Starting Conrad was an adventure in itself. I had never made a physical product before, outside of sewing ski-bags in home-economics back in high school, all I knew was that I just needed a starting point.
Lucky for me I have a bunch of friends that have their own clothing brands, including Nick Fouquet and the guys over at Dyer & Jenkins that I could take my cues from. But I still needed to do something other than make hats and jeans. Finding a bag manufacturer in LA was another task.
I started with looking up the leather suppliers in downtown LA. I started at United Leather where I found some leather that was close to what I was looking for, but I still needed to find someone that actually had all of the sewing and cutting machines required to make by bag. United Leather gave me a card of a few people, the first of which led me to a street downtown, straight out of a dystopic future. Much of downtown LA is like this—row upon row of tents resembling a refugee camp. On the corners there are trash piles that the homeless people dig through. Drug dealers dart back and forth from customer to customer—there is no discretion, this is just how it is.
I parked in front of a line of tents outside the address of what was supposed to be the manufacturer. The building was boarded up, covered in graffiti, looking like it had been closed down long before my time on this earth.
I was about to turn back to my car when a voice came from one of the tents, “You looking for the purse factory?”
A kind-looking woman in her early 40’s came out and waved me along to follower her—my guide among the chaos. She led me around the corner, to an alley full of auto shops, tire repair garages, and an auto-body shop with paint fumes spilling out. There, at an unmarked gate she banged on the metal door and walked away without a word.
A pretty, well-dressed woman, with a silk scarf around her neck wearing reading glasses came to greet me, she was straight out of Central Casting for what I’d envision a fashion designer to look like.
Inside there where machines that had been there for over forty years, and the woman and her business partner had taken it over 25 years ago.
This is where my bags are made, in a little factory the size of my parent’s living room in Minnesota, in this little back-alley in downtown LA. Everyone that works there smiles as we talk, everyone takes pride in their work, and I always feel confident that my bags will have the highest quality of care put into them when I drop off the materials.
There is something to be said for the energy of what goes into something. The intention from the people that make the bags for Conrad Men’s is reflected in each stitch and rivet. Finding this factory was like finding Neverland, it was certainly an adventure I had to go on, and one that I continue to go back to.
Conrad Men's - Made in Downtown LA