After over 18 years in the construction industry, one of my favorite parts of the building process has to be the erection of structural steel. Whether within the gutted shell of a building, on top of a building, or on land, this part of the construction process completely transforms the projects I’ve managed into something very tangible within such a short period of time. I’ve always appreciated the worn in gear used by the experienced tradesmen that came on my jobs but I especially loved the spark-burned, oil rubbed patina on the heavy suede jackets worn by the welders that erected steel structures.
When I started Industry Portage in 2010, one of the first ideas that came to mind was to find a used welder’s jacket and up-cycle it into a carry piece. The jacket above was found on eBay. I sketched a few ideas and came up with a straightforward tote design that I thought came out nicely for my first attempt.
I’ve now designed three different carry pieces with this concept and I really love doing it. Although I initially just cut up the jacket to harvest the material I wanted to use, I realized that some material would be wasted. With my second suede welder’s jacket design, I began taking apart the stitching by hand which gave me even more appreciation for the craftspeople that built these jackets. The process itself of deconstructing the jacket gives me ideas for how I wanted to re-fashion the material into carry pieces and maintained the spirit of its original use. The concept even got some love and attention from one of my favorite blogs, If The Lamp Shade Fits by Raina Cox.
Since I couldn’t use every single piece of the suede for my carry piece designs, I transformed what was leftover into accessories I would want to use myself. This resulted in items such as belts, watch straps, and even prototypes of wallets and mobile phone pouches. I’m even toying with ideas for bracelets and other accessories that would look great using a patinated suede.