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Visiting the shop floor of Belt maker Fullum and Holt

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I have not had much time to post or read over the last few months, popping in once or twice a week at best. Between work, family and building an extension for my daughter, my hands are full. But I did manage to spend a morning last week visiting the leather belt maker Fullum and Holt. F+H make belts for the likes of Allen Edmonds, Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers and many others. They claim to be the oldest belt maker and one of, if not the, largest in North America (a company in Texas is close and it is not certain but believed to be that F+H is larger). The company at a touch over 100 years old, is run by the third generation family member, Morgan Lackman. During the time of my visit, they were working on a large order of women’s belts, which was a disappointment, as I wanted to watch a Shell Cordovan belt being made, no such luck. They do not make the leather belts for AE, only the Cordovan. Shell account for abut 5 percent of the men’s belt run. Each Shell belt is cut from three strips of the same section of hide. Seams can be done close to seamless or as overlap as seen in the picture below. Everything is made by hand using machines that date from the 30s through to today. A few Pfaff sewing machines are about as modern as it gets for the first tier belts. They do have an automated four step machine for belts that are destine to hit the Moores type retailers. They work in leather, cordovan, croc, snake, and have even been asked to try turkey!! The leather looks nice but the turkey project never took off. Kiton was my first factory visit, I wish it had not been, understanding a little more now, and at the risk of another flame war over “hand work”, the average amount of man hours that go into a typical leather men’s belt of the AE level is an astonishing…..a whopping 10 minutes per belt. Shell takes “much more” time and only a few of senior staff do shell. The average seniority of workers in the shop is close to 20 years with the most junior leather worker being at 10 years. The finished Shell belt I saw made for Brooks was very nice. Tools in the sample room: Preparing to cut leather: Staining the sides of the leather: Sea sponge is used to avoid running and staining the front or rear of the belt. <img src="http://img408.imageshack.us/img408/7028/5893.jpg" alt="Image Hosted by ImageShack.us"/> Large batch runs allow low man hour per belt ratio. Shaping the corners near the buckle: Sewing belt loops etc: The belt loops are made in a mini belt shop that uses the same machines as a full size but scaled down and group in one section of the plant. The finished leather belt: Hand stamping details inside the belt. Hand cutting or pressing on machines dating from the 40s and 50s. Shell Cordovan belts for Brooks Brothers, Allen Edmonds etc. One belt per hide, different seams: The Finished Shell Cordovan belt. Various leather types……they even had turkey! Suspenders and men’s garters are made for a handful of clients: Hand cutting for a run of women’s belts.
post #2 of 12
Thanks for this post. Its a pleasure to see and read about this maker.

Regards.
post #3 of 12
Zegnamtl, another phenomenal photo essay! Many thanks. One question and one observation. Where is the factory located?...and...I found it interesting to see the way that they seem to have joined the pieces of the shell cordovan belt--with the little piece of trim. It's nigh on impossible to make a belt of regular length from a single piece of shell cordovan, and two pieces (usually; but it could be more) have to be joined. On my Brooks Bros. shell cordovan belt, the joint is just a simple single vertical (as the belt is worn) seam. On the one in your picture, they seem to have dressed up the joint a little. (I will say that the joint is very close to the buckle end; on mine it's right in the middle. This may signify that more than two pieces of shell cordovan were used in the belt in the picture.)
post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thank you gentlemen, Hi Roger, It was interesting to see the shop. The factory is located along an old rail line that split the city in Montreal's former industrial sector along Papineau. It is at the corner of Fullum and Holt streets it a building that was first made for a chocolate factory. The picture deceives a little in the sense it only shows a little less than half the belt. I have edited the post to reflect your question, thank you. Each belt is made from one section of hide. Most belts are made from three strips cut from the same hide. There were belts from AE and Cole Hann in Shell that almost do not show the seam, I choose this one for the picture because of the overall finish and color of the shell being the nicest of the three.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger View Post
Zegnamtl, another phenomenal photo essay! Many thanks. One question and one observation. Where is the factory located?...and...I found it interesting to see the way that they seem to have joined the pieces of the shell cordovan belt--with the little piece of trim. It's nigh on impossible to make a belt of regular length from a single piece of shell cordovan, and two pieces (usually; but it could be more) have to be joined. On my Brooks Bros. shell cordovan belt, the joint is just a simple single vertical (as the belt is worn) seam. On the one in your picture, they seem to have dressed up the joint a little. (I will say that the joint is very close to the buckle end; on mine it's right in the middle. This may signify that more than two pieces of shell cordovan were used in the belt in the picture.)
post #5 of 12
Just great stuff, Allen--the kind of thread that adds something of true substance to this forum. It's really interesting to hear that a Canadian company is producing for Allen-Edmonds. For years it was Crookhorn, and then another US company.

Your Street Views feature in the Montreal Gazette is a delightful read. I've always thought that Montrealers--particularly the women--dress so very well, and so much better than Vancouverites. Your feature confirms this. Is the Gazette in any danger of going where many newspapers are going these days--into the crapper in favor of TV journalism?
post #6 of 12
Thanks for the interesting post. I remember seeing fullum and holt belts on sale at Holt Renfrew before, but never knew anything about them or where they came from. Very informative.
post #7 of 12
thank you for your photo essay. i love to read about these old factories. how are they competing with China?
post #8 of 12
This was great. Thanks for posting.
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Lackman has the same approach as Jack Victor and Samuelsohn when in comes to competing with China.
Be close to your customer, turn good work around quickly, and the order in their hands before china can even think of getting it off the floor let alone in the store. they stock enough leather types that, while inventory is high, turn around time is very quick.

Adding to that is that labor only accounts for 10 percent of the cost, material is close to 80 percent.



Quote:
Originally Posted by justsayno View Post
thank you for your photo essay. i love to read about these old factories. how are they competing with China?
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
Readership is up at our paper, and up twice as much on the web. It is up at Lapresse also and Cyberpresse is doing well. Most of the other holdings by big media owners are tanking and we pay the price in needing to make up the difference.
What we are seeing in the US is also culling of "oversupply" in certain markets.
We went through it in the 70s and the Kent Commission did SFA in the end, but I think we are living a little of that again today.


The blog is driving me nuts, I would say that 90 percent of the really really well dressed men say NO!
And being in Quebec, I must have their permission as there is no news value to these images. But I have come to realize, that Montreal has in fact lost some its unique flare. St. Denis street on a weekend is full of suburbanites who come in for a few hours in jeans and running shoes. When I was young, St. Denis was THE place to see great stylish and unique French Canadian women in all their glory. I get no time to shoot for the blog and shoot on the fly but it is popular according to hit counts. I just can't wait for some warmer weather, these last few weeks are killing me! :--) Mind you, Evylene was fun to shoot, and she did not know I was shooting her until I went over to her table, it was fun to watch.

I have to run, I hope the weather on the coast is treating you well!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger View Post
Just great stuff, Allen--the kind of thread that adds something of true substance to this forum. It's really interesting to hear that a Canadian company is producing for Allen-Edmonds. For years it was Crookhorn, and then another US company.

Your Street Views feature in the Montreal Gazette is a delightful read. I've always thought that Montrealers--particularly the women--dress so very well, and so much better than Vancouverites. Your feature confirms this. Is the Gazette in any danger of going where many newspapers are going these days--into the crapper in favor of TV journalism?
post #11 of 12
A lot of these belts were for sale at saks off 5th today... If anyone is interested, at woodbury.
post #12 of 12
This company makes tubo belts as well.

They have some on their website and at Barney's outlets for less than $50.
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