American Leather: The Story Behind our Tannery Collection



We were recently featured in February issue of the Wisconsin Bike Fed Magazine for the work we've done with our new Tannery Collection.  The article was written and photographed by the talented Dave Schlabowske who is the Deputy Director at the Bike Fed.  Dave reached out to us because he's been watching our Tannery Collection come together and wanted to write an article about how this product got off the ground but also on our thoughts on manufacturing here in Wiscsonsin. With companies like Trek, HB Performance, Waterford Precision Cycles, Fyxation and more based here in Wisconsin there is already a very established bicycle industry in the state and an existing manufacturing footprint. For the article, Dave spoke with our lead engineer and Fyxation co-founder, Nick Ginster.  

Nick has an extensive background in design, engineering and manufacturing and is the reason we've been able to crank out so many great products in the span of just a few short years.  Nick has worked in the bike industry for the last 20 years, 5 of which was spent living in Taiwan and managing the design and manufacturing for HB Performance systems which is the owner of Hayes Brakes, Manitou, Sun Ringle, Answer and Wheelsmith.  The full article titled American Leather is available in the February issue of the Wisconsin Bike Fed Magazine at bike shops throughout Wisconsin and is available to members of the Wisconsin Bike Fed. Photos by Dave Schlabowske. Here's our side of the story.

Made in Milwaukee!

The Tannery Collection is one of the more interesting projects we've worked on since we founded Fyxation in 2009.  Last summer we were approached by a local designer that was interested in partnering with Fyxation for a line of leather goods he had developed in his workshop at home.  After looking at his designs, we decided that they'd make a great addition to our current offering and rather than simply selling the designs on our site we added the designer to our small team and were on our way.   

We did a quick feasibility study so we could figure out how and where to make the leather goods so they could be competitively priced and available through our traditional dealer network.  After crunching some numbers we realized that this project was best suited for local production here in Milwaukee.  We already have experience manufacturing products here in the US as our Gates pedal straps are made right down the road for us.  Having local production is a huge advantage because it allows you to closely monitor material sourcing and assembly of your products. This is a major challenge when working with less expensive factories overseas but often times the cost savings outweigh the risks. 


Leather is a challenging material to work with but luckily for us we have a tannery literally right down the road from our office. We met with the owner of the tannery and learned more than we ever thought we'd know about leather. After this meeting we realized that we would be able to get the material we needed for our leather goods locally here in Milwaukee!  Next we identified a local method we could use to cut the leather which meant that the final step of assembly was all that was left for us to tackle.


For the assembly we contacted a few local companies to see if they could assist with us but their assembly costs were too high for the price targets we were trying to hit with the Tannery Collection.  Nick did a bit of research and sure enough there was a local Wisconsin based company that manufactured the types of riveters that we would need to put our leather goods together. After a quick meeting to determine what type of riveter we would need and a quick check of the bank account to see if we could swing it, we backed the truck up and drove home with our new industrial riveter!  

Today we are proud to manufacture our Tannery Collection here in our facility in Milwaukee.  It's really opened our eyes to the benefits of trying of local manufacturing and has encouraged us to look into other product categories that we could make here in Milwaukee. We've recently identified our next Made in Milwaukee product and work is already under way.  Stay tuned as "project X" moves ahead!


About the Wisconsin Bike Fed: The Wisconsin Bike Fed is the country's largest, statewide bicycle organization. We work with people from all around Wisconsin to make bicycling convenient, safe, accessible and fun. They also happen to be our upstairs neighbors at our office here in Milwaukee.


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