inspired by the renewed interest that consumers have for American made product. Most of the products I’ve designed and manufactured, for my own lines or for companies I’ve worked for, have been American made. This is something that I’ve always been very passionate about. At Los Angeles Leathercraft we have the opportunity to prove that American made product, especially leather products, can be made affordably without sacrificing quality or attention to detail.

What is the staple leather piece that you think everyone should own?

A great leather belt that fits properly (center hole is where it should fasten) is something that everyone should own. It will only get better with age as it patinas andmolds to your body.. it will become the most comfortable thing you wear and could last a lifetime.

Do you have any advice to give people who want to start their own business?

Building a network is probably one of the most important things I’ve learned. More than half of the work I get comes from a personal connection.. and in exchange I share my resources with friends andcolleagues. Now with theinternetthe playing field is even and everyone has access to the same resources so that part has become easier.. its using tools like social media to foster relationships is what takes effort but where the real payoff can be.

We’re getting ready for the Agenda trade show in Long Beach, CA on August 1st. This will be the first time we present the company to the public so we’ve been spending a lot of time carefully deciding on which products to feature that will best represent our capabilities.

What are you currently working on?

We’re getting ready for the Agenda trade show in Long Beach, CA on August 1st. This will be the first time we present the company to the public so we’ve been spending a lot of time carefully deciding on which products to feature that will best represent our capabilities.

Where do you see Los Angeles Leathercraft in the next five years?

One of our goals is to get into licensing. We have a lot of experience in this area of the market and thoroughly understand how to manage licensing partnerships.

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