Posts Tagged ‘CustomUSA’

Forward to the Past

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

I’ve been asked about my history and how I got my talents honed to become a designer and creator of bags and travel goods. I guess this is where I get to toot my own horn a bit…  I’ll try not to toot too loud or long.

I began my career in the 60′s (seems so long ago now) working with an old journeyman leatherworker in Rhode Island mostly doing equine gear for the Amish. Not quite the career my parents envisioned, they thought I was a classic “dropout” like most of my generation were proving to be, rebelling against the dreaded establishment. Remember those days? If you do, you’re a Baby Boomer like me! Welcome to the club…

After a bit of apprenticing and learning techniques from others in the leather trade, I migrated to Goshen NY to start a saddle shop for Western and English riders. I did mostly repair work on saddles and racing harness for the Trotter Horse trade. It was during these years (1971-1974) that my repair customers began asking me to make custom saddle bags, pouches and chaps, which started me on the road to specializing in bags… and incidentally ended my horse gear days.

In the mid 70′s I began to show my work in the prestigious American Craft Council shows and enjoyed a very successful following. It was during those show days that I perfected my use of the buttery-soft Upholstery Grade Full Grain Leathers, the very same leathers we use today at AmeriBag.

Around 1980 (hey-I’m 66 and dates can be a challenge) I opened Woodstock Leather Company in Woodstock, NY. I designed and made all the bags we sold and kept myself pretty busy and out of trouble most of the time building stock and doing custom orders.

For many years (lots of ‘em) I did commission work designing and building soft-structured custom bags, briefcases and travel bags for Fortune 500 Executives, Artists, Actors, and many Musicians. While the list of notables is long and impressive, I won’t waste your time here. Let’s just say that I built bags for a lot of well known people in my custom order days.

In 1982 I drove up to LLBean (in Freeport, Maine), to try to sell them bags I had designed. Chutzpah! My presentation was to the head of Product Design in the Luggage Division. He asked me “Who designed and made these bags?”. I said “Me”. He said “Yes, but who actually made them?”. I said “I did”. He smiled, shook my hand and thanked me for the visit. Oh well…

3 Weeks later I got a call to ask if I could come back up to LLBean. You don’t have to ask me twice! At that meeting I became the first ever Freelance Designer and Production Consultant for LLBean’s  Luggage Factory, a title I held and enjoyed for 5 years. In 1987 they asked me to start my own company to provide production support and that’s how AmeriBag Inc. started!

Over the years I have developed a portfolio of many designs and my personal favorites for business, travel and life. Some of them have become classics in the industry along with the Healthy Back Bag. Now, as many of you know, we are bringing these timeless pieces back to the present with a little updating… and once again
Made In America
by us!

Now you know the roots of our bags, their designer plus a little history of their origin. Check out the Custom USA section on our web site. You will learn about the origins and development of each of the first 9 offerings that will be made to order for you. Yes, we have included special makeups of the Healthy Bag Back too!

Whew! I was hoping to keep this short and sweet, sorry ’bout that! Do check out the section and know that these designs are a legacy that I am proud to call my own… with a little help from my friends!

-Irwin

Irwin Gaffin, Circa 1960s

Irwin Gaffin, Circa 1960s