First, may I say that I'm so excited it's spring I can barely contain myself! I want to roll around in the grass and hang out with plants and eat icecream, which is basically what I did all weekend and it was absolute perfection.
I'm so excited to share with you a new American made handbag collection that I recently discovered. Well, actually, this is one of the first brands that I didn't find first - they found me! They reached out to me and I fell in love with their bright colors, contemporary design, and most of all their commitment to American manufacturing.
Campos is a handbag line made in Brooklyn that is a collaboration between leather craftsman Roy Campos and Hayden-Harnett Creative Director Toni Hacker. I did a short interview with Toni and it was really interesting to hear about their impact on NYC manufacturing - read on for all the details!
Cara: How was the idea for Campos born?
Toni: Roy Campos and I met years ago when he was working on my collection for Hayden-Harnett. We really enjoyed working together and share a passion for American leather craft and keeping fashion manufacturing alive and vibrant in NYC. At a Brooklyn brunch in 2014, the idea for Campos was born - a line of locally sourced, made to order bags and accessories named for the maker, not the designer.
C: What is your background in leather craft and design?
T: My background is in industrial design, but I serendipitously made the transition to fashion (bags and accessories) in 1999 when I was hired as design director for a growing fashion company. In 2005, I launched my first collection Hayden-Harnett, with my husband Ben Harnett. I fell in love with leather and the tradition of leather craft in America the moment I worked with my first piece of leather... such a beautiful, ancient, and useful material. I was hooked instantly.
C: Can you tell us about the people who make the bags?
T: Roy Campos is the man behind the magic. He has been working in leather craft out of his Brooklyn Navy Yard studio for 25 years making handbag patterns and production for some of the biggest names in the fashion industry. He has a team of 6-10 highly skilled patternmakers, cutters, and sewers who work alongside him. They are all incredible. It's mesmerizing to watch them work together.
C: Why is American-made important to you?
T: American-made is important because it's rare. Especially in fashion. However, this was not the case only 30 years ago. New York was an epicentre for fashion manufacturing, leather tanning, furriers, jewelry, and textile mills. Within decades, those industries, along with factories and jobs, have literally evaporated as fashion companies choose to work with burgeoning factories overseas in a continual search for lower costs of goods and labor. Add that to the lack of raw materials, such as textiles and hardware (almost all overseas now) and you have a serious problem. We need to preserve what is remaining of American manufacture and skilled labor. I understand this cannot be a drastic change and it all seems a bit daunting. However, if out of every 10 people, one or two consciously choose to buy at least a few items of American made fashion every season, those people would just helped to create thousands of jobs. There is a beautiful butterfly effect when that happens. A conscious consumer looking for American made fashion items creates real change and helps to preserve what is remaining of the industry.
It doesn't have to be your whole closet - small purchases add up. Every Campos bag supports 8-10 local vendors. Every part and piece on the bag is American-sourced. I feel that we are a part of a 'next-wave' of American manufacturing that is springing up all around the country - modern classics, consciously made, with great attention to deal and to the customer. A good leather bag will last for many many lifetimes if it is well cared for.
C: Campos is creating incredibly beautiful handbags, and also promoting good in the world. Since you started, what are you most proud of?
T: I am most proud of our message of made to order, zero waste, and 100% American-sourced materials is starting to spread. The NY mayor's office recenly invited Campos to sit on their board for fashion economic development in the city. That's what we knew what we are doing really matters.
You can create the same made-to-order bag in the photos here!
That's all for now, have a great week and enjoy the spring!!
Note: the bag pictured was given to me as a gift by the brand, but all opinions expressed are my own.