Phillip Wachter drove seven hours on a motorcycle from Virginia to Ohio just to take his future wife, Jackie, on their first date. "I was sold," she laughs. The couple connected creatively from the start, making presents for one another and collaborating on everything from an online vintage clothing business to handmade leather wallets. When a friend asked them to make her a bag, the pair realized there might just be a market for American-made leather goods. With a single sewing machine and a spare room, the Cleveland Heights duo launched Fount in 2014, turning out Italian leather bags and purses. Today, with 10 employees, the business operates full time out of the ArtCraft Building. CHOICE CUTS: The Wachters were shocked when the first shipment of leather hides, which can run up to 70 square feet, arrived. "A semi-truck pulled up and used a forklift," Phillip says. "We were blown away." DYED AND TRUE: Fount uses only aniline leather, which is treated with a transparent dye rather than a painted topcoat that can chip off over time. Thus, finding quality material is their biggest challenge. "It might be too thick, too stretchy or the finish is not what we're looking for," Jackie explains. SHUTTER BUGS: Phillip previously worked in video production and now manages the product photography shoots for the bags, while Jackie studied fashion design and now does the styling for the sessions. #CLELOVE: Their bags all have Cleveland-centric names, including the Bellfield, which gets its moniker from the street where they lived after getting married. MARKET RESEARCH: During the design process — which can include up to 15 prototypes constructed of paper, then felt, then canvas — they loaded the Bellfield with bricks and shook it. The test revealed stress on the straps. So they designed stronger, hand-sewn straps with a weight-bearing piece hidden inside the bag. "The fabric doesn't really forgive you," says Jackie.
find it: Buy Fount bags at the monthly Cleveland Flea and Hudson's Art on the Green show Aug.29 and 30.
more info: fountleather.com