How do you improve on a classic design like the Chemex? You don’t; you complement it. That’s exactly what Intelligentsia Coffee and Horween Leather have tried to do with this exclusive new hand-crafted leather Chemex collar. Produced entirely in Chicago, Illinois by Horween, a leather company founded in 1905, the collars are available in natural and dark navy tannage colors, and produce an engagingly different tactile and aesthetic experience for fans of the beloved Chemex brew method.
Leather is a natural product, and each piece from Horween is unique. Just 160 units have been made, making this an exclusive and rare addition to your holiday gift giving plans. Rarer still, there are no web sales planned for this product—it’ll be available for purchase beginning today at Intelligentsia retail locations in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City, priced at $38.
We sat down digitally with Nick Horween, director and quality manager at Horween Leather, to learn more about his family company and its collaboration with our friends & partners at Intelligentsia.
Tell us a bit more about Horween, and your history as a company.
We are the last tannery in Illinois, and one of a only a handful left in the US. Historically, Chicago was a center for tanneries due to the stockyards. Many of the animals in the country used to come here, so it only made sense that industries that used byproducts of meat packing would be here. My great, great grandfather (Isidore Horween) founded the business in 1905 and had worked at tanneries since he was 12, starting in the Ukraine. We have always been keenly focused on tanning and developing the highest quality products possible. We still use the same formulas developed by Isidore. We’ve expanded and supplemented traditional techniques and components to build the product line that we offer today.
The Natural (tan) sleeve utilizes our oldest tannage, developed in 1905. The Dark Navy tannage is a slightly updated version of a leather developed around 1910. We’ve run both continuously since then.
The Chemex design is so classic—when you approach a complementary design like these sleeves, what considerations come into play? What are the inspirations?
The primary considerations are functionality and quality. It’s crucial to have a product that performs its specific function well, and it has to be able to do so for a long time. Appearance is secondary to these, especially on an item as task-oriented as the Chemex. The end goal was to build a product that complimented the simplicity of the Chemex, and one would look better the more you used it.
If you could design leather for any future coffee projects, what might those be?
We have a few ideas, many which would be useful to the coffee professional.
We’re endlessly fascinated by coffee & craft brand collaborations. What makes Intelligentsia x Horween a good fit?
Both companies are quality-centric, and the brand doesn’t mean much if the product isn’t top notch. We both are constantly searching for the best raw materials possible, and we never underestimate the importance of the human element. At Horween we are kept in business by an end consumer that can recognize quality and chooses our product over others in the market.
The Horween x Intelligentsia Chemex collar is available from Intelligentsia locations at Logan Square, Wicker Park, Millennium Park, Broadway, Old Town, and in the Monadnock Building in Chicago; at Silver Lake, Venice, and Pasadena in southern California; and at the High Line Hotel and Herald Square locations in New York City.