At Far West, collaboration is one of our guiding principles. We've been honored to work with Detroit-based designer and expert craftsperson Carolyn Schief for the past few years on a collection of timeless leather goods.
We went behind the scenes and asked Carolyn about her process, her passion and her pastimes when she's not making leather magic.
FW: How did you land on leather as your calling?
CS: I learned how to work with leather during my time at Shinola in Detroit, where I was a pattern and sample maker in the design studio for many years. I had come from a background in apparel, which is what I studied in school, but something about working with leather, and particularly leather handbags, really grabbed me. Maybe it’s the leather itself, how it has life and personality...it can be stubborn if you’re trying to fight it, but if you work with it and let it be what it is, the finished product can be so stunning. I also like the relative “object-ness” of handbags vs. apparel which must be created around body shape. I don’t really miss doing apparel, but I can’t imagine my life without leather work at this point..I really enjoy it.
FW: Tell us a bit about the process behind the Far West Leather Essentials Collection.
CS: The collection been a lot of fun to create collaboratively with the Far West team. My own personal design sense really meshes with what we’re going for with these products - simple, classic, raw, naked...I believe the leather itself should be the star of the show, and the design supports that - no decorations, no paint, no fillers. Just beautiful leather being itself. I also love the secret stash pocket we did in one of the bags - it’s so secret you may never even find it...I messed around with kind of a “false wall” idea. I love being able to insert a bit of cleverness into the engineering.
FW: What drives your creative process?
CS: The engineering part of a product is actually really what inspires me the most about this kind of work. I fell in love with the technical side of fashion early on, and my real love is the problem solving that goes into drafting a pattern and making a prototype. The process can be hard and frustrating, but when a product comes together it is such an amazing feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.
FW: Tell us about how you chose the particular leather for the collection.
CS: We are using Horween Essex for a lot of the products, and this is an absolutely undeniable leather - a nice buttery vegetable tanned natural leather that softens and darkens in color over time - this is the kind of leather that only gets better with age/use. I’ve been working with it for years, I use it for my own products, definitely one of my favorite leathers out there.
FW: OK, so when you are making beautiful leather goods for Far West and your own Curzlyn collection, what are you up to?
CS: Driving is one of my favorite pastimes, so I am usually cruising the city (Detroit) in my Beetle convertible…and if I’m lucky I’ll do some amateur storm chasing - I'm a weather enthusiast.