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
FROM LEFT: Frank Agostino. Olive green silk duchess satin dress with black French Chantilly lace wrap bodice, Agostino (price on request).
THE CLOTHIER: FRANK AGOSTINO
There’s hardly a Main Line socialite, debutante, or fashionista who hasn’t adorned herself with a Frank Agostino creation, and for good reason. Thirty-five years of acquired knowledge and experience guarantees that every Agostino that leaves his Bryn Mawr atelier has been personally fitted to his client.
After learning the art of couture at the knee of his aunt, who brought her skills from Italy to Brooklyn, Agostino has taken this legacy to a new level. Whether it be a showstopping dress for the red carpet, a sublime gown for a bride, or even a nattily tailored suit for the boardroom, all Agostino garments are hand-sewn by his tight-knit staff of five pattern makers and seamstresses using traditional methods of cutting, stitching, and finishing.
“My clients include lovers of fashion and those who will invest in the perfect dress or suit that will make them look and feel their best,” he says proudly, ticking off the names of such high-profile customers as Dorrance Hamilton, Bhavna Shyamalan, Vicki Le Vine, and Faatimah Gamble. And unlike the offerings at most boutiques, every piece that Agostino creates is the result of collaboration between designer and client. “I adapt my design to best serve and fit the woman who wears it,” says the fashion master. “Every body type is enhanced to make each customer feel radiant and glamorous.” Agostino, 840 W. Lancaster Ave., 610-520-7777
FROM LEFT: Aquamarine and diamonds set in 18k white gold, Diana Vincent Jewelry Designs ($20,000). DIana Vincent.
THE JEWELER: DIANA VINCENT
As the niece of internationally acclaimed couturier James Galanos, who designed for Marilyn Monroe and Nancy Reagan, Bucks County jewelry designer Diana Vincent grew up with a burning desire to create. “I’m constantly observing my surroundings and being mindful of the beauty I can find,” says Vincent, the youngest recipient ever of the prestigious DeBeers Diamonds International Award. “I’m able to see a fold in a piece of fabric, a bowl of pasta, or a twist in a petal, and the design will begin to emerge,” she says.
With her creations gracing the red carpet at the Academy Awards, the Vogue VH1 Fashion Awards, and in the pages of leading fashion publications, Vincent cites soft form, movement, simple sophistication, and fluidity as hallmarks of her design. And her creations have a decidedly unique and distinct style.
“There’s originality in my work that’s recognized because I stay true to myself from a creativity standpoint,” she says of the diamonds, gemstones, pearls, platinum, gold, and silver she melds into sophisticated works of wearable art. “Other designers follow trends, so they end up looking like everyone else. I don’t imitate, I originate—and people understand that when they see my designs.” Diana Vincent Jewelry Designs, 1099 General Greene Road, Route 32 and 532, Washington Crossing, 215-493-0969
FROM LEFT: RGM Pennsylvania Series 801E, RGM Watch Company ($9,200). Roland Murphy.
THE WATCHMAKER: ROLAND MURPHY
In a time when masterfully crafted timepieces are valued as investments and as heirlooms, Roland Murphy has steadfastly continued the tradition of classic watchmaking. “We use some ideas from America’s great watchmaking past and incorporate them into our special timepieces of today,” says Murphy from his headquarters in Lancaster County.
A graduate of the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program, Murphy introduced his first timepiece in 1993, and he’s been taking the watch business by storm ever since. With the dual distinction of crafting both bespoke and classic watches, he creates small mechanical machines of beauty and complexity.
Murphy’s niche has been carved with his mastery of guilloché. Initially made famous by Breguet, guilloché involves the use of rose engine machines to engrave intricate patterns on dials, cases, and movement components in order to customize a timepiece to exact specifications. And if a bespoke watch isn’t necessary, Murphy crafts intricate production-model timepieces that are one of a kind.
“There’s a great history of America’s watchmaking past,” says Murphy. “I want to continue that tradition in a small but significant, way.” RGM Watch Company, 801 W. Main St., Mount Joy, PA, 717-653- 9770