By Liisa Andreassen
When the Hunker Bag Co. launched in April 2015, it was music to the ears of many. Denton Hunker, currently the company’s only employee, is not only a musician, but apparently a master of the sewing machine too. Business is quite simply humming along.
“I handle everything: from cutting out patterns and materials, to boxing and shipping out all orders from my studio located inside my East Nashville, TN home. And, I sew every bag,” Hunker, a drummer for Americana rock band, Green River Ordinance, says.
When Hunker was on the lookout for a durable, yet stylish, bag that would keep up with his touring lifestyle, he couldn’t find one – so he took matters into his hands. As it turns out, he’s also a rock star on the sewing machine.
“I believe that a good bag does two things,” Hunker said. “It holds and protects your personal possessions and takes you on an adventure every day.”
He says his bags are designed for the traveler and the adventure seeker.
“They’re outdoorsy with a touch of class,” he says.
It’s in the Details
Hunker learned his craftsmanship from his grandmother who taught him how to sew on a 1950’s sewing machine in Mesquite, Texas. Each bag is made to order using top-grain leather, all-brass hardware and is branded with the Hunker logo, still using the techniques he learned from his grandmother.
Today, he has three sewing machines. They are all industrial machines and his primary one is a Consew 226R-2. He also has a Consew 226, which he uses for binding on raw edges of the fabric and a Consew 227R with a cylinder arm, which is used for closing up the bags. And, he uses a Consew Skiver for skiving down the edges of leather.
“The skiver helps to make the leather thinner, because it can be bulky otherwise,” he says.
When an order comes in, he pulls the pattern off the wall, lays out the leather and canvas, puts it together and starts sewing. The finishing touch is the Hunker brand stamp and off it goes. He even handles the boxing and mailing himself. It takes anywhere from about two hours to make something like a wallet, to 10 hours for a backpack or duffel bag. This year alone he’s made about 100 products.
“And I try to keep the prices fair, so there’s something for everyone,” he says.
Prices range from about $50 to $500.
Hunker adds that his wife, Alicia, helped him to start the company. She’s a teacher by day, but can often be found cheering her husband on while he toils away at his sewing machine. They met in high school, in their hometown of Mesquite, and have been married for 11 years.
Hunker says he likes to work with family-owned businesses that are based in the U.S. He uses Latigo leather – cowhide leather that is combination tanned (chrome tanned and vegetable tanned) – from Horween Leather Company in Chicago. The combination tanning makes the leather soft, but durable, so it holds its shape. And, his TexWax canvas material comes from Carr Textiles in Missouri. TexWax is a cotton-based fabric that has a proprietary and unique formulation of waxes giving the fabric a lasting and lifelong resistance to inclement weather. These waxes impart a high-degree of water repellency, low-temperature flexibility, high-melt point and drape.
Additionally, all bag straps and strap holders are fashioned from bridle leather that’s sourced from a company in Hyannis, MA – Waterhouse Leather.
“We use bridle leather because it’s comfortable on the skin, but durable too,” Hunker says.
Hunker says that while his customer base is varied, the majority are women between the ages of 25 and 45. He’s also had some fans of the band, who simply think it’s pretty cool to have one of his custom bags.
He’s worked with Country Music Television (CMT), who reached out to him last year to see if he could make some bags for the winners of the CMT Artists of the Year Awards. He happily agreed. He’s made bags for the likes of Luke Brien, Alan Jackson, Blake Shelton and Chris Stapleton. Taylor Swift even bought a bag as a gift for someone.
Currently, a few of the top sellers are The Janet, a small cross body bag, and the Duffel No. 1. But there are many other styles too, including a three-day weekender, cocktail clutch, briefcase, wallet, utility bag, wristlet, backpack and more.
He says he’s looking for the future to bring slow, but steady growth. He hopes to have a storefront one day where he can showcase his products, as well as the process.
“I want people to experience how they’re made. To touch and feel them,” he says.
Take a behind-the-scenes peek at how these products are made here: https://vimeo.com/126409768 .
Bags are available online at: www.hunkerbagco.com, at a Nashville, TN store, White’s Mercantile, and wholesale is also available.