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  • Dukes Finest Artisan
  • Dukes Finest Artisan
  • Dukes Finest Artisan
Dukes Finest Artisan
„Sweetening the hard military look with lovely, beautiful things“by Uschi Klein
Michael Herzog, Katja Schmolka & Uschi Klein

    TALENT OF THE MINUTE; DUKES - Finest Vintage Artisan

    26 August 2010

    By Katja Schmolka

    Finest Artisan

    Their vintage leather belts are sexy and chic. And their lust for art and craft are too! The Dukes Finest Artisan combines fashion statement with pure joy of life. Military leather belts and bags made from leather and canvas upt to 30 years old advance to the imperative of desire in affectionate and time-intensive handicraft.

    In the middle of Biedermeier houses in the 7th district of Vienna, the designer duo „Dukes Finest Vintage Artisan“ is located.  Concealed in a typical Viennese courtyard. The workshop and showroom is filled with slouches, leather and nostalgic machines and delicately draped belts. The Dukes, Uschi Klein and Michael Herzog are successful all over Europe. A team! Professionally and privately. Their passion: Combining the old with the new.

    The impulse came from a time of crisis

    Uschi Klein, the attractive designer and mother of two boys guides me through the workshop filled with machines and materials. „We love the old!“, she tells me. „And you can fix these machines by yourself“. Necessity is the mother of invention and so her life partner and her bought a batch of old military belts with their last money. And started to embellish them with Japanese patterns. The first creation named „Kimono“ was born! And so was the foundation for „Finest Vintage Artisan“. Both remember how they offered their creations to six different clients, and in fact, five clients ordered immediately. Agents were quickly found to sell these unique items in the best stores in Paris, Italy, the low countries, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

    K.S: Key words like stable value, functionality and handicraft are the essence of your lines. Where do you get the leather belts and military bags?

    U.K.: The belts are mainly from Eastern Europe and are bought from inventories worldwide (e.g. Sweden). For the military bags we bought remainders of stock from Switzerland. The beautiful thing about vintage materials is that they are unique. Sometimes we find traces of the previous owners (names, sayings, scratches). And that’s what our customers appreciate – you can feel that every piece originates with heart and it’s own individual story.

    K.S.: How does the process of refining work?

    U.K.: At first the belts are cleaned a ingested with a special oil. Then they get a velvety gleam. Then the embossment with various patterns starts and finally they are hand-painted. The painting takes about an hour for simple patterns and can take longer according to the effort. We create our patterns and colours ourselves. A process which can take little time but sometimes takes a while. One of our creations was Cuba, with it’s topics of communism, cigars and the chess world championship.

    K.S.: Your accessories have a story. Why did you choose the military theme?

    U.K.:  The origin is always military because the items are functional and durable. And there’s this appeal to combine the negative with the beautiful and lovely. Sweet and bitter, like the spirit of life which inspires us.

    K.S.:  Are there any new exciting projects?

    U.H.: Yes, bags made from leather, and the latest: canvas conveyor bands, limited „dead-stock, made in the USA, which we make into bags with genuine Kimono. We found the Kimonos in Japan, but I won’t tell where exactly! We are also planning a line of unused leather, but in the same style.

    K.S.:  How important are trends and how do they influence you?

    U.K.: We make our own trends and follow our way without being mislead. Timeless pieces which should be lasting companions are what’s close to our heart. The only parallel: We also make two lines a year, unisex.

    K.S: There are Dukes belts, bags and I-Phone cases. Do you have any other ideas on what to refine and colour? Maybe Dukes vintage leather jackets or vintage shoes?

    U.K.: We are planning to do military jackets, hats … a long-nourished dream of mine: Collecting old furniture from flea markets and refining them in our typical Dukes style. I love how wood feels. Wood lives and has it’s own story to tell.

    K.S: Thank you for the interview.

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