It certainly didn’t look like a traditional belt. After getting this far, however, we had to put the belt aside and pick up other projects. We were confident that we would return to it someday in the future, and imagined we’d continue riding the radical wave.
We were getting ready to launch our all-leather bifold wallet. We had designed the wallet to be simple, functional, and to last for years—all attributes we realized were ideal in a belt. So we scrapped our initial explorations with the integrated buckle and laser cut strap. It was too complicated and we worried about it’s durability. Our team was focused in on designing a simple, durable belt.
During the year away, our Lead Designer Sean had the leather strap fail on two of his personal belts, one an heirloom piece from his grandfather and one from another belt manufacturer.
“The belt from my grandfather was an heirloom piece I was very fond of! I was sad when it failed, and took this experience into the next phase of belt design.”
“Kevin and I each bought a Conway, fashioned simple straps for it, and wore it around for weeks, to see how it worked.”
Adopting the Conway-style buckle allowed us to make the strap using traditional leatherworking techniques. We outsourced this process to our partner in Portland, who has 45 plus years of traditional leatherworking experience, and who also manufactured our leather notebook covers.
We dove into the buckle.
The quality of the 3D printing was excellent, but the cost was still too high for a production run. As the technology improves, the cost is rapidly decreasing—in the near future, it could be a very feasible, production grade, technology. But, not yet!
We turned instead to investment casting. We met with one of Ken’s friends who runs an investment casting studio nearby, and she showed us the in’s and out’s of the process.
We searched across the United States to find a production grade casting factory to work with. What we found, instead, was a massive shortage of factories, extended lead times, and difficulty getting the our buckles to the quality and specifications we wanted.
We turned to a company in San Diego that works with a network of factories around the world, while handling the engineering and quality control in house. At a quicker turnaround time than the US manufacturers, they were able to cast our buckles at the highest quality, and at a price that fit with what our customers expect, with an investment casting factory they work with in Shenzhen, China.
We were finally ready to go into production!
The design is rooted in functionality. It’s easy to use. It’s visually clean. And it’s incredibly durable. These features are intrinsic to the materials and construction we used—it’s not augmented by anything. We had to dig deep to find the courage to dive into designing a fashion item—but we’re happy that we did!