Roberto Calasanz and Judy Kaye, bound by a love of leather

- - Instructor Spotlight

Often in fashion, we look for our tribe. We are drawn to those with a similar aesthetic, admire those with successful businesses and established clientele and seek out those who share the same philosophy on design and production.  This week, I get to tell a bit of a fashion fairy tale as I share the story of two talented artists and makers, Roberto Calasanz and Judy Kaye.

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Cuff by Roberto Calasanz
Photo: Loris Guzzetta

If you have taken the University of Fashion’s illustration courses, you already know Roberto Calasanz. But what you may not know is that he is not only a talented illustrator, but also a dedicated artisan with a history rich in travel and experiential training. Roberto has partnered with fair-trade organizations and began creative collaborations with artisans around the world producing shearling coats with Macedonian furriers and leather smiths, woolen carpets with Kyrgyz master felters, and horn and bone jewelry with Haitian artisans. He finds inspiration in the nature that surrounds his studio in the Catskill Mountains near Woodstock where he has set up his leather shop. Here, Roberto produces his line of leather bags, belts, cuffs and jewelry, characterized by their irregular botanical lines, organic shapes and textures. He sources only the finest vegetable-dyed leather and solid brass hardware, then cuts, stitches, etches, stamps, gilds, burnishes and distresses his pieces entirely by hand.

Unisex bracelets by Judy Kaye

Unisex bracelets by Judy Kaye
Photo: Zaza Weissgerber

Judy Kaye has the same appreciation and passion for hand made, personal pieces. With a background in fine art, silversmithing, leather craft and tapestry design, Judy launched her line of product in 2000 under the name JUDY KAYE • BOUNDED STYLE. Clean clear lines dominate the look of her jewelry and leather pieces, without defining the gender of the wearer. Something that truly sets Judy apart from other makers is her ability to connect with her clients. Creating individual pieces is a collaborative effort where Judy designs to create the perfect aesthetic and fit for her devoted fans.

Judy and Roberto at work at Leather Bound

Judy and Roberto at work at Leather Bound
Photo: Zaza Weissgerber

Roberto and Judy met in 2009 while selling at a Soho weekend designer’s market in NYC and instantly formed a mutual respect for each other’s work. Judy remembers being instantly drawn to Roberto’s positive aura and his distinctive style of dressing. Their instant connection led to a friendship and in March of 2015, the pair decided to make it official. They combined their complimentary styles into one destination store, salon and studio, Leather Bound, located in the trendy DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. Today, they sell their handmade, high quality goods to a shared clientele and continue to inspire each other. In New York? Be sure to visit these warm and wonderful artists and experience their craft first hand. Leather Bound is located at 65 Pearl Street in Brooklyn, NY.

100% of the goods at Leather Bound are hand made

100% of the goods at Leather Bound are hand made
Photo: Zaza Weissgerber

Finally, if you are interested in working with leather, the U of F has an entire series of videos to get you started. From sorting and cutting leather to advanced sewing techniques, you can learn how to source, cut and sew leather on your own. When you are ready to sell your wares, we will look forward to putting you in touch with Roberto and Judy – perhaps Leather Bound will be the perfect fit for your product.


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Kara Laricks is a regular contributor to the University of Fashion. She’s also a New York based women's wear and accessories designer. As the first winner of NBC's Fashion Star, Kara has designed collections for H&M, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue. Her masculine meets feminine line, Kara Laricks, debuted at New York Fashion Week in 2012 and her S/S 2013 collection sold exclusively at Saks Fifth Avenue. Kara's designs have been featured on the Today Show and HBO's True Blood as well as covered in Women's Wear Daily and on Style.com. Kara holds Master's degrees in both Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Kansas and in Fashion Design from the Academy of Art in San Francisco. An educator turned designer, Kara is dedicated to supporting emerging designers and inspiring others to follow where dreams lead.