Another great carry brand, another awesome round of responses in our 5 Minutes With series. This one focuses on Chris Bray, who makes up 1/2 of the leather and canvas carry brand Billykirk. The other 1/2 of Billykirk is Chris’s brother, Kirk (the name “Billykirk” comes from Kirk’s full name, William Kirkland). In an upcoming Road Test we’ll focus a lot more on these two gentlemen, along with the brand and products of Billykirk. For now we’ll keep it nice and simple, which is the point of this series. Chris really nailed these responses in a super thoughtful manner, which we really appreciate. Enjoy the read.
1 – What key insights drive your stuff?
To help illustrate this we started documenting our customers’ worn-in items around 7 or 8 years ago. Not only does this show the constructional integrity of our designs and materials, it helps bring this now heavily relied on and appreciated item to life. Another interesting driver many Billykirk advocates have been associating with is our “heirloom mentality”. We are not in the business to construct goods that have a shelf life. Of course leather is not impervious to the elements and overuse, but if treated with respect it will last a very long time. Because of this many of our customers have asked us to pen letters of provenance knowing that one day they will pass down the item to one of their children. I can guarantee there are no customers asking that of any big box retailers or big brands.
This sort of personal attention is vital. Gary Vaynerchuck writes about this in his latest book, “The Thank You Economy”. To paraphrase, business owners (big and small) need to get back to the days of our grandparents where personal, polite customer service was not only expected but was the norm. It’s a damn shame in today’s world we are blown away if we get any sort of personal attention from a retail establishment or website.
2 – Who else is doing rad things in the world of carry? And why do you think they’re important…
There are literally dozens and dozens of new bag makers out there. By the time I am done writing this 2 or 3 more will have popped up. I have listed some that are doing great things and ones that I am fond of:
Filson, Duluth Pack & J.W. Hulme Co. - Continuity, dependable, names you can trust
Topo – Great silhouettes and unique blends of color
Stanley & Sons – Rugged, well made, understated
Goruck – Tactical style bags that are indestructible
Porter, Master-Piece, Workers (Japan) – Very respectable designs, authentic, quality
Ally Capellino – Great designs and very functional
Mister Freedom – Exceptional eye for detail, Heritage driven
Isaac Reina – Modern, well made, simple construction
3 – Are there any things other brands do that you think are great or could be improved?
Brands like L.L.Bean, Ghurka and Levi’s are making the right moves and beginning to on-shore more domestic-made bags, backpacks and totes.
4 – What’s next for you guys?
(above: Chris’s zippered card case, carryall, vintage money clip and pocket knife)
5 – What do you carry daily and how?
I rotate a number of carryalls, briefcases and satchels. Depends on where I am heading and what I am wearing. Lately I have been using our No. 165 Medium Carryall in Ash Waxed with Cognac Leather from Horween or my Gokey/Orvis briefcase I got in St. Paul in 1989. I also don’t leave the house without one of my pocket knives, vintage money clip and our No. 189 Small Zip Card Case in Natural. (Chris emailed me later, adding that “I should have added my 9 year old No. 95 Satchel to my list of bags. I use it quite a bit as well. Also one of our new waxed iPad sleeves.”)