Libby Lane cuts and sews her streamlined leather bags in an old converted bunkhouse on the Panhandle ranch where she grew up, surrounded by cattle and wide-open space. Although she has lived and worked in the fashion and art business in New York and Chicago, and her bags are coveted internationally, the 27-year-old prefers to work close to the land from which both she and her craft hail.
Lane made her own chaps as a girl and has studied with local saddle makers to learn their techniques. She likes how the light and expansive views of the Panhandle Plains filter into her studio as she works. And she’s found Texas to be a friendly environment for launching her business, which is growing so quickly she will soon have to build more studio space. “I love working here. Not only is the history of craftsmanship and leather here so strong, but the community is really great. It’s been very supportive.”
When Lane was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she toured textile factories and became intrigued by the artistry of leather tanning. She bought samples from the best tanneries and stitched together ultra-durable, minimalist bags that she and her friends began toting around. In 2011, Vogue magazine profiled her work; demand hasn’t let up since.
Lane’s simple designs highlight the utilitarian beauty of the leather she uses—all of it domestic, much of it from Texas. “People who paint leather cover up its natural markings; each hide has something interesting, some sort of barbed wire mark or brand or bug bite.”
Lane even puts her bags under a running faucet to test their water-resistance. She’s making Texas totes to last a lifetime.