Hidden in the heart of Chinatown is a.b.k.'s industrious workshop equipped with everything needed to craft fine leather goods. The space doubles as a storefront boutique showcasing beautiful one-of-a-kind leather items, each hand-crafted from beginning to end. a.b.k. delivers exquisite leather designs that are stylish, durable and functional. Everything is designed by Alya and Katya Kazakevich, two sisters from Belarus, both self-taught in fashion design. Drawing inspiration from the countryside and urban life, the boutique embraces a rugged vintage charm selling delectable custom-made bags, shoes, jewelry, wallets and even custom leather touches for interiors.
Based in Chinatown since 2009, Alya began a.b.k. after a two-year mentor-ship under NYC craftswoman Barbara Shaum. By chance, while walking through the East Village, Alya discovered the custom workshop of Barbara Shaum and instantly became fascinated with leather craft. Employed by Shaum over the next two years she learned leather working basics, creating belts and sandals for Shaum. Gaining a new skill and creative passion she opened her very own store--sister Katya joined her on the entrepreneurial adventure, and together they established a.b.k. creating their own beautiful designs and discovering unique leather working techniques.
Leathers are USA sourced and interestingly made from thick cow hides, seen hanging from the workshop's ceiling, that are essential bi-products of meat, an uncommon source in the fashion industry due to the tough leather that is too heavy for machine use. With the exception of fabrics and canvas, everything is dyed by hand and hand stitched with waxed cotton thread, finished with sturdy hardware sourced from discontinued production stock or small U.S. leather suppliers. As opposed to using chemically treated skins, a. b. k. uses vegetable extractors for tanning its leather--a process that changes animal skin into leather. And to top off, the shop's warm vintage ambiance is equipped with a Landis industrial shoe machinery straight from the 1930s, an essential trade tool used for smoothing and refining leather edges.
Employing the imagination of Alya and Katya the shop's custom-leather design potential is unlimited: chair seats, woven key chains, paper weights, travel items, custom camera cases and belts with vintage buckles. Alya and Katya produce a variety of footwear styles for women and men, including open-toe shoes, strappy sandals, and boots. Available in different sizes are backpacks, purses, clutches, totes and satchels. Also discover non-leather items, such as jute crocheted shoes and cotton rope bags, ingeniously made by re-purposing ordinary supplies from local hardware stores. Everything in the shop is a sample but is also available for sale, honoring individual requests and adjustments for custom made shoes.
Gathering inspiration from Mother Nature, world travels, form and function, a.b.k. creates useful things that are simple, well made and long lasting but also aesthetically pleasing. Fabricating one piece at a time, Alya and Katya please their customers--whether it’s customization for the perfect fit or working with customers understand what they want. At this wondrous workshop, you will find gorgeous hand-crafted leather treasures that will endure for years to come or until you decide to return for more.
Written by Lisa Brown | Edited by Sabrina Tate