March 16, 2015
The small shop designs, cuts, sews and ships all of its products from the location, making each product one at a time by hand and earning its “Made in the USA” tag. While many hand-made bag brands popped up during the messenger bag explosion in the mid 2000s, North St. Bags started with its trademark convertible backpack pannier.
“We’re trying to source all of our materials from U.S. manufacturers,” Williams said. “We’re trying to keep the supply chain as simple and sustainable as possible.” For example, the early bags used vinyl liners to keep them waterproof, but the material is heavy and not environmentally friendly, so Williams found a material called X-pac that is a type of heavy, nylon sailcloth that they order specially from the manufacturer. Panels of the Cordura outers are measured and cut by hand, and the scraps are sent to an arts and crafts supply recycler.
There are eight sewing machines on the production line, and each is dedicated to a specific seam or step in assembly, so no time is wasted re-setting a machine for a different task. Some smaller items like straps are modular, so that the same piece can be used on more than one finished bag. This allows them to pre-assemble some of the pieces and minimize production time, but a bag can take still 90 minutes or more to make.