Brothers Chris and Kirk Bray have grown their handmade business, known as Billykirk, with a deep designer to create lasting goods that get better with age. Like a lot of makers, they started off with just the two of them in 1999, making their leather and canvas designs in Los Angeles. The methods that they’ve used to grow since then serves as a model for all successful makers who want to expand their reach without losing their handmade ideals.
First, check out this great video of the two brothers discussing their methods and motives.
There has been quite a bit of talk in the handmade community about growth and what constitutes ‘handmade’. A lot of the conversation has centered around the changes that have taken place over at Etsy. I’ve discussed this at length in the past and, as a promoter of the global handmade community, have been watching with keen interest as the subject has expanded. The one question that often comes into any discussion about this subject is this: If a maker becomes successful and the demand for their product grows, how do you scale-up your operation without selling out? I personally believe that Billykirk has built a very successful model worthy of exploring.
As Billykirk has grown, so have the partnerships that the brothers Bray have forged to help them produce their expertly made accessories. Billykirk is now based in Jersey City, NJ and their operation has grown to include in-house artisans and a small group of Amish leather crafters in Pennsylvania. Their measured approach to growth has helped them to maintain their focused on understated and functional goods with longevity in mind.
As for the products themselves, the collection features a ton of exceptional leather goods, many of which are hand-stitched. There are so many items in the shop, it’s hard to pick just a few standout pieces, but I’ll try. One of my favorites is the 123 Shoulder Pouch. I’d love to have that one in natural. There’s also a varied selection of handmade belts and wallets that are worth drooling over.
Check out this modest selection from their shop and click on any image to see the entire collection. What are your thoughts on growth and being a maker? Start a discussion below or drop me a note on Twitter @iamthelab with hashtag #THELABchat. Let the bros behind Billykirk know you saw them on the LAB via Twitter @billykirkinc