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Dark Star Leather was started in 1972 as Caleatus Leather by two entrepreneurs: Toyo Gilman and Richard Leece.

Originally 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 the way.

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.

"The name 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 owner

Tragically and suddenly, 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 goods.

The creations 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.

Susan Gersch, 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.

Everyone at 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.

 

 

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Dark Star Leather
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