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Behind The Scenes

Nathan Gryszowka On How to Make Leather Look Appealingly Old

The biggest problem with a new wallet: that it looks—and feels—new. Nathan Gryszowka of Maxx & Unicorn tries to help the aging process along, giving his clean-lined, impossibly cool bi-folds a little roughing up before sending them off to their owners. His tricks can be used to spiff up leather goods that are past their prime, too. As he explains, “If you have a really good old pair of shoes that are busted up around the edges and you want to bring the color back, this process will revitalize them. If they’re the right skin type, all you have to do is give them a little rub.” 1) Start with vegetable-dyed leather.“They have natural oils in them, which is what makes things darken up naturally.” 2) Find an old cloth.“I got my rag nice and dirty for this.” 3) Invest is some good, classic wax dressing.“This is by British Millerain, which makes waxed cloth for companies like Filson and Ralph Lauren.” 4) Apply the wax to the rag and the rag to the leather—but keep things light.“You just give it a little rub—you’ll see how the edge starts to darken up. A really light burnishing kick-starts the process. 5) Focus on the edges.“Around the creases—that’s called pull-up, where the color pulls up. If you apply a little wax to where it’s folded, you get an aged feel.” Score the just-distressed-enough edition Nathan created for us tomorrow! For a reminder, get on our email list.
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The Three Antiques that Shaped Nathan’s Line

When you first encounter the minimalist bi-folds and card holders that Nathan Gryszowka makes under the name Maxx & Unicorn, you’re going to want to touch them—the rich leathers, punchy embossing, and clean shape are pretty persuasive. And while everything he makes feels strikingly fresh, the cornerstones of his design go back 70-odd years to these three vintage pieces. 1) The Original Folded Wallet “I bought it at a vintage shop on North 7th Street in Williamsburg that’s now closed. I was really amazed at the simplicity. This would have been made industrially—it  would have been die-cut, folded by a machine, and stamped by a machine, coming down a production line. There were documents from 1943 in this when I bought it, so I named my design—which I came up with during one night of cutting, folding, and gluing—the No.43 wallet.” 2) The Ideal Stamping Machine“This is from the forties also—the company that made it went out of business ages ago. I got it on eBay, and this is what I’ve used since day one. I hand-stamp every single item. I’ve bought a couple newer machines from the sixties and seventies, but none of them work like this old guy. Most of them have more controls for heat and pressure, and I like the hand motion this one requires and the irregularity it produces.” 3) The Awesome Crossed Guns Emblem“I do a lot of trips out to L.A., and when I’m there, I go to the outdoor flea market at the Rose Bowl. I bought a whole box of World War II-era military stamps, and I started playing with them back home. Actually, for the first season of Maxx & Unicorn, we used an old Merchant Marine anchor—but nobody ever saw those because we only made 30 pieces. By the second season, I found the dueling pistols—it’s a vintage military police insignia. I’ve had to recreate the die a few times in brass, redrawing the guns by hand, but the original is lead.” You’re not going to want to miss out on Nathan’s Wednesday release. Get on our email list for a reminder.
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How Nathan Gryszowka Makes a Wallet: A Visual Tutorial

A stack of unassembled card holders. Get this: The wallets that Nathan Gryszowka creates for his line Maxx & Unicorn are constructed from a single piece of leather. MINDS BLOWN. They are also all put together by hand, with lots of folding, a little adhesive, and the help of old-school tools like a bone scorer used for bookbinding. The only thing not done by Nathan or one of his cohorts: the cutting of the leather. “It requires a 17-ton hydraulic press,” the Brooklyn-based designer explains. Here, he walks us through the rest of the process. Click here to get one of the 40 gray-green bi-folds that Nathan made just for us.    
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