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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Portland Skin Job: Orox Leather Co.

I found several gems in Portland this weekend.  Orox Leather Company is a family business of leather artisans with a workshop and retail store in the Chinatown and Pearl District of the city.  The operation started from Oaxaca, Mexico with Don Pepe in 1933.  Several generations later, the label was moved to Oregon and run by grandson Jose Martinez and great grandson Martin.

  When I first stepped into the store, I inhaled the rich smell of good leather.  The shop offered handmade bags, shoes, wallets, belts and gifts made by craftsmen right in front of your eyes. Like many independent companies in Portland, Orox Leather tries to be a sustainable business by using eco-friendly finishing methods and locally sourced or recycled materials.

In chatting with Martin, he expressed that having the workshop on site with the retail store was perfect for collaborating with customers’ directly on custom pieces or responding to the most demanded trends. 

Rather than smacking on dye and paint to cover textural differences, I loved the rugged, hardy bags that were finished to truly showcase the character of the skins instead.  There were a lot of masculine, doctors’ bags and innovative messenger-like styles.  A bag that resembled an attach√© had a front zipper instead of top to have a cleaner shape and line.  Hand tooled sandals were part of their original product lineup and looked like what every Oregon resident covets.  Smaller goods had a great hand-feel. 

This company combines family, fashion, a great coming-to-America story and a great product! Shop local!

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