How to Make the Perfect Leather Bag

The Lotuff brothers are taking longtime leather-working traditions and producing something perfectly modern.

By Kurt Soller, Bloomberg Pursuits

Lotuff Leather, founded in 2012 by brothers Joe and Rick Lotuff, employs specialized craftsmen to make its bags at a factory in Norwalk, Conn. The high-quality, durable accessories look great with a suit or jeans, and a mere 4,500 pieces are produced each year. Here, creative director Lindy McDonough explains how the company makes its best-selling English briefcase.

1. Cutting

Photographer: Clément Pascal/Bloomberg Pursuits

The leather comes from a century-old tannery. Each component for a single bag is made from the same half-cow; in this case, 33 pieces are blocked, then sliced out. “Special care is taken so the front flap matches what’s beneath it,” McDonough says. 75 minutes

2. Splitting

Photographer: Clément Pascal/Bloomberg Business

In some corners, three pieces of leather come together; in others, it’s four. To ensure a consistent look, each piece is passed along a skiving wheel that whittles it to a precise thickness. When the leather isn’t split like this, “some parts tend to look glued on,” she says. 1 hour

3. Laminating

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For the first construction step, parts are sandwiched together with glue. The handle has six interior layers of leather sheathed with a seventh prior to being sewn up. “A lot of briefcases have handles with plastic in them, but not ours,” she says. Lotuff’s should mold to your hand within a year. 1 hour

4. Painting and Polishing

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Lotuff polishes each of its leather pieces with three or four passes along a buffing wheel. This is the most difficult part for a new employee to get a feel for, McDonough says, especially if the leather comes from an older, more brittle hide. 2 hours

5. Assembly and Stitching

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Using polyester thread, craftsmen employ a traditional process that involves knotting the string at each end, burning it off, then tucking it back through the hole so it disappears. There are 51 knots in each bag. Even if some unravel, the briefcase will retain its structure. 2 hours

6. Adding Hardware

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All the metal is solid brass, and the rivets attaching it should last 30 to 40 years. “If a piece gets damaged, they’re all made so we can replace that one part in the shop,” she says. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single buckle or the entire front leather flap. “Sometimes a Labrador will eat your handle,” co-founder Joe adds. 30 minutes

Finished Product

Photographer: Clément Pascal/Bloomberg Business

Indigo English leather briefcase, $1,065; lotuffleather.com

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