Rachael Becker is surrounded by leather. Her business Heavy Leather specializes in stylish guitar and camera straps. I recently had a chance to sit down and chat with Rachael during her busy work day to talk leather, fashion and her love of Greenpoint.
Greenpointers: Tell me about “Heavy Leather.” What makes your guitar straps so special?
Rachael: Well, they’ve got a little bit of attitude. There are other guitar strap makers out there that feel cheesy or are going for that hairy ’80s metal thing. Mine has a good balance of style and attitude that isn’t cheesy or your typical western look. Plus it’s good quality and handmade.
Greenpointers: How did you get started doing leather and how long have you had your business for?
Rachael: I’ve had Heavy Leather for four years now. Originally, I went to school for fashion and I worked briefly in the fashion industry, but I was not into it. I really love men’s wear and working with leather, so after I was laid off from my old job, I found a posting on Craigslist for a leather smith’s assistant so I immediately contacted him and that got me on my way.
Greenpointers: How did you come to start building guitar straps? Walk me through the evolution…
Rachael: When I started out, I was doing custom work for leather accessories. At the time, I had a friend who asked me to make him a guitar strap so I ended up building a small custom collection of guitar straps, I posted them on eBay and they sold right away. After that, it was one-plus-one-equals-two. Another friend of mine, who was a photographer, he was requesting a camera strap so with the leftover leather from the guitar straps I started making camera straps. Now B&H and Adorama carries them. The only thing I don’t do is anything too sexy (laughs).
Greenpointers: What’s next for you? Any new projects on the horizon?
Rachael: Right now, I’m making bags, wallets and belts and even some motorcycle seats. I’ve started another brand of camera straps made specifically for Leica cameras and I’m also starting a new brand called “Handsome Bastards” which will be primarily men’s outerwear. It won’t just be leather, it’ll be canvas and wax and cotton – it will be more constructed outer material. Everything is going to be made-in-America and manufactured here in New York: simple and good quality.
Greenpointers: How would someone purchase one of your leather accessories?
Rachael: You can go to the website heavyleathernyc.com which also lists some of the retail stores that carry my products. I also take appointments to build custom straps. My favorite customers are recently divorced guys because they feel like they can finally spend some cash on their guitars!
Greenpointers: What is your clientele like? Any familiar musicians I might have heard of?
Rachael: Well, I love collaborating with artists. I’m actually working with Lisa Marie Presley and her group and I’m also collaborating with Black Sabbath. Lemmy from Motorhead was my first big client and he fully endorses the business. I’m really proud of that.
Greenpointers: Lastly, tell me what you like about living and working in Greenpoint?
Rachael: I like that I live in a space that’s big enough for my business and my home. It’s industrial on my block but then there’s a beautiful park two blocks away (editor’s note: McGolrick Park). Neighborhood and community is very important to me and I like that there’s lots of families that live here. Plus I love going to get a good cup of coffee around the corner from me at Cafe Royal. It’s like my other office – I hold meetings there all the time. Also, I get along really well with my landlord (he’s also my photographer) so I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.
To see Rachael’s custom guitar and camera traps as well as some of her more famous musician clients, go to heavyleathernyc.com.