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In the Field: Billykirk®

Chris and Kirk Bray are the founders of leather-goods purveyor Billykirk. Using domestic hardware, leather sourced from stateside tanneries and the help of Amish artisans, they craft classic American designs that only get better with age.


Tennessee-born brothers Chris and Kirk started Billykirk while they were both living in Los Angeles. The name Billykirk 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 guys learned the art of leather making by apprenticing with a third-generation craftsman named Arnold Arons for three years before moving to the East Coast. Now, their Jersey City workshop is where much of the hand stitching and finishing is done. “We’ve always been intrigued by leather and how it changes over time,” says Chris, who points out that often something as simple as a hook or a buckle will inspire a design.

In the workroom, Chris handles the finances and big-picture planning, while Kirk is more focused on each season’s designs, which include everything from wallets and belts to satchels and carryalls. “We work with an heirloom mentality,” says Chris. “Our products last. They’re not throwaway items. They should be passed down.”

Many of the old-fashioned tools—jack shears and cutting dies—were purchased from Arons on layaway. 

“We work with an heirloom mentality,” says Chris.“Our products last. They’re not throwaway items. They should be passed down.”

Photography by Alan Gastelum.

Shop all Billykirk here.