Will Leather Goods: timeless accessories
The history of Will Leather Goods founder Bill Adler is familiar: starting on one path and ending on another. Living in California to pursue his acting dream, Adler, supported himself through his hobby of leathercraft. His eponymous belt company, Billy Belts, was launched during the 1981 Screen Actors Guild strike.
Billy Belts soon became a fixture along Venice Beach’s boardwalk and his belt business expanded into wholesale. Those belts became the foundation for Will Leather Goods, a collection of rustic, natural leather, canvas and other bags. Which were successful, too, leading Adler to move his operations to Eugene, Ore. Since its launch in 2007 the Will Leather Goods label has found favor across the globe at retailers including Ron Herman, American Rag, Nordstrom and the Isetan department store chain in Japan.
Quintisentially American: with “rugged good-looks, thoughtful functionality, and top-quality materials inherent to artisan craftsmanship” ( their own words), the Will Leather Goods collection is intended to age gracefully with the beauty and patina expected from shrunken soft lambskin and vegetable-tanned hides. The kind of timeless piece sought for one’s own personal collection and that their children will fight over long after they are gone.
As the name suggests, leather is the material of choice, either by itself in the supple oil-tanned bags or in mixed fabrication pieces, where it is paired with hand-woven, vegetable-dyed Oaxacan rugs, colorful cotton canvas, repurposed batik-print fabrics and upcycled coffee sacks.
In October 2012, Will Leather Goods opened the brand’s first bricks-and-mortar store. A storefront with an industrial vibe created by a high, vaulted ceiling; wooden roof trusses and a huge skylight that floods the room with natural light. And that’s far from the only natural thing customers will encounter in the 1,748-square-foot space. The fixtures are crafted from reclaimed and repurposed wood, including slender juniper tree trunks and gnarled slabs of redwood.
In addition to being environmentally friendly, the forest of found wood provides a subtle key to the merchandising. The rough-hewn walnut shelving and dark redwood tables and cases in one area showcase the men’s wares, and the women’s collection is displayed on shelves and juniper tables.
The goods include leather cuffs ($45), coin purses ($90), belts ($75 to $120) and a series of bags including messengers ($150 to $250), utility totes ($175) and duffels ($250 to $495).