Photo by Daniel Curran
By Ryan Zoradi
There is a common misconception that American manufacturing has disappeared. Those who subscribe to this notion believe that American factories are boarded up, workers have been laid off, and every company has moved production to China. Maybe you’ve heard someone worry recently that: “We just don’t make anything in the U.S. anymore.” Though many American companies have moved production overseas, we believe this has opened the door for small, specialty manufacturers who are meticulous in their attention to detail and create excellent products right here in our backyard.
One such company was founded by Mitzi Guidry, one of our newest manufacturing partners. Mitzi was raised in the “sugarcane fields of Youngsville, Louisiana,” a town of only 8,000 people. From a young age Mitzi was building, dreaming and exploring the South Louisiana countryside. This freedom to roam and create, combined with family friends who were artists, inspired her to study design and merchandise marketing, ultimately finishing her education in Product Development at FIDM, Los Angeles. Since 2001, Mitzi has worked in the apparel industry including a five-year stint co-managing her own women’s clothing line with artist Kelly Lynn Jones.
In 2010, Mitzi was working for Chambers Belts as a Brand Manager for Wolverine 1000 Mile and Wrangler Jeans leather accessories. The company been a Los Angeles mainstay since the 1940s, until it shifted its production to China and Mexico. Rather than seeing this corporate restructuring as a tragedy, Mitzi and two business partners viewed it as an opportunity. They hired three leather crafters who had been at Chambers since the 1970s and formed their own leather accessories manufacturing company. Mitzi has an unwavering commitment to Los Angeles as a manufacturing hub, even though it is an internationally recognized entertainment cluster. According to Mitzi LA has everything her company needs to succeed including hardware suppliers, tools, repairmen, and strong demand from companies like Apolis. Starting a company in LA also fits within her worldview of focusing on local issues like creating jobs for leather craftsmen and minimizing environmental impact by sourcing materials from North America.
Mitzi and her team recently crafted our Transit Issue Camera Strap and Double Ring Belt. To make the Double Ring Belt they first sourced the highest quality vegetable tanned leather hides from Pennsylvania. After hand-cutting the leather into manageable strips, they thread it through a strap cutter and hand dye the backside of the belt. The rings are sewn on and the finishing touches applied to the edges and reversible detail. This simple reversible style belt is one of the most challenging products to create. With embossed leather belts containing overlays and stitching, craftsmen can hide imperfections. Therefore, a simple, clean belt like the Double Ring Belt perfectly encapsulates why we work with local manufacturers. Mitzi and her team stimulate the local economy, they emphasize transparency and attention to detail, and they prove that specialty American manufacturing is still alive and well.