Most people don’t know anything about zippers. The only time they notice them is when they fail to close, then it is likely accompanied by a word I probably shouldn’t write here.
And to be fair, I didn’t know much about zippers when I got into the leather goods industry as well. Zippers seemed to be all the same; I barely registered that some were made out of another material besides leather.
But zippers are essential to good design, and we learned that very poignantly when we designed the Wanderer fold flat dopp kit. In fact, one could argue that the entire product was innovated on zipper placement alone. Without very specific lines, the Wanderer couldn’t fold completely flat or hold it’s stunning rectangular shape. This is thanks to the incredibly high end and gorgeous G2 luxury zippers we use, made in Los Angeles by UCAN Zippers.
But we didn’t start there.
Our first zippers came from the Fashion District in Los Angeles, small shops that sold the zippers at not-quite-wholesale-but-almost prices. And these zippers mostly turned out to be cheap and made overseas. In addition, when we did find a zipper we liked, we found issues with stores stocking the exact same ones. We are a stickler for quality and consistency and this just wasn’t working for us.
It was time to foray into the world of “high end zippers”. The first step was even finding out that this existed, since most people think, “A zipper is a zipper, right?” Wrong. Very wrong indeed.
At first we looked at Riri Zippers, Swiss made zippers that cost up to eight times the price we were currently buying zippers for. We met with them and found out that their zippers were indeed stunning, and they moved and glided unlike anything we’d felt before. It was like a whole new world we didn’t know existed. But the high cost and dealing with the unpredictability of customs from an overseas product led us to seek out other options to compare.
YKK makes a comparable high end zipper called the Excella, and we looked into this as well. However, we ran up against the same issues with customs, long ship times, and designs that didn’t fit our particular aesthetic.
Lampo zippers were incredible zippers, but sadly, the most expensive of the bunch, made in Italy, so international shipping and customs were on the ballot.
Were there zippers being made in Los Angeles that compared? There had to be, right?
Indeed, we were extremely fortunate to find UCAN Zippers, based just southeast of Downtown Los Angeles. They’ve been doing zippers in L.A. for over 25 years, but it was only once we saw their factory space and got a tour from Ross, The Tall Guy, that we realized why zippers were so important to quality leather goods and solid design.
Their warehouse space worked with custom dying of zipper tags, multiple different types and colors of metal on the teeth and pulls, and a massive warehouse with machines that put together the teeth, the pulls, and both ends. Their standard line of zippers was extensive, but the G2 was where we fell in love.
It pulls like butter. The teeth are pointed at the end instead of flat to make sure the fit when moving the pull is precise. They are just slightly coated so they move effortlessly. We knew that for a product whose zipper was a shining point, they needed to be G2 zippers.
And they are made in Los Angeles, meaning I can drive and pick them up, and proudly say I toured the factory that makes them, and shake hands with the team that backs them up.
I’m not the only one enamored with these G2 Zippers. Theresa Lee uses them in her designs for Future Glory based in San Francisco. She knows that zippers can “overall quality and functional experience of the bag”. They use G2 Zippers because they have an “incredibly smooth slide, and are made in America.”
Her take? “If the customer doesn't have to think about the zipper at all, the zipper is actually doing it's best job.”
Mary Brewster from American Flora agrees. To her, zippers are, “not only a focal point of the product, but they need to perform well for the life of the bag.” The Rose Gold G2 that she uses is about the “quality and the gorgeous look” and “one of the focal points of my bag”.
She’s in the process of making five new bags featuring the G2 zipper: “Most designers who pay attention to detail would want great quality hardware for a bag or a beautiful accent
on a garment. It’s not worth cutting corners for something that could enhance the look and the function greatly.”
The Clutch from American Flora features the Rose Gold G2:
Jamie Lewis from JLew (she’s the owner and head designer...can’t you tell?) sums things up with pizzaz:
“It's the zipper Floyd Mayweather had on the vest he wore walking into the ring with Manny Pacquiao. Our bags were inspired by boxing. They're big and bold, just like this zipper.”
“We took great care in sourcing each component of our bag, including UCAN zippers. We love how they glide seamlessly and don't catch.”
Zippers make or break a bag. So the next time you pick up a leather good or accessory to add to your collection, take a moment and zip that zipper a few times. There are zippers that work and zippers that work well and just make you go, “Aaah, that’s the feeling.”
And why would we at Calila pass that up?
The Wanderer features the Nickel G2: