Many years ago, our handmade leather accessories and jewelry company Embrazio was primarily making belts and bags. As is natural, the more people began to know and like our brand the more they started asking us to make other items. One category that was universally requested was handmade wallets.
Step 1 On Handmade Leather Wallets
Turns out, “wallets” is a very broad category and ideas around the perfect wallet vary widely from person to person. We decided to take the new product design techniques we’d learned over 20+ years in the tech industry and apply them to designing our latest consumer product challenge, the wallet. The first step would be to identify the target consumer/persona as tightly as we could.
Defining the target persona (i.e., a fictional or virtual person who would likely buy our product) is a fun exercise we always enjoy so we dove right in. Our persona for this exercise would be called Dakota and we started describing her demographics (e.g., age, location, income level, job type, etc.) and her psychographics (e.g., what she likes to do in her spare time, what she reads, how she views her style in dress and appearance, what movies she likes, etc.) in order to draw as clear a picture as possible of the person so we could then design for them the perfect product.
At this point we had to stop for a good laugh as we once again defined a persona very much like Stephanie, the co-founder of Embrazio. While we never mean for the this to happen, we often end up designing products for a target that is a close match to Stephanie as she existed during some portion of her life. So far, it’s ended up giving us products that people like Stephanie tell us they love and there seem to be enough of these people to make a market so, on we go!
Dakota or Stephanie
You’ll learn by the end of this article that we ultimately designed, developed, and introduced into the market 3 very different wallets; large, medium, and small. None of the 3 are very similar in style although they all use similar premium leathers and manufacturing processes provided by our partners in Leon, Mexico. It turns out, the first version of a wallet we took all the way to market is the medium version … not by intent, it just happened that way.
#1 - The Ella Handmade Leather Wallet
The key design criteria for the first version of wallet we created (soon to be called Ella Wallet) was that it fit neatly into the side zippered pocket of The Revival, our small leather backpack. It also had to carry cash, multiple credit cards, and have a change purse with a zippered closure for security. Ergonomically, it had to be “cute” (as defined mysteriously by Stephanie – “I’ll know it when I see it”) and it needed to be soft to the touch but also durable so that it would age well with time and use.
The Ella met all these criteria and exceeded expectations with respect to the feel, durability, and something we didn’t specify … the leather fragrance. We used hand stitching for detail and functionality and introduced The Ella in 3 beautiful colors: black, cognac, coffee:
All in all, for those who are looking for a more traditional style of wallet, The Ella has it all and it has been very successful in the market priced at $84.
#2 - The Josh Handmade Leather Wallet
We decided to stay small or, more precisely, smaller for our next wallet style and produced the Josh handmade Cardholder/Wallet. This wallet is purchased by both men and women and it’s perfect for the person who wants something to just carry their essential cards and some folding money. We originally designed The Josh with a money clip on one side and card slots on the other but were forced to remove the clip when we couldn’t find a source for the metal clip anywhere in the world.
It turns out removing the clip was a blessing in disguise. The two-sided card slots were much more attractive to our main consumer base, women, and the guys liked the feel of The Josh without the hard metal clip edge poking their thigh when worn in a front pocket. For a true minimalist, The Josh is hard to beat at a $44 suggested retail price and it now comes in 5 rich leather colors.
#3 - The Wendy Handmade Leather Phone Wallet
The final style of wallet we created is called the Wendy Phone Wristlet and this version spent a tremendous amount of time in design, testing, and re-design. The Wendy is meant for the woman who wants to quickly pick-up something that holds all she needs while on the go. That means a place for her phone which introduces a lot of complexity given the many different sizes of cellphones on the market today.
In addition to her phone, this version of our Dakota persona also wants a dedicated place for cash, credit cards, receipts, and maybe even a pen or some lipstick. Oh, she also wants it to be secure, so things don’t fall out all over the place.
Finally, the Wendy will also be a fashion focal point as it is the only thing being carried and is frequently opening to make a payment, a phone call, or make some notes among other things. Usually carried by hand, Dakota also wanted a way to go hands free so a wristlet strap became a must have.
Most of the requirements for slots, zippered pockets, a cash sleeve and even a zippered sleeve were straight forward and attainable in design. We knew how to design a super wristlet strap and how to attach it to the main case. What was hard was how to accommodate all the variation in cellphone sizes in the market today.
For the phone, we tried various straps and snaps, some dreaded Velcro designs (we hate Velcro), and even a hard case shell that you’d push your phone into. We then remembered this thin and elastic leather called deer skin (it’s really cowhide, and we have no idea why they call it deer skin) that we’d used on the sides of our early versions of pure phone cases. Turns out, this material was/is the answer! We put in a single sleeve of deer skin leather, and you simply slide your phone in no matter the size. After you do this for a few days, the leather starts to form to your phone making it both secure and easy for retrieval or replacement.
We chose a richly textured leather to give the case a classic simple yet elegant appearance along with thick thread hand stitching for interest and detail. Now available in seven colors, there’s enough variety to appeal to those who want something subtle, or folks want a bit of bling. At $124 suggested retail, The Wendy is a handmade value for the on-the-go large wallet crowd.
Three different wallets for three different versions of Stephanie … oops, I mean Dakota. Designing each of these products was a ton of fun and involved multiple iterations to get to final designs. So far, each has been well received in the market. We’re still working on something special for compete with traditional bi-fold and tri-fold wallets that men typically carry so stay tuned for more!
About the author: The above article was written by Scott Schaefer, co-founder – Embrazio. Embrazio is a leather and jewelry accessories company based in Boulder, CO. Scott and his wife, Stephanie Boyles, started Embrazio in 2012 and the line is now carried by over 300 retail boutiques primarily in the US.