Industry Insider Scott Irvine, Brave Leather
Rebecca Tay | Date posted: October 26th, 2011
When putting together an outfit, a belt isn’t always the first thing you think about—indeed, it’s often the last. But Scott Irvine, founder of BRAVE Leather (formerly known as Brave Beltworks), jumped on a wardrobe essential in 1992 and nearly 20 years later, is still going strong. We chatted to him about his success in the leather business.
LoveSewing: Can you give our readers a brief background on why you started Brave Leather back in 1992?
Scott Irvine: “Brave was created because I liked the belt Brad Pitt wore in Thelma and Louise. I was too poor to buy one so I made myself a reasonable facsimile, and several people comments on my ‘cool belt’, to which I replied ‘you may have one too for only $25!’ I sold a few, and then a few more. This was during my final year of university and I proclaimed, ‘As the first member of the Irvine family to graduate from university, I’m going to make my mark… as a street vendor!
My family was less than thrilled (they’re ok with it now), but after one cold winter of shilling belts at $25 each, 2 for $40, I went legit—which means I drove from town to town, sleeping in my Dodge caravan with my dog Gypsy and selling BRAVE. My motto was ‘one belt at a time.’”
LS: What type of leather do you work with?
SI: “Leather is a very special material, especially vegetable tanned leather, which is what we use, because it gets better over time and is a completely natural and organic product.
In fact, the vegetable tanned leather we use is a fabulously sustainable and green choice. Every single skin is a byproduct of the food industry so nothing is wasted or sacrificed, and vegetable tanning is an organic, chemical-free process using plant extracts to transform the hide into leather.”
LS: What’s the difference between vegetable tanned and other types of leather?
SI: “I get a big kick out of the purveyors of ‘vegan leather’ or ‘cruelty free leather’ as they call it. It’s a sexy way of saying ‘it’s plastic’. If you ever took a moment to investigate, [you’d see that] that stuff is made with nasty chemicals and petroleum ingredients. Let’s just say you might very well come away with a different opinion on how wonderful those ‘vegan’ products really are. You can’t improve on nature’s perfect material, vegetable tanned leather.”
LS: How do you keep your collections interesting each season?
SI: “I travel a lot, and I follow design trends very closely—not just in clothing but in cars, architecture, industrial design, interior design. I remember one really hot item we produced several years ago, where the buckle was a curtain ring I found at an Italian hardware store. In my opinion, originality comes from original inspiration, so I look for unique places to find ideas.”
LS: Would you say you follow trend cycles, then?
SI: “I want to have totally unique products to offer every time the customer views my collection. That’s not to say that we don’t have some beautiful, timeless items that we carry forward, but 90% of my line is totally new every 3 months.”
LS: What was your fall 2011 collection inspired by? Favourite pieces?
SI: “We always do a huge collection because I can never seem to resist the temptation to keep trying new things and I love doing some very avant-garde pieces each season.
Those pieces are not always the best-selling items but I often feel they best represent who we are as a company and who I am as a designer. For example, this season, several designers used rabbit feet as embellishment; personally I did not want bunnies toes on my handbags, so I used boa feathers to make an amazing tassel type detail that has been a big hit. To me, handbags with boa detail—that’s BRAVE.”
TAGS: Fashion Designer