More than a decade ago, brothers Damon and Nick Vracin were traveling down parallel paths in separate cities—Damon in San Diego, and Nick in Portland—gaining a foothold in their respective markets for their handcrafted leather accessories. But it wasn't until the brothers moved to Central Oregon that Nomad Leather really started to take off.
"We both dug leather and shared ideas over the phone and samples of our respective projects when we had family get-togethers," Damon recalls. "We both moved to Bend seven years ago and finally got to join forces, combining our workshops and selling together at the local markets and festivals."
And it's not just the craftsmanship that's local. All Nomad's leather is vintage, repurposed or sourced from a family-owned business in Portland.
"Our customers—usually the coolest people on earth—are generally looking for something unique that is spawned by creativity and made the old-fashioned way," Damon explains.
What started with cuffs and bracelets quickly expanded into a wide range of leather goods including belts, clutches, small bags, utility pouches, growler carriers, wine carriers, beer holsters, pint sleeves, guitar straps and knickknacks like the "Pick Pocket," a guitar pick holder on a key chain.
Though crafting leather accessories is his job, Damon describes a creative process that sounds more like laidback brotherly bonding.
"Nick and I crank the music, crack a beer and just start making our goods, sometimes tag-teaming bigger projects like growler carriers and often just getting in our own worlds and bouncing ideas off one another when a creative block sets in," Damon explains.
While wrist wear remains the bread and butter of the business, the brothers also do complex custom work, such as intricate iPad cases and eclectic festival/utility belts. And Damon says motorcycle bags may be on the horizon.
"Every year we do more festivals and develop a few new products and ideas," Damon says. "Our growler carrier design we came up with a year and a half ago has brought us into the beer culture market, which has been awesome."
The company has also seen growth in retail markets, distributing its products in shops all across Bend, including Desperado, The Silver Otter, Sweet Tease Salon, Lulus boutique, Element 909, Cowgirl Cash, and The Cosmic Depot. Damon is quick to point out that each shop carries a customized line of Nomad Leather goods, curated based on that store's individual style.
Nomad Leather also sells its wares from its midtown workshop by appointment and online at etsy.com/shop/nomadleathernw.