The high quality and attention to detail in each buttery-soft item from Hollis Leather make the company’s durable, elegant accessories stand out when they’re slung over your shoulder, cuffed on your wrist or clasped in your hand. In colors including rustic brown, rich black and soft cornflower blue and often featuring pretty woven detailing, all of Hollis Leather’s pieces are stitched by hand using time-honored techniques.
The leather totes, clutches, wallets, wrap wristlets, card sheaths, a new backpack and more are available to purchase online and in person at St. Louis Union Studio and area popups. Ladue News caught up with owner Kristin McDonough, a St. Louis resident as of July, to find out more about where she gets her inspiration, her hand-stitching techniques and how her leather-goods business was born.
Why did you want to start a leather-goods business, and where did you learn to excel in the craft?
I have always loved to work with my hands, and I was dabbling in metalwork around the same time I was exposed to leatherworking. Unlike many art forms, there is little opportunity to take classes in leatherwork techniques. However, there was a leather supply store near my house – I took a few workshops, picked up some leather and started practicing! I was particularly motivated to create a bag for myself that was more durable than the fast-fashion pieces I had been using, but without compromising on style.
Where do you find inspiration?
My mom is a talented artist and illustrator and has always made creativity a part of my life. Since I was young, my mom surrounded my sister and I with artistic opportunities. She would sew us clothes, make us paper dolls and was just always taking on crafts and art in her everyday life, even though she wasn’t pursuing art as a business. Although she was formally trained, she never looked down on my more amateur attempts and always emphasized the value of learning as you go.
Aside from my mom, I also draw much of my inspiration from the material itself and use minimal designs that highlight the natural beauty of leather. I often feature the raw edge of the hide in my designs and include other tooling marks that are part of the tanning process.
How do you think hand-stitching each item shapes the final product?
I use a classic saddle stitch for almost all my work. It’s the most durable stitching technique that can’t be replicated by a machine. It locks at each stitch you make, so if one stitch happens to come out, the entire line won’t unravel. It’s a more time-consuming process, but I like it because it means I spend more time with each piece, and it is often while I am sewing the body of a bag that I can envision how to finish the piece with decoration and hardware. The results are a long-lasting product – leather ages beautifully, and this construction method complements that longevity.
Hollis Leather, hollis-leather.com