Handcrafted Adventure: E3 Supply Co
It all began when I needed a camera strap and I wasn't willing to wait for shipping from Japan. I scoured something domestic and ran into E3 Supply Co. Soon I turned to them for a band for my seldom used Apple Watch and it brought it back to life. The leather feels rich and honorable to its origin, thus giving the products the earmarks of strength, quality, and earnestness. The goods don't stop there. E3 is run by a couple David and Mai out of New York, and ventures into watch modding and customized motorcycles. The shop spirit is strong and they continue the tradition of crafts and handiwork.
by Eric Nakamura
Photos courtesy of E3 Supply Co.
GR: I'm curious to hear the reasons for the intersection of leather goods, watch and motorcycle customization.
E3: I was working as a photographer in NYC then transitioned into bike building full time back in 2009. I was doing all the fabrication and work in-house, then started making my own seats, components and grips out of leather. From there I slowly branched out into belts, camera straps, and watch straps - anything that I found useful myself. Once the kinks were worked out, I started offering them to customers. I find a great cohesiveness in what we offer, with the basis being standard and accessible Japanese engine design and mechanical watch components.
E3 has been sort of an experiment in progress and seems to evolve and grow over time, with the static theme being forward-propulsion equipment and purpose-built gear.
GR: It's easy to understand the quality of Horween leather. Can you expand more on why you chose Horween leather?
E3: Not all leather boasts the same features, and we pride ourselves on being able to find and acquire the finest-quality leather worldwide. And the truth is, after extensive traveling, research, and general inquiring, we found the best of the best right here in the USA. We source the bulk of our leather from The Horween Leather Company, a Chicago-based cornerstone that has offered unparalleled quality since 1905.
We talk often about our dedication to excellence and our journey and scouring the earth looking for great materials to work with. Horween Chromexcel leather is one of our base supplies and something we are proud to surround ourselves with. (Literally. We are surrounded by hundreds of pounds of this stuff at the shop.) Chromexcel is one of the grandfathers of leather options. It’s made using tried-and-true processes and formulas that were fine tuned over a century ago.
Chromexcel has a beautiful, rich, pull-up effect. Simply put, the oils and waxes tend to have a darkening effect on the overall hue of the leather, but when you bend it, the lighter colors make their appearance. It also takes on a nice characteristic as it ages.
About 80% of our products are Horween Chromexcel. We also offer a line of products made from Shell Cordovan, which we source from Clayton of Chesterfield and Horween.
GR: The camera strap is using super thick pieces of leather, yet it's still thin, with a great feel. What type of camera did you have in mind for these to match up with?
E3: I was a professional photographer for about a decade prior to starting E3, and I worked primarily with smaller rangefinder cameras such as the Leica M6. Most straps that I found on the market were big, beefy straps that were made for SLR cameras with big zoom lenses. Out of necessity, I set out to design a strap that would work well with the type of equipment that I was using — analog cameras, smaller point and shoots, and old rangefinders.
GR: Can you talk about the reason why you have that black wound string that connects the leather?
E3: With all of our designs, we look for the simplest, strongest, and most effective solutions. We also try to stay minimalist, with a couple of bold features. We find that our strap construction technique combined with the string wrap and protective bumpers create a well-rounded strap with no potential points of failure.
GR: I need to get back to the core of your brand. What's E3 mean?
E3: Well, simply put, I started all of my moto builds back in my apartment on East 3rd street in NYC in 2009. My neighbor Haroon, who is a super talented graphic artist, traded me some design work for moto work on his Yamaha, and that’s how the brand design began.
GR: The David and Mai dynamic. I'm assuming you're a couple. Where does the work intersect?
E3: E3 Supply Co. is a small, family-run shop - just me, my girlfriend, Mai, and my sister, Erin. What began as my obsession with building custom motorcycles has grown into a thriving leather goods business centered around the moto/travel/sustainable-living lifestyle. I take the lead on prototyping, testing, and general production. Mai – the other E3 owner and stitch guru – assists in turning our pieces into functional works of art that will last a lifetime. Erin – the first responder at the computer – handles customer service, wholesale accounts, and general day-to-day operations.
GR: You've hit the road in a camper and also work on the leather part. What made you want to do this?
E3: New York City is an incredible place to live and work but can also be a bit overwhelming at times. I started kicking around ideas for a city escape pod and mobile workshop. The plan was to spend a few months each year in NYC working on moto projects and the rest of the time on the road exploring and working remotely.
I spent the mid 90s touring around the US with my old band in a Ford Econoline and really dug that experience and mode of travel. I started looking around for a similar van I could outfit for my current needs and stumbled across a photo of the Chinook online. That started this sort of crazy obsession with late 70s / early 80s Fiberglass Shell campers. Our 77 chinook is currently outfitted as a fully self-contained mobile leather workshop.
GR: The watch modding scene is particular with styles and base watch models. Are the base models sort of like base models of bikes that people want customized?
E3: One of the things that attracted me to vintage Japanese motos is the relative affordability, reliability, and accessibility of the vehicles. As I started to learn more about watch modding, there were a lot of parallels and similarities between the Seikos that we use as the foundation of our watch builds and the Hondas that we use for our moto rebuilds. As a bonus, there was already a massive community of watch modders and enthusiasts and a handful of incredible parts suppliers like Dagaz and Yobokies that are great to work with.
For more about E3 Supply Company or to peruse their goods, please visit them here.