Hearing that Frank Clegg’s great grandfather was a tanner back in England, we realized that leatherwork is truly in his blood. For the past 40 years, Clegg has been producing heirloom quality bags, wallets and other necessary accessories in his Fall River, Massachusetts studio. The way he speaks about leather – the tanning, the craft – it is clear that Frank is passionate about his work. Ladies and gents can find anything from a coin purse for $50 to an American alligator duffle for $7500 (Frank has recently begun working with Alligator skins and the line is rather hot to trot).
We spoke to Frank about his skins, trends and how to care for a duffle that costs more than our first car.
In this day of slow food and consumers eager to know where their food comes from, where do your skins come from?
We try to source as much as we can within the US, but we also get our leathers from places like Brazil, Europe, and other global suppliers that have what we need.
Unfortunately, US suppliers can’t provide us with everything, especially since we need to make sure that every material that we use meets a particular quality standard. We are an American brand through and through, but sometimes in order to create a product that lives up to our principles, we need to search outside the country for premium materials that get the job done.
Are you seeing a trend in any certain skin?
In the forty years I’ve been running the brand, I’ve actually never consciously followed trends. I just go with what makes sense to me, and what I feel works, and that extends to the leathers we use. I know a lot of brands are talking about being classic and timeless, and a lot of consumers are supporting brands that have those qualities, but when you look back at what we’ve been doing for the last four decades, you see that some of our oldest designs are still in use today. Not only that, but many of them, like our English Briefcase, are some of our best sellers. There’s a certain American minimalist aesthetic that we offer here, which is great because when you look back on how products become classics, you’ll find a reoccurring theme: simplicity. Some of our newer bags have this exact characteristic–elegance through simplicity. I’m betting that some of these will be in the product lineup for decades.
As far as leather trends that I’ve picked up on, in truth we work with a number of skins that are popular, including belting leather, tumbled leather, shrunken leather, alligator skins, bridle leather, and other exotics, like ostrich which we’ll be releasing later on this year in a new collection. That said, I have noticed that our shrunken leather products has been selling well for awhile now, so we’ll be introducing more pieces in that mold soon.
Are there some skins that wear and tear better than others?
Yes, the shrunken leathers wear very well, but in a way that doesn’t show wear–and certainly not any tears! Some of the more standard leathers like our supple vegetable tanned leathers are intended to age with character, you definitely get to see a beautiful patina with those.
How does one care for alligator?
The alligator skins that we use are actually caught in the wild, so the skins are imperfect. I prefer that, because my intention is to use skins that have character. When we get them, some are distressed looking, which is great because that’s the whole point. As far as caring for the leather goes, we use the same leather lotion on our alligator skins as we do on the vegetable tanned leathers. Of course, before you condition the whole bag, it’s always smart to spot test the conditioner on a spot that’s not as visible.
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