Revival of an Era
By Liisa Andreassen
Planned obsolescence. That’s something that Sebastian Sandersius, founder of Ezra Arthur, a brand and manufacturer of high fashion casual lifestyle accessories for men, has trouble with and so he decided to do something about it.
The idea for Ezra Arthur was first conceived while sitting in a jazz bar in Brussels. It was 2010 and Sebastian found himself inspired by the city’s fashion and culture. So, while soaking up the ambiance, he penciled out many of the ideas for the company while drinking beer out of what most people would consider a wine glass.
“I was greatly inspired by the raw, genuine and high-quality
fashion-retail scene; I found the shops were curated with a great balance of
sophisticated French style and German precision,” he says.
At the time, Sebastian was having some success with an online retail company he and a college friend founded called “Razor Emporium” that specialized in classic shaving hardware. Most of the goods came from antique markets and one of the things learned from this experience was that, at one point in time, Americans appreciated well designed and well-made products.
“A common cliché comes to mind – ‘they don’t make ‘em like they used to,’” he says. “By all accounts I realized that at some point during the late 20th century, the American consumer market was conditioned to accept products that were designed to be used, destroyed and purchased again, and again and again.”
It was this revelation that motivated the launch of Ezra Arthur in 2012, along with its unique selling proposition – “Designed for Life” – meaning designed to last a lifetime and designed for everyday life.
Having obtained a Ph.D. in Physics, Sebastian is adept at quantitative analysis, computer programming, graphical modeling, design and problem solving. He has professional experience in research and development, interdisciplinary science, industrial design and business development.
“My greatest assets are my creativity and ingenuity,” he says.
So, at the height of the economic downturn when small factories were closing at an alarming rate and skilled trades and first-rate manufacturing methods were abandoned, Sebastian’s assets kicked in. Ezra Arthur sought to save this crucial component of American manufacturing, buying up century-old equipment and building its own facility in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona’s waning warehouse district.
The business is named after Sebastian’s grandfather, Ezra Arthur Sanders, who Sebastian says “was a great influence when we were growing up.” The company now crafts lifestyle accessories worthy of his name.
Who’s “we” you wonder? Sebastian has three brothers – Julian, Adrian and Gabrial – and all are involved in the business today.
Ezra, or as he preferred to be called “EA” was a WWII veteran who worked most of his life as a land surveyor throughout the frontier plains of the south and northwest.
“He kind of had the reputation of being a high plains drifter” Sebastian says. “That’s why we have a bison logo as the symbol for our brand – to embody that spirit of who my grandfather was.”
Sebastian’s first employee was his youngest brother, Julian, who was fresh out of high school and needed work to keep him busy while he wasn’t in school. To date, Julian has been involved with many of the manufacturing aspects of the business and most recently has become involved with product design and website development. The two middle brothers, Adrian and Gabrial, became involved with the company a few years later and they are mostly involved in sales and facilities management.
As founding owner, Sebastian has been instrumental in business and brand development, product development, engineering and industrial design, manufacturing and prototyping on high tech tools such as laser cutter, water jet, 3D printer, CNCmachinery and also handles domestic and international sourcing and supply chain management.
At most times, the business has a crew of five and Sebastian describes the company culture as “fairly laid back.”
“Most of our craftsman are paid per piece, so they are free to work when they choose,” he says.
All of the company’s goods are made in house at Ezra Arthur’s 7,000 square-foot factory. The products within the Ezra Arthur line are made exclusively with Horween and Hermann Oak leather, but the factory also does a lot of private label manufacturing sourcing leathers from all U.S.-based tanneries.
“We work primarily with Horween, Hermann Oak, Wicket & Craig and SB Foot, but more recently we’ve begun sourcing leather from other tanneries like Seidel, Law, Thiele and Auburn,” Sebastian says.
Some of the company’s top-selling products are its wallets and belts and its products can be found stocked in several small stores throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia and Asia as well in larger retailers like Nordstrom.
Customers use adjectives such as “classic” “understated” “outstanding” and “iconic” to describe product design and quality. And, all of the small leather goods are hand stitched. Instead of using sewing machines to assemble goods, staff meticulously and precisely stitch them together.
“The hand-stitching process is labor intensive, but the end product is much nicer and higher quality because of it,” Sebastian reports.
Most recently, Ezra Arthur launched its first bag.
“It took us a long time to develop the bag because we’re very particular with our hardware and we ended up making all the hardware custom. As we continue to develop our custom hardware, more bags will be coming to market,” Sebastian says.
Ezra Arthur creates artifacts worthy of discovery – from father to son, passed down from one generation to the next.
“We’re really trying to make manufacturing cool again,” he says.
Address: 15 East Jackson, Phoenix, AZ 85004