Handmade Alligator Leather Belt by Graae Copenhagen
Accessories are to fashion what punctuation is to literature: A luxurious, seven-fold, self-tip silk tie by Stefano Ricci is an exclamation point; an exquisite set of sterling silver Georg Jensen cufflinks is quotation marks; a pair of handmade Alfred Sargent shoes is the period at the end of a fashion statement; and nothing underscores a shirt of crisp Irish linen like a hand-crafted belt of alligator leather by Graae Copenhagen.
If there is a sartorial barometer of a well-dressed man, it is the quality of his belt and shoes. A 21st -century man in battered jeans and a simple, clean, white Fruit of the Loom T-shirt would be undeniably well-dressed in most venues if his shoes and belt are of exquisite quality. And while Graae Copenhagen (www.graaecopenhagen.com) has not yet ventured into shoe-making, when it comes to luxurious belts, this Danish company reigns supreme.
Graae Copenhagen hand-selects each skin from the world’s best tanneries, including Italy’s Tempesti, supplier of the vegetable-tanned and aniline-dyed alligator skins used to produce the belts. Tanned from natural plant extracts such as oak bark, rhubarb, eucalyptus, and acacia bark, the skins attain rich hues that age and patinate beautifully. The handmade collection is made-to-measure, one customer at a time; and each element of the construction of each belt—the design, the pattern-making, the cutting, and the sewing—begins and ends at the Copenhagen workshop. The same craftsman who starts the belt, finishes the belt, and personally executes each step in between. Each belt is interlined to create contour and lined with latigo leather for durability. Serafina silk thread is used to finely stitch the perimeter of the skin, and the belt’s beveled edge is hand-rubbed. Dyed, elliptically shaped buckle holes called “double holes”—a company “trademark”—allow for a more forgiving fit, and the company-designed buckles are made of hand-polished sterling silver. A Graae Copenhagen handmade alligator leather belt is crafted to last a lifetime, improving with age. Each belt is sold in a wooden box with a certificate verifying the authenticity and origin of the skin from which it is made.
The company’s attention to detail is the result of decades of experience in the leather trade. In 1967, company founder Klavs Graae began working with leather in a workshop in central Copenhagen, some of his earliest clients being members of Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. The company survived the 1960s by catering to many of the draft-dodgers of the Vietnam War while Graae was living and working on the Balearic island of Ibiza. Thereafter, for 14 years, Graae lived in the forests of Sweden, honing his skills and expanding his knowledge of feral hides, forestry, and the natural world. Then in 1984, he returned to Copenhagen and founded the company that would eventually become Graae Copenhagen. Today, the company, headed by Jeppe Dencker, manufacturers a prêt-à-porter collection featuring a wide range of leather goods, from brief cases and handbags to luggage and cardholders to iPad sleeves and iPhone covers. After being designed and tested in Copenhagen, production of that more modestly priced collection occurs in Italy, Spain, and France by artisans, most of whom descend from leather-craft families. But the company’s marquee product has been, and remains, its handmade belts of alligator leather: They are the world’s best belts—period.