An Interview with Designer Farid Gadalla

Calling all business owners! We recently sat down with Farid Gadalla, an experienced and innovative designer who recently joined the Softline team. During our conversation, he revealed how he got started, shared some industry insights, and he even told us a bit about his patented trimming process.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started designing handbags and other small leather goods?

I’m originally from Alexandria, Egypt, where we had a family business that my father started in 1952. I worked alongside my father from the age of 12 until he passed away in 1989. He taught me the trade and showed me how to make quality bags by hand. After he passed away, I took over the business.

In 2001, I moved to the United States with my family and worked for a small leather bag manufacturer. In 2003, I joined Coach as a sample maker, where I started out making the patterns by hand, the old-fashioned way. Coach allowed me to learn Optitex, a new technology at the time for making handbags. I was able to move up in the company and had opportunities to travel the world while working on their new collections. 

In 2010, I moved from production to quality control, where I helped find ways to shorten the production process and even patented a new process for trimming. I stayed at Coach until 2017 but then moved to Vietnam, where I was the Director of Quality for TBS Factory.

I moved back to the United States just before the pandemic. As we all know, the pandemic was rough on fashion retailers, so I opened my own small goods business and returned to my roots, making custom handmade leather bags with some modern upgrades.

Earlier this year, I met Adam, the owner of Softline Brand Partners, and now I am part of their team, working in design, production, and quality control.

Q: I understand that you work with both leather and textiles. What types of materials are your favorite to work with?

My favorite type of material to work with is primarily leather, especially exotic leather. In particular, I like alligator leather or poisonous snake. I also enjoy working with vegan leather. The demand for vegan leather has really grown during the past three years.

Plant-based leathers are good for local economies. In Mexico, you have cactus leather. In Vietnam, there is banana leather, and in India, there is a flower that is made into plant-based leather.

I find these natural materials intriguing, and consumers agree because plant-based, sustainable leather products are in high demand.

Q: If you were asked to make a special bag for someone, with no regard to cost, what material would you use?

Definitely alligator. Alligator leather is a very high-end fashion item and is popular with almost everyone. 

Q: Can you walk us through the bag manufacturing process from design to production?

First, I sketch some design ideas for the client, and we discuss which raw materials and embellishments to use. Then, using Optitex, we can create a 3D view with dimensions and small details. Once the design is approved, we send it to the sample-making team to produce the first sample. The customer reviews the sample, and when that is approved, we move to production.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the patent you hold for trim assembly?

In 2014, while working for Coach, I figured out the process for edge staining using a heat-activated adhesive. I filed for a patent and was awarded one in 2017.

Q: How do you feel about working at Softline Brand Partners, and what are your hopes for the future?

I’m excited about the opportunities at Softline and helping to move the company forward. My experience fits perfectly with what they are doing, and we have some exciting things planned for 2023 and beyond. Our goal and focus will be on training the next generation to be craftsmen/women making handbags and small leather goods.

We could not be more excited to have Farid on our team. His years of experience, his ability to train, and industry knowledge will continue to anchor Softline as the leader in leather good manufacturing. 

Adam Blitzer, CEO Softline Brand Partners

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