When one door closes another door opens.
It’s a cliché that sounds hopeful in theory, but can be hard to stomach, especially when that door of opportunity is slamming in your own face.
William Adler was an actor living in Los Angeles, and his closed door came in the form of the Screen Actor’s Guild strike of 1981. Work was hard to find, so William had to find an alternate way to earn a living. William opened up a humble belt stand in Venice, California. At first William called the stand “Rainbow Belts” and then changed it to “Billy Belts.” Life on the boardwalk wasn’t easy, especially with a newborn at the time. “My wife and I made it work. My son, Luke was an infant at the time, and stayed in the baby carrier under one of the belt tables.” Despite the obstacles, the stand was a success.
William expanded into belt manufacturing and opened up a factory in Banning, California, a mountain pass town east of Los Angeles. The factory sold belts at wholesale, and employed 150 workers. William sold Billy Belts to a competitor in 1992, but remained interested enough to stay in the industry on the design-side of leather goods. “The success of the shop kept me intrigued by the business and I went on to do design work for many other brands and retailers, including Dockers and Levi’s,” according to Will, “Eventually, I had my own business which earned the licensing rights for Nike Golf Accessories, which we still have today.”
This business, called Spirit Leather Works, was the first company to which Nike had ever granted an outside license, giving SLW the rights to, “…design, manufacture and sell Nike Golf and Tiger Woods belts and accessories.” Riding the wave of success, and with over 20 years of experience under his leather belt, William Adler launched Will Leather Goods in 2007.
Today Will Leather Goods makes bags, belts, and other leather accessories. Their products are sold online, and at major retailers such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus. Two years ago, in a toast to his roots, William opened his first brick-and-mortar store in Venice, California on fashionable Abbot Kinney Blvd. Last fall, a second store was opened in Portland, Oregon, but it’s New York City where William see’s the biggest opportunity. “We’ve quickly learned that New York City loves Will (Leather Goods). The success of our opening — media to neighborhood reception — has been truly a blessing that we are so grateful for.”
William believes his company has been so successful, not because of his knack for predicting trends, or analyzing the market, but rather for his instinct. “I’ve learned to make decisions based on what my gut tell me is the right thing for Will. I’m not going to conform to industry rules and normality, that’s boring.” Will Leather Goods is not in the business of boring. The range of products includes Burmese and Oaxacan inspired totes, and even leather bicycles. William is excited to be rolling out his “GIVE Will” program this fall, which will donate backpacks to elementary school children in low income communities across America. “We have a goal of donating 500,000 backpacks. For each backpack purchased, we will donate one of the same bag. The backpack is available for purchase on our website and in our stores.”
William Adler is no longer an actor, but from looking at Will Leather Goods, it seems some creative energy has been channeled into his products. He did pass down the acting gene to his youngest daughter, Shane, who acts as well as works in the store in Venice, California. When one door closes, another one opens, or in the case of William Adler another two or three. From a small leather belt stand in Venice, to cross continental stores and a contract with Nike, Will Leather Goods is the story of walking through the doors of opportunity.