Leather was started in 1972 as Caleatus Leather by two
entrepreneurs: Toyo Gilman and Richard Leece.
from Japan, Toyo Gilman was
adopted into an Air Force family at the age of three. Toyo spent
much of his youth up until the seventh grade in
California when his family moved to Tucson, Arizona. He became friends with Richard Leece while attending Doolen
Middle School, and they both undertook leatherworking as a hobby.
Working out of their bedrooms, they created belts and sandals for
friends and made a few extra bucks along
After graduating high school,
Toyo enrolled in college, but shortly thereafter, he and
Richard Leece took a leap and opened Caleatus Leather in the back
of a shop on Tucson's eclectic 4th Avenue. During the '70s, the two young men could see a market
for one-of-a-kind designs in leather among the student population
at nearby University of Arizona.
In 1976 the business name changed to Dark Star Leather
and they moved into a shop by the University's Main Gate.
Dark Star came from an astrological discovery of the times. That's
when black holes were in the news, but astronomers sometimes
called them dark stars." - Toyo Gilman, Dark Star Leather
Richard Leece died in 1986 shortly before Dark Star's relocation
to Plaza Palomino (their present day residence), but Toyo and his upbeat staff
carry on. They are family, creating beautiful one-of-a-kind leather
at Dark Star Leather are as functional and long-lasting as they
are beautiful. They have become renowned for their use of myriad
exotic skins in a variety of textures and colors inlaid into
hand-cut latigo (oil-tanned cowhide) alongside sterling silver
conchos and semi-precious stones. From intricately designed and
decorated bags on down to the most simple belts and buckles,
you'll find something for everyone's budgets and needs.
(Susan Gersch & Toyo Gilman)
Toyo is the
mastermind behind all of Dark Star Leather's designs. Patterns are drawn out onto leather
then cut out by hand and prepared for design and assembly. Every
piece whether custom or stock begins at Toyo's desk.
Dark Star's manager for over 20 years, joined the company in 1977.
She is an artist skilled in many areas (from drawing and painting
to knitting and beading) and her artistic eye is evident in
beautiful leather products displayed throughout the store. Susan
is the primary colorist when it comes to the variety you see
hanging upon the walls and on the shelves of Dark Star Leather.
She is in charge of inlaying all the various skins and stones and
helps Toyo in planning what to make for the store.
Dark Star has a hand in their creations... whether cutting,
dyeing, carving, stitching, inlaying, sewing, braiding, on down to
the final finishing touches, every attention is given to the
details of each piece with the pride, experience, and
craftsmanship gained over the decades since Dark Star's inception.