The Process: Values, Sourcing, Teamwork, and the Why Behind CK Designs
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
When I started my business nearly 10 years ago, my goal was simple; create beautiful, one of a kind, high quality bags that would last a lifetime. In this age of consumerism, it’s easy to get lost in quantity over quality. Find an inexpensive t-shirt that fits ok and ya gotta have one in every color!? Many of us have been there, myself included. I strive to challenge that notion. I made the decision early on to keep my production small and quality high in order to maintain the truly artisanal roots and unique feel of my bags. After all, what keeps me inspired is my love for the design and the creative aspects of my business. I am drawn to a small scale, hands on business model. I have never had any desire to compete with products and brands that are mass produced, and though many have tried to veer me in the direction of selling at Nordstrom or manufacturing in China, I have remained steadfast in my mission. To that note, my goal remains; create beautiful, one of a kind, high quality bags that will last a lifetime.
My all women team is small, but mighty. There are 3 of us including me. Larsen is full time and Wendy is part time. It is important to me that my employees feel valued and are treated with respect. I am committed to paying a fair, living wage guided by market rates and the cost of living in our Sun Valley community. It doesn’t hurt that we get to live in a town that’s home to the #1 ranked ski resort in America! Between the three of us, we ensure that every bag is entirely hand stitched, omitting the use of machinery. Our manufacturing process consists entirely of strong, steadfast, female muscle!
Not all leathers are created equal!
I have spent countless hours researching tanneries and requesting samples in order to source the high quality materials that I use to make CK bags. I am continually on the hunt for newer and better hides in varying colors, textures, and qualities. If I've learned anything, it’s that the old saying, “You get what you pay for” is certainly apropos. Through many years of trial and error, I have learned the value of investing in quality leather! I now purchase my hides from a handful of trusted sources. They include a small Italian tannery, as well as distributors from California, Atlanta, New York and North Carolina.
One of the main reasons I source my leather internationally is because the US has very few tanneries from which to purchase and many have very large minimum orders. Because I am a small operation, I need to purchase one hide at a time which limits my choices. Keep in mind also, that leather is sold by the hide, not the yard. If I get a custom order for a red bag and I have to order a new hide, I get the entire hide. Unlike buying fabric, there is no option to purchase a “couple of yards” at a time.
THE DESIGN PROCESS
With a keen eye toward simple and functional design, there are many hours spent on every pattern I create. Getting the proportions, drape, and feel takes total concentration and uninterrupted time. Countless hours are invested into every design, and every bag.
Every part of each bag is hand cut by me personally in the CK Studio. Once a bag is cut, my team methodically puts it together. Wendy and Larsen are both conscientious and meticulous in their craftsmanship resulting in each bag being of the highest quality. They work hard punching, pounding, gluing, stitching, trimming, inspecting from beginning to end on each bag they produce.
Fun Fact . . .
If you look inside your bag near the “CK” label, if there is a purple “x” that means Larsen made it! If you see a blue “x”, Wendy made it! No ‘x’, I made it! All three of us take our work very seriously and are proud of our end product.
I am always keeping an eye toward being sustainable. To this end, I use every inch of hide when cutting my bags which means that sometimes there will be a slight variation on an interior pocket or hidden in a seam. This is something I embrace as the imperfections are part of the process, right!? I don’t want to just ignore them! Because of this, our waste is very minimal. With a majority of our scraps, we make tassels, card holders, and small wallets. The final batch of scraps goes to our local preschool for art projects. The teachers as well as the kiddos always look forward to our deliveries!
My customer is confident. She’s a leader. Although she can afford any bag on the market, she instead prefers the handmade nature and artisanal quality of a CK bag. She gets it!
SHOP SMALL. SHOP ARTISANAL. SHOP WOMEN OWNED AND OPERATED. SHOP HANDMADE. SHOP CINDY KIRK DESIGNS
I know that there are many shopping choices on the market today which is why each one of us at CK do a happy dance every time we sell a bag! You see . . . every CK bag has heart and soul stitched right into it! When you buy a CK bag, you can be confident that you are supporting a small, woman owned and operated, Made- in- America enterprise. For that we are grateful!