A characteristic to watch for on Etsy, a region replete with copycats and low quality, is creativity and a passion for quality. I present to you W Durable Goods, a creative company passionate about quality and sustainability.
BestLeather featured W Durable Good’s briefcase in the Best of Etsy feature. I followed up with Daniel, the founder of W Durable Goods to talk shop.
Daniel has a story akin to many good leather workers. He saw what was out on the market and it was unsatisfactory, so he bought a sewing machine and made his own. It has just grown from there. Daniel’s passion for quality products resulting in the creation of W Durable Goods, purchasing two more sewing machines, and embarking on an effort of self education of the lost lost art of craftsmanship.
I, for one, have utter respect for anyone who makes high precision durable goods, no matter what they are. People have to get off this mindset of buying crap that they replace. EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. It’s madness. After you figure the replacement costs over time the cheap crap that fills our landfills is more expensive then buying quality the first time… But I digress.
BL: Tell us about your operation, if you would.
We work out my workroom in my home and its just me and my wife, no other help. I do everything from initial design, textile and hardware sourcing to sewing and hand stitching every last detail. I currently have three industrial sewing machines that I use.
BL: What influences your design work? I mean, how do you approach design and then how does that affect the final product?
My design influences range from vintage military goods to Louis Vuitton. What’s important is that the design make sense. I go for a classic look that puts function and smart design first but also aesthetically pleasing. A lot of people can design something functional, buy it also has to look good. When you look at my products, you shouldn’t be able to imagine it designed any other way (think: Apple computers). I also pride myself on sourcing the best materials and using superior techniques and machinery for the best results. I admire the work of LL Bean and Filson and only make what I would use myself. I intend for each item to last your lifetime…and then some.
Almost everything we makers make is basically to carry something, just different things and amounts, for people with different tastes and needs. When I think about designing a bag I always look to innovate in style while retaining a very traditional and “old school” feel, and as my name implies, it has to be durable. Abrasion is really the enemy of most well made bags, it’s the wear over time that kills, I try to design my goods with fewer “pointed” edges that wear quickly, and try to incorporate more rounded edges, double layer bottoms, etc. I rarely use synthetic fabrics; although kevlar and cordura nylon might actually outlast leather and canvas, they cannot give the same warmth as a real living material.
My favorite materials are English Bridle leather from Wickett and Craig, and 18 oz or heavier canvas. My briefcase combines English Bridle leather and 32 oz canvas derived from deconstructed 1940s military transport bags. For me, it’s the perfect combination of leather craft and heavy duty fabrics.
One of my inspiration pieces is a small military leather pouch I bought online. It was at least 40-50 years old, solid leather, and entirely hand stitched. I thought how amazing it was that this very finely crafted and durable item was somewhat mass produced for a purpose not requiring a bit of fashion or style sense, yet it’s these utilitarian items that we find so attractive! I have found that when you are driven by durability, and practicality, good looks follow by nature. I also have a strong feeling about proportions and lines. If the overall look and feel of a bag isn’t quite right, you can’t carry it with confidence. And it will never become your “favorite” which is what I strive for. I hope that my goods become heirlooms for people, because over time, you want it with you, it works for you, and you feel that it enhances your life, and reflects who you are.
BL: What advice would you give to those who are attempting to make their own durable goods?
Remember to take your time, on each item and over the course of years, your technique will improve. Practice DOESNT make perfect if you’re practicing the wrong thing, don’t be afraid to ask questions and look at old products and ask yourself why and how they made it the way they did. We are often limited by what we know is available, so always be seeking out new tools and hardware- I highly recommend CS Osborne tools
You can see more of Daniel’s excellent and innovative work on his Etsy page, http://www.etsy.com/shop/WDurableGoods.