Why We Do What We Do
To Raise the Bar on Quality
When I started selling leather briefcases in 2003, it was easy because there was no competition at our quality level with our price. There were either luxury companies selling high quality bags at double and triple our price or generic companies selling mediocre leather briefcases, backpacks and medium grade wallets at our same price. A lot of those luxury and mediocre companies have since gone bankrupt and a whole lot of high quality niche leather companies have sprung up. I hope we had something to do with that. But that is our goal. To raise the bar on quality. “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” - Henry David Thoreau
Maybe this is a personal thing for me, but coming up with new ways of doing things and designing briefcases and duffle bags and backpacks is really fun. There’s just something about making things differently and better that is very satisfying and just seems right.
To Create and Encourage Others to Create
Can a person be creatively bankrupt? I used to think I was the designer for the creatively bankrupt since so many were just copying my briefcases (check out our advice to the knocker-offers) duffle bags, backpacks and even my wallets, but with inferior crap materials. But then I realized that that’s not true. No one is creatively bankrupt, they're just lazy. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best."Imitation cannot go above its model. The imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity. The inventor did it, because it was natural to him, and so in him it has a charm. In the imitator, something else is natural, and he bereaves himself of his own beauty, to come short of another man's." If you’re reading this and you’re a knocker offer, come on. You’ve got it in you. Give it a shot and do it right, do it legally and do it with quality. Make your family proud for once.
To Influence Businesses
To change the way business is done and thought about. We’re not perfect in all of these things and a lot of businesses do it way better than we do. But we want to add to the weight of businesses choosing to sell quality briefcases or sewing machines or ceiling fans, doing good with their profits and treating their employees right. The way to do that is by giving them a public example. And it’s working. In Mexico at our factory, for example, we spend some of our own profits on a free daycare, private English elementary school, a four-year English program for the older kids of our employees, marriage and parenting classes and professional counseling twice a week. It’s not hard and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to show love to your employees, but you just have to plan to.
To Encourage Quality Everywhere
Quality is easy to get used to and once one tastes of it, it’s hard to go back to plain old beans and rice. The more we can educate people on what quality looks like and encourage them to buy it in all areas of their lives and encourage other businesses to do the same, the better off the world will be.
To Make High Quality Leather Goods Attainable to the Average Person
For sure, we have expensive leather briefcases and backpacks and leather goods in general. But they’re not priced out of reach. And here’s why. We don’t wholesale to stores, which normally would double the price. The way retail pricing usually works is called Keystone Pricing. If the factory sells the briefcase or leather backpack to the designer for $300, then they turn around and wholesale it to the department store for $600. The store then doubles the price again and sells it to the customer for $1200. No one is raking it in. It’s just the pricing that has to happen for everyone to stay in business whether it’s for boots, briefcases, backpacks or kitchen sinks. Since we own our own factory and don’t wholesale to stores, we’re basically selling a high quality long lasting store bought $1000 to $1200 leather backpack or briefcase for $500 to $600.
Preserving the Craftsman’s Art
Throughout history, a mother would weave on the loom in her kitchen and teach her daughter the art as she went and they would sell their wares in the marketplace. Then her daughter would teach her own daughter and so on down through the ages. But the demand for her art is waning now that the super looms of India and China can, perfectly and more cheaply, weave more pieces in an hour than the mother and daughter could weave in an entire day. So the daughter of today’s weaver goes to work at a hotel or internet cafe because the demand for the art is gone. And so goes the art of the potter and the coppersmith and the shoemaker and the leather craftsman (see how we wet form our solid leather iPhone case here). If you say you value handmade craftsmanship and are supporting the art of making it, then I want to say thank you and join you. If you’re not, but want to, then join us.
Bring Art Into Everyday Homes
I define art as a work that requires thought and creativity and that brings people joy. We do that through our short films, two of which were in Sundance Film Festivals. We have another full feature length documentary called Life After Death on Amazon Prime. Here are a few other examples of how we sneak our art into people’s lives. The How It’s Made video of our solid leather iPhone case and how our high quality clay mug is individually made with care. Our hand hammered copper pieces as well as Love 41’s handwoven wool duffle bags are also done by hand as these art forms are passed down through the generations. We don’t make our fortune on Leather Dominos and incredibly cool Backgammon sets, but they’re such a work of art that I just had to create them and sell them. We consider our wallets and our leather backpacks a form of functional art too. They required creativity and thought and they bring people joy.
For People to Know God Better
Last but not least, a big deal for Suzette and I are our own personal relationships with the one who created us. It’s super cool and I think everybody should know him the way we do. Watch this video Seattle Pacific University did on our factory here. He’s given us a lot of sustained peace and joy in our lives and a strange love for people that really doesn’t make sense. I don’t care if you’re a Methodist or Catholic or Lutheran or Mormon or even a Baptist. We don’t try to “convert” anyone to a new religion or a new set of rules. But if we can help someone get to know God better so they can feel and know his love for them (Watch my wife in this Suitcase Full of Toothbrushes video), then that’s cool with us and really fulfilling. But please know this right now, I’m a hypocrite. I say to do things and not do things, but I mess up with those things myself. I try not to, but I do. Just wanted to get that out there in case you were wondering.