Five accessory finds from the chicago collective

by Karen Alberg Grossman

Buckle & Seam

Two young guys starting a company with hopes to change the world is special in itself. When the story includes exceptional product at realistic price points, it’s even more noteworthy.

Georg Wolff and Marco Feelisch launched Buckle & Seam, a Berlin-based company, in 2016. Both had lived in Pakistan and were incredibly impressed with the people—their work ethic and excellent craftsmanship. Four years later, they now employ 50 associates whom they pay three times the going rate plus health insurance, bonuses and holidays. Believing that education is key to changing a country, three percent of their revenues go to supporting a school with 160 students. They plan to be helping 10,000 students by 2023.

Their collection focuses on beautiful accessories (travel bags, belts, small leathers) using full-grain, vegetable-tanned cowhide, quality findings, a choice of linings. We especially loved the waxed canvas collection: $95-$495 suggested retails with a perfect weekend bag at $355.

Ruth Graves

From her many years working for Enrico Prini in Como, Italy and now working with exceptional fabric mills worldwide, Ruth Graves has learned to create neckwear and accessories that blend fashion and art. This season’s collection features neckerchiefs, a hot item for spring 2020 and a great way for young guys to add color and personality to their look. To be worn with polos, tees or button-fronts, this is an easy add-on sale that smart specialty merchants are jumping on. Also booking well, especially for wedding parties, ascots are a fresh and elegant neckwear option. Check out too Graves’ fabulous selection of silk/wool pocket squares, designed to connote various passions and careers: tennis, motorcycles, lawyers, doctors. We especially love the artwork showing vintage destinations:  Cuba, New York, Carnivale, each to be worn or framed, at $24 cost.

Other favorites: the full-size Alpaca scarves, printed in Italy and available in natural shades of cream, tobacco, charcoal, and black. With thermal properties that exceed cashmere and naturally hypoallergic, these are true works of art, wholesaling at $150.

Baekgaard

Cousins Will Wilson and Micah Bradley were virtually born into the accessories business, as grandchildren of the iconic Vera Bradley, the namesake of the company (of printed quilted fabric fame) founded by her daughter Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia Miller in 1982. The new generation Baekgaard collection features beautiful menswear fabrics trimmed in leather and translated into backpacks, travel bags and other accessories. The amazing part: every piece in the collection retails for under $200; the average ticket is $130. We loved a pale grey wool plaid (with just a touch of pink) made up in both a backpack and a duffle. Asked how they can create this type of quality fashion at these prices, the guys credited some good family mentors.

Bosca

This well-respected leathergoods company showed some of the best gift items we’ve seen including a leather-covered flask ($89) and a two-bottle wine holder ($185 retail). We also loved Bosca‘s collection of small leathers, from the $65 card case to wallets at $140. Leather backpacks (available in three colors) with RFID pockets were especially fabulous at retails from $610-$625.

Ettinger

Established in 1934, this family-run British company (now headed by third-generation Robert Ettinger) started out making bridles and accessories for horses. Having received a royal warrant from the Prince of Wales in 1996, Ettinger has a strong international presence but has been focused on the States for only the past three years. Already, the brand is carried in more than 30 top independent specialty stores. Their success secrets: in-stock service, quick response to retail selling and strong trunk shows.

Known for its gorgeous leathers, unique textures and custom colors, the various collections for 2020 are all quite special. We particularly loved the bridle leather (especially in London tan and British racing green) and the Sterling collection, a sleek sophisticated grouping in black smooth leather lined with turquoise, orange, purple or red. Prices vary from card cases at $160 retail, billfolds at $260, to totes from $500-$800. We also loved the unique gifts including a hunter flask with four cups at $175 retail and the folding travel shoe horn at $100.

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