Emil Erwin is a leather and canvas carrygoods company in Nashville, Tennessee, owned and operated by Emil and Leslie Congdon. The business is named for its chief designer and craftsman and in honor of the small Appalachian town where he learned to love the art of his trade.
It was while growing up in Erwin, a mountain town in upper east Tennessee, that Emil Congdon developed his admiration for quality leatherwork during visits to Baker Shoe & Saddle Repair. Emil was intrigued by the skill that went into the handwork and inspired by the care that was necessary to tame the massive hides into usable products. When he was in college, he taught himself to sew, mending holes in his pants and eventually figuring out construction. Later, Emil honed his work during apprenticeships with high-end auto upholstery businesses and critical trial and error in his home studio in Nashville.
Making and selling leather bags at craft show was a hobby for Emil until 2009, when Leslie, a native of Nashville, convinced him that together they could make his pastime into a family business. Emil locked himself in the 267-square-foot detached garage in the couple’s backyard and got to work. His efforts quickly paid off. Later that year, Imogene + Willie caught wind of the talented young Southern leatherworker who was turning out exquisitely detailed, long-wearing bags. The two teams worked together on a collaboration for J.Crew that quickly sold out. In 2010, Garden & Gun magazine awarded Emil Erwin the top prize in the style division of its esteemed “Made in the South” awards. Other press came calling, and orders started flooding in.
In early 2012, Emil Erwin headquarters moved from the Congdon’s backyard to its current home, a 1,300-square-foot workshop in Marathon Village. There, Emil supervises the design studio, acting as chief designer and craftsman, while Leslie works on product development and provides design direction, in particular injecting a feminine point of view into the collection. The result is a balanced stable of elegant, expertly constructed bags, belts, wallets and other small accessories that have earned Emil Erwin a robust international fan club.
All Emil Erwin products are made from leather sourced at Chicago’s Horween Leather Company and waxed canvas from New Jersey’s Fairfield Textiles. The entire Emil Erwin collection is patterned, cut, sewn and assembled in the company's Nashville design studio, where a devotion to quality, function and impeccable attention to detail defines the company’s product.
As a company, Emil Erwin believes in quality without compromise, using the best materials, tools, and techniques to make a superior product. This devotion to craft results in a product rare in today’s market, one that is not only beautiful, but will also stand the test of time. As such, each Emil Erwin product is guaranteed for life.
Emil Erwin products are available on the company website and in the design studio in Nashville.