San Diego Local: Walter & George

Posted on May 12, 2016, 10:00 am
7 mins

Walter & George, run by founder and maker Melissa George, is a unique leather goods brand located in San Diego. George began with a deep appreciation for retail and providing customers with quality goods at an affordable price. Walter & George began with just one simple natural edge clutch, each hand-made and designed by Melissa George. Her online shop has since expanded to include a variety of styles: wallets, totes, sunglass cases, laptop cases and key fobs. Her site is also a forum for local makers and creatives, as it features artists like Rachel LaBarre and Chelsea Bradford of Chelspots. Creating this community-driven platform speaks to Melissa George’s desire to create a space for all, and not just for one.

Rachel LaBarre states, “Melissa is exceptional, not only because she creates really well crafted products—but because she is someone who strives to connect and collaborate with her creative community. She features locally crafted products within her website from other makers, and she helps host regular events that allow folks who typically work independently an opportunity to share ideas, laugh about the issues of being self-employed, and learn from each other. She is a treasure, and has a deep and confident voice, literally and aesthetically.”

Melissa George’s business philosophy is unique and inspiring, and the story behind Walter & George is entirely relatable. For many of us, we have come to a point where we have a passion, or many passions, and yet the struggle to move forward is very real.

Image courtesy of Walter & George.

Image courtesy of Walter & George.

“I’ve always wanted a retail store. That’s always been in the back of my mind. I’ve worked random retail jobs on and off, a variety of things. I love customer service, one on one customer service. The times that I’ve gotten to get to know customers, that’s what I enjoy….What has kept me from having a retail store is money. I don’t have 100 grand sitting around waiting to put into a company. So I thought, what if I make a product that will allow me to build capitol and equity to finally start the retail store I wanted. I just always kind of had that vision from the get go.” -Melissa George.

George started her company after creating a few clutches for friends as Christmas presents using Mexican blankets. These cost-efficient gifts inspired George to get a seller’s permit, and thus “Walter & George” was born. “In my mind I was going to make the Mexican blanket clutches, but I had been wanting a leather clutch. Everything I was finding, that I was interested in and liked, was in the $300-$400 range….and I could barely afford to make people Christmas presents. So I wasn’t about to throw down 350 bucks on a leather clutch just because someone had made it by hand. I get it, but that doesn’t translate to me. I don’t have a budget for that.”

The issue with the handmade movement is that many of the beautiful products are thus out of reach for the average consumer, but George wants to challenge that idea. Her pieces are hand-made (still all by her) and range from $5.00 to $238.00. The natural cow leather hides are perfectly imperfect—aging and softening with time. The color is beautiful and each piece is unique. One of my favorites is The Dovie Kate Clutch—which can be ordered in natural leather or speckled (à la Jackson Pollock). I love the asymmetrical line that cuts across the front of the bag, providing a sense of balance. Each of George’s bags is hand-cut and hand-sewn, and this piece especially draws attention to that process.

A popular question for George is where the inspiration for her company name came from. “I came up with a name that would hopefully be universal. I knew that I wanted to use my last name, George—in honor and ode to my dad…. Walter just kind of popped into my head one day… I desperately tried to find serious inspiration for it. Is there like a Walt Whitman poem that I can say I was inspired by? Nope.” Regardless of the origin, the name Walter & George seems to suit the line perfectly. Melissa George’s products is a dichotomy of masculinity and femininity. There is a softness and organicism to her work, as well as simultaneous structure. The pieces in the Walter & George collection mirror Melissa George herself, she is radiant and warm–the epitome of femininity, sharing the same strength and resilience as her work.

Goods from Walter & George can be found at various retailers around San Diego, such as James Coffee Company, Atacama Surf Shop and maven. If you’re looking for a unique and inspiring (and useful) piece to add to your collection, be sure to check out Walter & George.

For more information regarding Walter & George or to buy one of her pieces, visit her website.

Image courtesy of Walter & George.

Image courtesy of Walter & George.

Claire Reiner is a writer, artist and recent graduate from the University of Washington’s School of Art with a major in Art History. She is interested in recent art movements and subcultures (1950s, 60s, 70s) and how they have shaped present perceptions and practices of art. She grew up in Southern California and moved to Seattle in 2010. She is quite influenced by the unique geography of both places and enjoys hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest. Reiner covers visual art exhibits in Seattle and seeks to contribute to a profound and positive artistic community, as well as encourage people to come out and experience art moments for themselves. Reiner is also the Executive Assistant for VanguardSeattle and handles any press related needs.