Philadelphia's Top 5 Fashion Artisans
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FROM LEFT: Chris and Kirk Bray. Milled leather laptop briefcase in Tan English Bridle, Billykirk ($470).
THE LEATHERWORKERS: CHRIS & KIRK BRAY
It’s hard to imagine super-cool brothers Chris and Kirk Bray working among the Amish, but 13 years after finding inspiration in a simple watch strap found in a Santa Monica pawn shop, that’s exactly where the familial minds behind leather-goods label Billykirk want to be.
The hand-manufactured goods (created by Amish artisans in Lancaster County) are sold everywhere from small mom-and-pop leather shops to global retailers like J.Crew and Urban Outfitters. Encompassing belts, wallets, bags, dopp kits, shoes, and hats, Billykirk’s leather goods are heirloom-quality wares that have garnered a devoted following.
“We’ve been able to create items that appeal to a wide spectrum of consumers,” says Chris. “We have architects in Milan and skaters in LA buying the same bag—the same goes for wallets and belts.” Kirk believes this is a direct result of their design philosophy. “Our ethos from the very beginning was to design items that sort of blend into what you are wearing. Over time that item becomes an extension of you.”
Differentiating their work from others’ using hand-stitched details and high-quality tumbled hardware, the Brays subscribe to a self-professed heirloom mentality. “It’s something we’re very proud of, and we think it’s very relevant and unique in our current ‘throw-away’ society,” says Chris. “It’s purely utilitarian and practical with a nod to the past and good old-fashioned handmade quality.” Art in the Age, 116 N. Third St., 215-922-2600
photography by evan sung