Interview: Will Adler of WILL Leather Goods
Discussing the Eugene, Oregon-based brand's new leather bicycle project and larger creative influences
“People like the unexpected,” says Will Adler, founder of WILL Leather Goods, a brand he single-handedly built from the ground up at his residence in Eugene, Oregon. While predominantly known for their selection of accessories for men and women, these days, Adler is switching gears and putting the focus on something totally different. He came up with the concept of re-imagining seven unique bicycles with unique leather detailing, all of which he’s collected throughout his numerous travels. The first iteration, inspired by hand-tooled western belts, was recently released at the Abbot Kinney flagship shop in Venice, California, and over the next few months, the remainder will be unveiled at random. Adler kindly walks us through the process behind his latest creative project.
What’s the message behind this project?
With this project—and every initiative we introduce from WILL—we want to communicate that leather, as a craft, is one of the single most important aspects of American style and culture throughout history and today. We’re using the WILL Bike Series as just one platform to share our message in an interesting visual and engaging way. It’s incredible how many people just don’t know about leather processes, manufacturing—what goes into creating a beautiful WILL bag and what that stands for. I want every bike to take on a personality of its own. Once the series is complete, each bike will have highlighted our appreciation for some of the most impactful moments for leather in our culture.
Each bike that you re-interpret will represent a different aspect of leather in American history as it relates to your brand. What are some of the eras we will be seeing?
You can expect to see a bicycle inspired by early '80s rock'n'roll. Once I’m done interpreting it, this bike will feature black oiled-glazed calf leather with heavy hardware. This will definitely bring back memories of an important period not just for leather, but for music and culture in America. To contrast that aesthetic, I am also thinking about a deerskin-wrapped bike with a soft color palette. This would be indicative of flower children from the late '60s and early '70s. The materials used here would be quite a departure from the R&R feeling (though deerskin is actually one of toughest leathers). We will use overlays, collages and be playing up the surface interest. I’d also like to create an '80s surf, beach and boardwalk-inspired bicycle. My career in leather craft began on Venice Beach with Billy Belts in 1981, where our flagship store is currently, so it is a very significant but personal moment for the brand because that is where it all began for WILL.
Starting in April, the remaining one-of-a-kind bikes will be released at seemingly random times and locations throughout the remainder of year. What’s the idea behind releasing them in such a way?
People like the unexpected. While we’ve completed the first bike, the others are still in design phase and will take time to re-imagine so that they have characteristics that are true to the period they were inspired by. From the type of leather used to the leather treatment to dyes, what we want each bike to inspire will be very thought out. To balance that a bit, releasing them in no particular time or order will keep the project fresh and exciting to those who are paying attention, and truly interested in learning and discovering what the leather craft is all about. I want this series to also signify the unexpectedness of WILL.
What’s interesting to me is that you’re working on a series of bikes while utilizing what you’re known for: leather. What’s the connection?
The connection is to the leather craft and my ongoing journey in the leather business. Our tagline, “Discover Your Will” is prominently on the frame of the bike. The bicycles, this project and our collections are about that action; something I have done myself by creating this brand with a singular vision. Think about all of the times you’ve gotten on a bike and ended up somewhere unexpected. Figuratively speaking, it’s how I got to where I am now, by trusting my own instinct. This is the feeling I had that I want everyone to have when they see one of our bikes or walk into one of our shops.
Visit WILL Leather Goods online for more about the brand and their special projects.
Images courtesy of WILL Leather Goods