Babson Magazine

Fall 2013

On the Cutting Edge

Photo: Michael Piazza
Photo: Michael Piazza

A self-taught artisan, Frank Clegg, MBA’74, has been making leather goods since the early ’70s. Working with his hands comes naturally, he says. Clegg creates all the designs for his eponymous company, Frank Clegg Leatherworks, located in an old textile mill in Fall River, Mass.

Ask Clegg if he has a favorite product or color, and he’ll reply no—though he likes color and admits his iPhone case is red. “I like everything I do, or I wouldn’t do it. They’re all my babies,” he says. “I design things that look good and function well. There’s an English briefcase with two straps that I’ve made for going on 37 years now, and it’s become a signature piece for us. It’s sort of like what you see in the movies, what a spy might have.”

Recently, Clegg created a large overnight bag. “We call it The Beast. It’s an old-fashioned piece of luggage, an attention-getter for a celebrity,” he says. “The rustic wild alligator hides were all hand-stained in house.”

At one time, the company strived to use only American materials. In the mid-’80s, however, hardware companies and tanneries began moving overseas. But Clegg maintains a strong commitment to the environment and uses veg-tan (vegetable tanned) leather, the dyes for which are derived from ground-up tree bark and plant materials. He adds, “I like the way the colors age.”

Along with using leather, ostrich, or alligator hides—and the occasional skin of a ray—Clegg and his team create pieces in snake, his favorite of which is anaconda. “Anaconda has a rubbery feel,” he says, “and the scales are durable. Python is interesting and attractive, too. I tend not to do what everyone is doing. I want to stand out from the crowd.”

Clegg says the most powerful advice he ever received came from his dad, who told him, “If you want to be the best, you gotta be different.”