We would like to introduce to you an amazing heritage leather brand Korchmar, a family-owned business that has been making world-class leather goods for 100 years. In honor of this milestone, Korchmar is released its limited edition Centennial Collection on May 23rd. Korchmar is a family-owned manufacturer of quality leather briefcases, travel bags, and accessories for business professionals. Korchmar’s legacy is rooted in excellence and innovation in leather craftsmanship. Check out our exclusive interview with the masterminds behind Korchmar.
Who are you and where are you from?
Michael and Mike Korchmar — Michael is the CEO, and his son Mike is the President at Korchmar. We’re originally from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Korchmar has been around for years and has a rich history. How did the business begin?
Korchmar was founded in 1917 by Max Korchmar, our current president’s great-grandfather. The first products that he created were leather automobile lamp visors, thermos cases, and premium leather ‘suitcase corners’ designed to protect the edges of old style trunks and hard-sided luggage. In the following years, Korchmar began handcrafting leather bags — specifically, travel bags, doctor bags and briefcases for government agencies and the United States military. Over time, we began developing more consumer-oriented products, all with a focus on top-quality leather craftsmanship. You can learn more about our history, craftsmanship and 100th anniversary here.
How have you managed to keep the business in the family for so long?
Korchmar is a family business at its very core. When Max Korchmar launched the company in 1917, he had recently immigrated to the United States and was intent on creating a successful business. Having witnessed the impact of his hard work and commitment, his family was eager to be involved and over time, his sons, then grandson, and now great-grandson have taken the helm and continued the legacy.
As Michael Korchmar said, “We realize that in today’s world our history of one family ownership and management is most unusual. I believe that our family values and the following two factors have contributed to the longevity of our family business: (1) The fact that 3 generations of Korchmars have watched their parents work in this business and love the experience and the products. All of the children really admired what the parents had achieved and wanted to be part of the experience and carry the tradition forward. (2) A core entrepreneurial spirit which results from the spirit of patriotism and love for a country that values a system that rewards hard work and innovation by allowing citizens to actually own and run their own businesses. We often forget how rare this opportunity is in other parts of the world. My father never lets me forget it.”
Korchmar celebrated its 100-year-anniversary this year by launching the Centennial Collection. Where did you draw your inspiration for this collection?
Our Centennial Collection is a celebration of a century of quality craftsmanship, designed to harken back to the days of old while incorporating modern features desired by today’s most discerning business professionals and travelers. The collection draws inspiration from Korchmar’s archives — from briefcases designed in the 1930s for the US government to attaches of the 1950s to duffle bags created for outdoorsmen in the 1960s.
Could you explain the process of creating a new bag from the initial idea through execution?
We typically develop concepts for new products based on customer feedback and/or changes that we’re seeing in technology or the marketplace. Once we have a concept in mind, technical drawings are created, materials are selected, and the sample making process begins. We are careful to test all new products rigorously before beginning production. Once we have a production-ready sample, materials are ordered and we’re able to begin planning the first production run and preparing to bring the product to market.
Where are the bags created?
All of our bags are handcrafted in our own factories in Florida and the Dominican Republic. Most all Korchmar styles are designed by a member of the Korchmar family and samples and prototypes are developed with hands-on involvement from the Korchmars in one of our own factories.
What kind of materials do you use?
We use top-quality materials on all of our bags and accessories: unusually thick (1.4-2.8 mm) full-grain American leather, premium waxed canvas that was originally used by the US Army in the 1800s as shelter tent material, solid brass hardware, and twill lining.
Is there anything else in the works for Korchmar this year?
Yes! We have some great new backpack and travel bag releases planned for the fall, including some new color ways of some of our most popular styles.
Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs trying to create their own brand or starting their own bag business?
Given that there are so many competitors in this market, we would advise that a young entrepreneur looking to get started define a clear niche and develop a thoughtful strategy on how their brand will stand out in the crowd. It’s also really important not to underestimate the costs of product development. As Korchmar works with brands on contract manufacturing, we would also recommend contacting us for information on the manufacturing process.