A Conversation With Philip from Basader

best leather basader interview1

It’s been really fun to watch Basader get more traction as a relative newcomer in the hyper-competitive durable leather goods market. They are doing it with a combination of stylistic innovation, commitment to durability, and extremely competitive pricing.

the Basader philosophy

Basader (Derived from Bas Jan Ader, a famous artist) is heavily driven by a mission to create lasting pieces and promote timeless design principles.  All of their work is produced in our small studio located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn—where they laboriously hand-dye, cut, and assemble the pieces.  Through experimenting with new techniques, materials, and finishes, they are continually trying to improve to offer truly “lifetime” products.

As two designers working within the fashion district in NYC, Elin (at the time, a Fashion Designer at Ralph Lauren) and Philip (a Web Designer and Ecommerce Manager), were increasingly disheartened by the disposable fashion culture.  Thinking that it must be possible to create a brand focused on high-quality goods and timeless designs, Basader was born as a side project that grew beyond their greatest expectations.

Philip and his beautiful wife, Elin.

BL: Can you tell that story about the first bag you bought that ended up disappointing you?

Philip: Before I even met Elin, I was the typical bag consumer within the men’s category—looking for quality in all the wrong places.  And while I wouldn’t flinch at saving my “nickels and dimes” to purchase a nice suit, I just assumed a leather bag was a leather bag—regardless of price.   My first leather purchase (what I thought was an artisan quality bag), was made on eBay maybe six or seven years ago.  So the story goes, it was listed by a very active eBay seller, who was supposedly having the bags custom made in a small town in India, and in the process “supporting a local community”.  Buying into a heartwarming story, and admittedly, being quite thrifty, this was a win-win situation.  I would receive a handmade bag while inadvertently supporting a small village located across the globe!

If I knew then what I know now, the bag was very likely made in a sweatshop in China–and this is a very common story across many, if not all marketplaces.  The bag arrived weeks later, it smelled so bad, I was too embarrassed to bring it anywhere, and lasted a month before the rivets were shimmied loose during light use—disappointing to say the least (and worse, probably harmful to whatever “local” community I thought I was supporting).  With so many high-quality bag companies, had I just spent a bit more, I could have ended up with a bag that would have been passed down generations.  A disheartening and wasteful story, this has influenced our work greatly.

The beginning.
The beginning.
Space fills up quick!

BL: How does your experience in fashion translate to Basader?

Philip: As a fashion designer, Elin brings a very unique perspective to our work, and together, we both have a sincere admiration for contemporary minimal design.  From fashion designers like Heider Ackerman to companies like Shinola, we are admittedly driven and influenced by fashion extremes: deconstructivist contemporary designers; and small-town, American made companies–even Allen Edmund is a company of great revere.

Simply put, our aesthetic is driven by a love of fashion and art, and somehow, we stumbled upon  a niche that lives at the intersection of rustic American styling and the refined English approach.  At the most basic level, we admire leather companies like Shinola and Allen Edmund, that, against all odds, make some amazing work within the US—and both companies have found a way to create social enterprises, that feed back into the local community.

BL: Personally, what is your favorite high quality leather item?

Philip: For us, it’s any hand-dyed leather good with a raw underside.  We love a refined lustrous surface coupled with a raw underside—probably, we respect this look so much knowing how difficult it is to achieve.

But more, we love anything new.


BL: Why did you pick the Herman Oak Leather?

Philip: While we love Herman Oak, we also use a lot of other American suppliers as well.  And we do this because there are so many American-based companies that put a lot of love into what they do.  Further, as major retailers inadvertently outsource to other countries, and suffocate American leather houses, we truly believe a renaissance is on the horizon (and we’re very grateful to be even a small part of this!).

A majority of bags in the marketplace are made in questionable working conditions—from mass-market “high-end” chrome-tanned bags to full-grain “looking” offerings, there are but a few American companies left.


BL: Finally, what is the most interesting thing you have learned about working with leather?

Philip: For us, leather is truly a fascinating material.  We’ve experimented with various organic substitutes, from cork bark to tree-tap leather, but at the end of the day, there is no naturally derived material as durable and as timeless leather.  And for such an omnipotent material, it’s amazing to think that so many people will never know what a real full-grain bag feels like.

Keep an eye on this upstart company. I suspect we will see more excellent goods coming our way. Perhaps like this…

Check them out.


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