Billykirk was doing American made before it was a thing. They were doing it in Los Angeles, and then in New York, but brothers and co-founders Kirk and Chris Bray say they’d never have been inspired to make timeless, function-driven canvas and leather goods had they not grown up seeing their father tote similar products on annual north woods hunting trips and excursions to the Boundary Waters.
“We would not be doing what we do today if we weren’t from Minnesota,” says Kirk Bray.
The brothers, who grew up in Woodbury, are back in the North for a couple of days to show their collection at Debut, Mall of America’s new retail concept designed to feature a rotating assortment of cool brands. It’s full circle, to be sure: Chris recalls being at the mall the very first day it opened, nearly 25 years ago. "It wasn't that busy," he recalls. Kirk worked at the Gap at Mall of America in high school, before heading off to University of Wisconsin-Stout to study clothing design.
The Bray brothers moved to L.A. together, and knew they wanted to “build something,” but they didn’t know exactly what until Kirk happened upon a thick, 1970s leather watch band and was inspire to make more. The Billykirk collection ranges from waxed canvas and leather duffle bags, totes, and briefcases to wallets, belts, and leather valets.
“It never occurred to us not to make our products in America,” Chris says.
Meet the Brays at Debut at Mall of America on Thursday, 4 to 8 p.m. They’ll customize and monogram their Billykirk leather goods while you wait.