Editor’s note: To catch up on other Style Q+A entries, click here.
Whenever I get the chance to stop by various #menswear events happening around NYC or around the country, I’m always intrigued and curious to see who I might meet, or what brands I might discover. At this past December’s Pop-Up Flea in New York City (a cornucopia of great lifestyle and men’s goods brands all in one spot), it was hard not to discover the stunning leather goods on display at Moore & Giles. I got to chatting with the brand’s Director of Marketing, Daryl Calfee, about some of the stellar product the brand had brought (seriously, it was museum-worthy). He just happens to be good friends with my pals over at Brothers & Craft, so we naturally hit it off talking all things men’s style. I also got to know the brand a bit more, and it’s a worthwhile one to know. In addition to a massive collection of fine leathers, they also produce their own line of jaw-dropping bags, renowned for their heritage quality and style (in fact, I covered the Benedict Weekend Bag for GearMoose). Throw in a well-curated, stellar assortment of home goods, and you’ve got enough gear to make your head spin (the 33 Chair in particular is Wish List-worthy).
Given the brand’s affinity for quality and nuanced design, it was great to be able to send over a few questions to Thomas Brennan, the brand’s Director of Design for Bags & Accessories. After you get a look into the Moore & Giles process, you very well might want a bag for yourself. Enjoy this one, folks!
(Editor’s note: In the meantime, got a brand or style personality you’d like to see answer some zingers?Let me know via Facebook or Twitter).
The Style Guide: Take me through the background of Moore & Giles and how you approach your work?
Moore and Giles: The brand was founded in 1933 as a materials supplier to local shoe manufacturers. Donald Graeme Moore traveled around the area sourcing and selling everything from shoelaces and eyelets to nails and leather. Eventually his offerings narrowed to strictly leather and his regional hunt gradually expanded into the global quest it is today to uncover hidden gems at tanneries in all corners of the world. The company develops, sources and sells millions of square feet of leather a year across a variety of industries including furniture manufacturers, private aviation companies, and high-end homes and hotels.
The bag division developed in 2007 when our president and vice president decided to take advantage of their access to such magnificent material and made a few travel and work bags to bring with them on their travels. The line has grown organically from that point into the extensive, well curated line of bags and accessories that exists today.
Our products are unapologetically traditional. Artisans have been tanning hides for millennia and hand-sewing the resulting leather into useful objects for just as long. Both the material history and the history of our own company add welcome layers of authority, grandeur, and natural beauty to our bags; my job is to simply accentuate the existing beauty of the material with understated designs that will age as well as the leather.
TSG:Where do you find your biggest sources of inspiration?
M&G: The leather itself is the primary inspiration. We are fortunate to have close relationships with a 150-year old tannery in Italy, which means that our “product development” begins with prototyping leather colors and experimenting with different finishes, various combinations of waxes and oils, milling times, and ironing treatments. These design decisions affect the finished product long before I ever sit down to sketch a specific silhouette. When I do sit down to design a bag, I tend towards clean exteriors, traditional shapes, discrete details——decisions that keep the natural beauty of the leather front and center.
Reading books, talking with creative peers, and sifting through vintage stores all provide great creative fodder but for the ultimate design inspiration, nothing beats close observation of day-to-day routines. Take going on a business trip, for instance. As I’m packing, I want to make the job easier, tidier, more secure and I want my shoes kept separate from my shirts; when I’m going through airport security I need a convenient, safe spot to tuck my wallet and cell phone; when I’m putting my bag in the overhead bin I want easy access to my notebook or a magazine but don’t want to rifle through the body of the bag; if I’m meeting with a new manufacturer I want to have my business cards close at hand. I aspire to be more organized than I am and more put together than I often feel. Our bags help me on both fronts.
TSG:What, in your mind, can a great leather accessory do for a guy who might not have given it much thought before?
M&G: In a lot of ways, having a great leather accessory is like be the owner of the easiest pet ever: It will never cease to amaze you how happy you get when you see it; you’re going to feel more fond of it the longer you have it; strangers will stop you and ask you about it. Added bonus: you don’t have to feed it and it arrives at your door already housebroken.
TSG: Are there new product categories that you want to expand into in the coming seasons?
M&G: What’s proving more interesting than expanding out across new categories is finding new ways to give the existing line more depth and texture. The sheer volume of colors and finishes of leather we have at our fingertips is dizzying. The collection of artisans who tan, stamp, hand-stain, carve, and etch, to whom we have access is incredibly deep. Eight years in, we’ve only scratched the surface of what the bags and accessories can look like. As an example: we introduced a bespoke program during the holiday season last year that has given our customers a chance to participate in the creative process by selecting from a more expansive palette of hides to use on a custom travel or work bag. Seeing the colors that customers gravitated towards——reds and purples and golden tans and cool grays——and the types of leathers they’ve responded to———leathers that are exceptionally rare, have more history, or age in unique ways——informed several recent releases (like our Modern Saddle collection featuring vegetable tanned leather) and inspired a roster of upcoming releases.
TSG: What’s one thing every guy should have in his closet in terms of style?
M&G: Wherever you sit along the style continuum between a tailored suit and leather lace-ups and raw denim and sneakers, our classic Benedict Weekend Bag is a worthy compliment. It’s simple, beautiful, and functional. Unlike some other sartorial decisions, I guarantee you’ll still be proud of yourself for owning one ten years from now.