Plaidy: Alya Kazakevich

On Valentine’s Day, The New York Times featured a 28-year-old leather craftswoman named Alya Kazakevich whose Chinatown shop, a.b.k Custom Leather Craft, with its “…potted plants, old sewing machines, vitrines of vintage belt buckles, and cool Russian military coats, sailor shirts and blankets sent to her by her parents in Belarus” sounds like my own version of heaven.

To pay the bills, she works as a server at Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn where she also made the wine-list covers.

After apprenticing with leather maven Barbara Shaum and the custom bootery — and my Mecca — E. Vogel, she cut her teeth making bags for Melissa Howard’s wonderful East Village shop Stock Vintage and booties for women’s store Lyell.

What I like most about her unadorned handiwork is, as Emil Corsillo of The Hill-Side put it once, “It’s an analog fix to a digital problem.” Sometimes, taking a step back is the best way to charge ahead.

“Prices range from $95 to $125 for belts; $275 and up for bags; and $375 to $425 for sandals and shoes. Seeing how things are made — stitch by stitch by two hands — it seems worth the wait.” After speaking with Doug Herge at Russell Moccasin yesterday, who is quoting a 16 week turnaround for his boots right now, two weeks sounds like a breeze.

If you have the means, support this local artisan. Her craft is truly inspiring. It’s honest, clean work, and she’s earned every dollar.

All photos c/o Alya Kazakevich and John von Pamer