American Pride: Q&A with Cicada Leather Company

Leather company

Mia Barrett is the creative force behind Cicada Leather Co., a Philadelphia-based firm that makes bespoke leather products—her butter leather dopp kit was our traveler’s favorite in 2014—with All-American materials and labor. We asked the savvy head about the beginnings of Cicada as well as how she’s made her mark in a male-dominated profession.

How and when did Cicada Leather come about?

I was laid off from my job managing a small cheese shop in 2012. After a few days of panic and anger, I decided to stop managing others’ businesses and start my own. I had been doing leather work as a hobby for six years and it was my creative outlet and my way of making Christmas presents. Cicada Leather Company started humbly and in the last three years has transformed into something amazing.

What sets Cicada Leather apart from its competitors?

I proudly source most of my materials from other American companies. Beyond the materials, I design and create everything with function and longevity in mind. I handstitch everything without any machines to create a more durable product. My passion is creating items that you will use everyday for decades.

What kinds of challenges have you faced being a female head of a leather goods company?

I think it surprises people when I tell that I am a leathersmith. My boyfriend is also a leathersmith so I can compare people’s reactions. Most often, people ask if I am really strong and if they can look at my hands. I think they expect to see gnarly callouses and chipped nails and are surprised to see small callouses and a manicure. No one asks my boyfriend if they can assess his hands! But I don’t mind breaking the mold a little. I like being the woman who makes leather pint glass sleeves and dopp bags.

Why did you decide to make and source everything here in the United States?

Sourcing my materials from other small American companies is my version of patriotism. When I started Cicada Leather Company in 2012, the area in which I lived was still suffering from the economic depression. I chose to invest in American companies as a way of supporting our economy. I grew up in my parent’s small business and I witnessed the power of spending your money on local businesses. I could make a cheaper product with cheaper materials that come from who knows where but instead I support a small company in Washington that makes conditioners and one of the United State’s few remaining major tanneries in Missouri. In this way, my small business makes a bigger impact.

How has the leather goods scene changed since you launched?

Demand has definitely increased since I emerged on to the scene. I think that our culture is starting to shift away from amassing tons of crap and towards investing in quality goods. The movements to encourage shopping at small businesses and buying American made goods have resulted in more and more people looking to spend their money in a way that matters and that will get them something they can be proud of.

What are your favorite pieces from your collection?

I love my key covers. It’s such a little thing that makes such a difference. Not only do keys look classier in leather but I never have to fumble in the cold while I try to find the right one! I also love making passport wallets because I know they are going to travel and see the world. I may not get the chance to go to Tahiti but a wallet I made just might!

What is your personal style?

My style is modern and chic, though often understated. At the atelier I often wear ankle boots, jeans and a grey cashmere sweater. I like a clean sophisticated look made of top materials.