After attending the School of Art Institute of Chicago, Libby Lane returned to her hometown of Bushland, Texas and to her family’s fourth generation cattle ranch to launch a handbag line. It was a choice that reverberates in Lane’s namesake collection that takes its cues from saddle-making and leather’s rich history. All of the bags, like the P Latigo Strap clutch ($295), are handmade and the leather locally sourced. We caught up with Lane to hear about her design process and what it’s like working out of Texas.
The Vivant: How did your business come about?
Libby Lane: I wanted to start a line of chic, minimalist bags that would be used as a staple for everyday use and travel. I saw that there was a need for a versatile bag that could be transported from work, to the gym, and then to cocktails that night. But also, the bag needed to look simple and sleek to go with multiple outfits. I designed and produced a few, and literally got orders immediately following.
The bags are handmade. How does that come together?
Usually leather is rolled up for its protection, so I unroll each hide and inspect them on a large table where I can fully spread the leather out. Then I choose each hide specifically based on the details. Each of the hides are rich with history and I try to illuminate each mark in the leather to sort of showcase the cow’s life. I make all of my own patterns myself and place them meticulously on each hide, trying to really bring out the striking qualities the hides offer. Then I hand cut all of the leather pieces, and hand paint the edges of each piece before anything is actually stitched. The preparation process itself takes time. When the preparation process is complete, then I move to the leather machines and begin stitching the panels into a three dimensional piece. Then I go back and put the final touches to each bag, making sure all of the edges are finished. The dust bag is just as important—I cut and sew all of my own dust bags with a leather Libby Lane label.
We heard that you’ve apprenticed for saddle makers. Tell us about it.
Saddle makers are few and far between, and the specialized craft of leather-working is a lifetime commitment. It’s a commitment that is being made by fewer and fewer, but the work of the craftsmen is still in high demand. I have always been mesmerized by the craft itself as well as the processes of tanning leather. I became so intrigued by the history behind why people use leather, I wanted to learn from people who know and have been working with leather for years. So, the next thing was to go to the original source itself—craftsmen and saddle makers in Texas. I observed for hours under the meticulous old craftsmen, trading food for stories about why their designs have evolved from utilitarian ideas. I found all of these stories so fascinating. The saddle makers use of utility and function in their designs were influential to my own designs.
You are based off the beaten path is Texas. How does that influence your aesthetic?
I chose to return to Texas to base my line because I felt it necessary to be close to my original source of inspiration. Leather is very important in Texas, and there is a long and rich tradition from which I enjoy drawing my inspiration. I really value the chance to bring the traditional design elements to a high fashion audience. In Texas, people are not so trend focused. The real focus is on quality, function, and craftsmanship. These ideas appeal to me, and keeping them in mind helps keep me clear and focused when designing my bags.