We first came across Bearytail Leather Co. while searching for fancy collars to dress our little Mylo. We had our minds set on leather, and while we definitely Googled + visited our fair share of local pet shops in search of something we loved, most of the selections available to us weren't up to par with our aesthetic tastes.
"What about this one?"
"Nahhh. If we're going to spend money on something, it needs to be something we actually like. We can't just buy it just because it's leather. It has to be the right kind of leather."
We consider ourselves minimalists who purchase quality before quantity. Our closets and wardrobes are small because they're only filled with pieces we love, and we wanted (and still do want) the same for Mylo.
Imagine our joy when we finally discovered Bearytail Leather Co.'s custom pieces!
Bearytail Leather Co. was founded in 2015 by Amanda Mei, a 33 year old Creative Director in Southern California with a passion for leather craftsmanship. Mei started her company after searching, like us, for a durable and aesthetically pleasing piece of neckwear for her rescue dog, Toto. What she found was machine-stitched leather goods slapped together by careless hands and marked up despite the lack of perfection and detail. So, rather than buying, she began to make.
"I love working with my hands, and I immediately fell in love with handling leather. When I first started learning how to play with it, I appreciated more and more the art behind leather working and tooling. And I love the smell of it. Who doesn't? It's something I'm passionate about because it's fun for me," Mei says.
Like many of the small shops we feature on the Oh Tiny Heart blog, Mei is not a full-time small business owner (although she'd like to be). By day, she conducts the creative flow of a digital marketing agency. By night, she spends hours working leather, furthering her education, and perfecting her craft.
"Leather-working is a dying art. Nowadays, people just ship their materials overseas or buy from manufacturers that are cheap, but don't focus on the fine details. It's sad. I'm still learning new things every day, and I don't intend to stop."
Mei took care to point out the fine creasing along the edges of her leather leashes, explaining that although this is a beautiful handmade touch that takes time and effort to create, it's there for functional reasons as well. Stressed leather that is bent and twisted during use will crack over time. The hand-tooled and creased edge in her leather canine pieces stop these cracks from traveling across the material and reinforce the lifespan of her creations.
"I believe in function over form. Just because something looks pretty doesn't mean that it will last forever. Most of the companies I've seen just slap leather into a sewing machine, stick a fancy logo on it, and call it a day. It hurts me as a leather-worker because I pour so much thought into every millimeter of my products."
The points of Mei's leashes and collars, for example, are each thinned by hand to make tucking your dog's collar into place a frictionless experience. On this point, Mei elaborates on her pet peeve for long, loose straps.
"I hate them! It shows that your dog isn't wearing the size that's correct for him. I want everything to fit perfectly. I love timeless designs. Like Louis Vuitton -- they're so stubborn with their quality, and I'm so inspired by their technique. And Hermés -- it takes them 2 to 4 hours just to hand create a leather strap for one watch. I'm inspired by luxury brands and apply these same techniques to my own leather."
Bearytail Leather Co.'s pieces are tested for durability on Mei's two dogs, Toki and Toto. After several broken leashes and harnesses, Mei believes she has perfected the materials and style that sets her company apart from competitors. She refuses to cut corners when it comes to her products, and like the luxury brands she takes after, every inch of her leather goods are constantly being improved.
"Our customers say they really love the fact that our products are so unique and custom to them. It may not be the smartest business choice to create custom pieces with such regularity, but it's like a tailored suit: when it's the perfect fit, there's no comparison. I'm in love with the idea of giving someone that experience."
Bearytail Leather Co. is a company that we have tremendous respect for. When growing our own brand and prototyping our initial designs, we, too, found inspiration in luxury companies with a heritage of perfection. Mei's constant pursuit of flawless quality in her craft mirrors our own, and it is because of this unwavering dedication to refinement that we found her to be the perfect partner for our curated online marketplace of the best small and handcrafted dog brands in the business.
You can find Bearytail Leather Co.'s first set of Oh Tiny Heart exclusive offerings, the PINK and BLUE all leather bow ties, now in the Tiny Heart Boutique. Treat yourself and your pup to real leather craftsmanship and fall in love. You'll be glad you did.
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Bearytail Leather Co. is the fourth company officially featured in our #TinyHeartBiz series, an Oh Tiny Heart initiative to draw much-deserved attention to our favorite small businesses run by little families like ours. If you run a small business and would like your services or products featured in our blog or sold in our highly exclusive and curated marketplace, email us at hello [at] ohtinyheart.com. While you wait for our response, tag your photos online with @ohtinyheart + #tinyheartbiz! We check these tags regularly for companies to feature, and it helps our customers discover other small businesses to try. We look forward to meeting you! Read more about #TinyHeartBiz features and partners in our FAQ.