In the beginning, the team played around in analog fashion with an all leather material palette.
“When we first started, we just worked in paper. We sketched first, and then we went to paper and started either hand-cutting shapes, or we'd go into Rhino and we'd print them, cut them out, fold them up, test them, try again. We just did that over and over until we had a shape that we really liked.”
“Yeah, that just goes back to the idea that we always try to push our designs in different ways. That's why we created a machined metal wallet in the first place, because we're trying to push past what everyone else is doing.”
"I think we just had to accept that we were going into a really crowded field and it was going to look like other things. But what we could do that could set it apart was really focus on the details and the manufacturing. We also applied some of our thinking around 'how can you take this two-dimensional flat piece of leather and create form within it?'"
I went over to Yone’s workshop four or five times to get lessons. He explained to me that newer sewing machines have evolved to be faster in order to save factories money, but that those innovations sacrifice how cleanly they can sew. He doesn’t use these speed-focused machines, choosing quality over speed. The machines he sews on are so old they’re no longer in production, and he makes special trips back to Japan just to hunt them down.
It was a fascinating experience working with Yone. We were interested in how we could make wallets better and Yone opened our eyes to what was possible. He has an obsession with his craft that showed me that even the simplest products have limitless potential where you could take it.
We’re friends with a lot of other brands we respect, and one of our peers launched a wallet with a flap feature very similar to ours. We spent so much energy coming up with something original, and by pure coincidence our friend’s team landed on something almost identical. We were convinced we’d have to start over. Crazy bad luck!
After some freaking out, we gathered ourselves, took a deep breath, and thought it through. Were we overreacting? Wallets are all pretty similar because there is only so much you can do with leather. But how would they feel about it? I reached out directly to our friend, telling him what had happened and asking him how he felt about it. I waited anxiously for a few days for a response.
He responded that he felt that the details in our wallets are different enough. He and his CEO had no problem with us moving forward with our wallet design. Phew! What a relief! They were not only okay with it, but gave us some very encouraging words and advice. The project was back on!
“I think it's really cool. It kinda takes me back to when we first started the company and were in the production line. We would see every product through, all the way to the end through every step. I remember a great deal of satisfaction in seeing a batch of product being finished, knowing that I touched it or I had a hand in making it.”
As I look over our first batch of 50 wallets waiting to go out to customers, I think back on the journey it took to get here. I really enjoyed the meandering path, the tension, and drama involved in making our Bifold Wallet a reality. I like to believe it’s that struggle that gives our products deeper meaning.