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Behind the Design: Billykirk® for J.Crew

We’ve been carrying the American-made bags, belts and wallets created by brothers Chris and Kirk Bray for nearly 10 years, but this season we took the relationship to the next level with an exclusive collection of leather goods designed in partnership with the brothers Bray and our brand buyer Spencer (basically the guy who searches the world for the coolest companies to partner with). To get an inside look at this one-of-a-kind collaboration, we headed to the Billykirk workshop in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The initial sketches for our Billykirk for J.Crew waxed canvas weekender bag. Shop all bags.

Billykirk began back in 1999 when Tennessee-born Chris and Kirk were both living in Los Angeles. The brand’s name comes from Kirk’s full name: William Kirkland. “Our father called me Billykirk,” he says. “Southerners have a thing for melding together first and middle names.” The brothers learned the art of leather making by apprenticing with a third-generation craftsman before eventually setting up shop on the East Coast.

Chris and the team hand number each of our weekender bags.

Spencer, Kirk and Chris review sketches at the Billykirk workshop. 

“We borrow a lot from the past—stuff that’s been working well for a long time. Old boots, the hardware from a vintage map case, military bags from WWII—things that were made for the masses but were still incredibly well constructed.”

Chris rivets one of our Billykirk for J.Crew key fobs. Shop all accessories.

“We wanted to maintain the core of Billykirk’s identity but also reinterpret it in a way that would be unique to us. That started with looking at everything that was already in the works and then asking Chris and Kirk to create a pack of sketches that represented something slightly different.”

“Everything in the collection is made by the Amish craftsmen in Pennsylvania that we normally work with and uses the same tumbled brass hardware that’s signature to us. It was really just about picking out different fabrics and details that would be specific to J.Crew.” 

Photography by Shawn Brackbill.

Shop Billykirk for J.Crew here. Shop the men’s collection here.
TAGS: behind the design, mens