Women of Northern Grade: Laura Smith

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When you think of great leather bags made in the USA, J.W. Hulme probably comes to mind. And for good reason. The company was founded in 1905 in St. Paul, Minnesota by John Willis Hulme and ever since then, the company has been a proud supporter of artisans and craftsmanship. Laura Smith started with the company in 2010 as their Director of Product Management and is now the Vice President. She and J.W. Hulme have been working closely with the McMillans since Northern Grade was founded and will be in attendance this weekend for their NYC pop-up.

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Q. J.W. Hulme was founded in 1905, how do you continue to develop the brand that while staying true to its American heritage?
A. Carefully evaluating trends and applying them where/when appropriate, and consistently looking at ways to elevate and leverage the brand to reach a wider audience.

Q. The brand still employs skilled artisans and utilizes the best materials from small craft tanneries around the country. How do you hope to influence and act as a model for other businesses?
A. By continuing to hold ourselves to the highest level of quality, we lead by example.

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Q. J.W. Hulme has a close relationship with the McMillans and Northern Grade, when did that relationship start?
A. Several years ago the idea came up to create a pop up for American made products…and here we are today!

Q. Why do you feel pop-ups like Northern Grade are important to promoting sustainable and American made businesses?
A. Pop-ups like Northern Grade bring American made products to the consumer in a unique way, letting the consumer discover and shop brands that they might not have been aware of before.

Q. As a women working regularly in the menswear industry, do you feel your personal style is influenced by it?
A. Absolutely, currently wearing a pair of Red Wings!

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