San Francisco

Introducing Amy Silberman, The Bag Creator Behind Good West Co.

Today, we're introducing you to local bag maker Amy Silberman, the owner and seamstress behind Good West Co. Her small, handmade and custom bag company is based right here in Ashbury Heights, where she's lived for the last 12 years.

On a tip from a reader, we spent the afternoon visiting Amy in her home studio, where she cuts, sews and sells her bags and other gear, to talk about bags, craftsmanship, and being a small business.

Silberman got into bag-making "years and years ago," she said. She grew up with homemade clothes and her mom's sewing machine in the house, and learned early on how to experiment and improvise until she ended up with what she wanted. "I'm super comfortable trying stuff ... and failing," she said.

In 2001, she became the first apprentice to Beatrice Amblard, owner of SF-based bagmaker April in Paris. Amblard worked for years at Hermès, and focuses on luxury French detailing in her work. During her year-long apprenticeship, Silberman picked up a variety of formal techniques and training, but ultimately decided to go her own way.

"I trained in this really formal way," she says. "But it's not really my style. It took me a while to get comfortable just making something." Once she'd learned the techniques for quality craftsmanship, she went back into experimenting with different products and styles.

She launched an early iteration of her bag company back in the early 2000s, but "it sort of petered out," Silberman said. "Everything was totally made by hand, handstitched, I hadn't gotten the industrial sewing machine yet. It would drive anybody crazy." A year and a half ago, she decided to launch Good West Co. in earnest, after making bags for herself and friends for a year. She quit her job at design magazine Dwell, and now divides her time between bag-making and freelance photo editing.

Silberman does some custom work and alterations, but that's not the bread and butter of her business, and she doesn't necessarily want it to be. Instead, she focuses on using quality bag components, mostly leather, canvas or denim with copper rivets and nice detailing.

"My design aesthetic is pretty simple and clean, but I like the materials to be really high-quality," Silberman said. "I don't do a lot of sparkles or animal tails, you know?"

What's the best part about having durable, simple bag construction?

"I love the qualities that naturally occur in fabrics: leather is skin from an animal, so it's pockmarked. I don't really notice the imperfections ... they give it character. Leather ages differently for different people and I kind of love that about it, it just lends beauty to it."

Silberman's bags are all made to order in San Francisco, and mostly retail in the $150-200 range. She also makes aprons, wallets, pouches, and keychains. All of her products are available to purchase online, where those interested in custom work can also contact her. 

Thanks to Natalie K. for the tip.


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