Your favorite leather messenger bag or your favorite weekend handbag feels as if it was made for you.
Hell, you’d probably think it was customary if you actually took a look at everything that goes behind the scenes in production.
When you think about the production process, it probably feels as impersonal and non-personalized as it gets. Factories tend to look like cold, distant, and highly sterile stores, with workers working hard at their stations during the day.
The conditions behind so many leather items are far from ideal.
Providence, Rhode Island-based Lotuff Leather is defying the odds, however.
It starts with the production process in their hometown factory / workshop and ends with the quality of their products, which everyone not only feels, but is truly made for you. In 2017, GQ named Lotuff’s No. 12 Weekender the best in the game, if that means anything to you.
The American-made brand, which can also be found at Todd Snyder and other small shops, stands out against other retailers in its warmth, care and personalization.
The result means products that are guaranteed to last a lifetime, but at prices that aren’t at high-end bankruptcy rates.
Starting with founder Joe Lotuff, Lotuff Leather has grown into a workshop for RISD-trained artists in Providence, all overseen by Creative Director Lindy McDonough, Marketing Director Greg Moniz, and CEO Ellen McNulty-Brown.
“This talent was a turning point for us,” said McNulty-Brown. “I would pit them against any of the houses any day, just in terms of the quality and attention to detail they bring.”
The factory itself challenges stereotypes as a warm and encouraging space, where workers use their artistic design skills to work on the intricate practice of leather craftsmanship.
This is where more than 80% of the ever-expanding styles and products are made, most of which comes from word-of-mouth “conversation and relationship,” says Moniz.
The bags are cut with laser-like focus and precision, giving each different leather a consistent shape and color. They share a process, but each piece is unique, thanks to elements such as texture and hue. It is the opposite of fast fashion or the aggregation of trends.
“People really talk about bags with love,” says McNulty Brown. “They’re attached to these parts … We are the anti-disposables. You make that investment and it’s an investment that [customers] feel good.”
Zippers are attached later in the production process, each cleverly designed for a smooth closure and secure grip. The artists, who operate the machine that assembles the zippers, are trained in different sections and tracks to ensure their expertise.
McNulty-Brown calls this area and those around it in the factory a “high end kitchen” because of the proximity and constant communication.
Personalized monograms are stamped on different items at the request of each buyer. According to Moniz, these touches turn different designs into thoughtful gifts. He noticed an increase in gifts for groomsmen using these more personal design elements.
As McNulty-Brown says, Lotuff customers of all kinds have valued their products to the point of loyalty, giving, receiving and talking about their products at every opportunity. “’You have to get rid of that and get a Lotuff,” she recalls, she recalls, of one customer talking to another about a competitor’s expensive high-end leather handbag.
While physical expansion is on the horizon, hopefully the team isn’t going to uproot or avoid the local workshop anytime soon.
“We really want to double down on Providence,” says Moniz. Lotuff leather, both in production and in product, will continue to be different from others.
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