Studebaker: A story of tradition and craftsmanship – Tenue de Nîmes

Founded in 2010, Studebaker is a traditional metal-smithing workshop and brand. Michael Studebaker tells us: “When I moved to Pittsburgh, there weren’t a lot of opportunities in the metalwork trade. I worked in museums and continued to swing a hammer in my basement in the evenings. Later that year, I met our co-founder, Alyssa. She had been working in marketing and immediately recognised a hole in the market for high-quality, sustainable metal goods. We pretty much got to work right away, it always felt like the right move”.

People say: “they don’t make them like they used to”,  but Studebaker does!

Michael Studebaker comes from a family of artisans. “There’s a history of Studebakers working with their hands since immigrating from Germany to the US. We used to be blacksmiths, wagon makers and eventually car manufacturers”, he explains. “I’m also very proud to be the grandson of a cobbler—a trade that has almost completely vanished at this point, but it’s something I was in awe of as a kid. Watching my Grandpa in his workshop is a vivid memory I cherish to this day”.

The city of Pittsburgh serves as a major source of inspiration for the brand: metalwork, architecture, artisanship and good old-fashioned hard work are ingrained in this region’s DNA. Nostalgia is key for Studebaker. Michael uses classic tools, designed 300 years ago, which influence Studebaker’s whole manufacturing process—in a good way.
People say: “they don’t make them like they used to”,  but Studebaker does! 

“The excitement level in our workshop when a “new” old tool arrives rivals Christmas morning for a five year old”, Michael laughs. “Our entire Lodge Series was actually inspired by a rolling mill from the 1880s”.

A revival of craftsmanship

“I hope the revival of people’s love for handmade goods is back to stay. Handmade goods are not only high quality and sustainable, they also generate the need for skills-based jobs.
Above all: unique, artisan pieces create a meaningful connection between the maker and end user. Anyone who wears something made by us becomes an extension of our team and our craft. We now call many of our original customers our community and our friends”, Studebaker exclaims.
“We are so committed to every piece we make—you can feel that in the end result. I hope for a permanent shift away from throw-away consumerism. The world just can’t afford that anymore”. 

Lead and nickel free, local and recycled

“We work with brass, copper, sterling silver and gold”, Studebaker continues. “We ensure all of our metals are free from allergenic lead and nickel, which sets us apart from mass jewellery producers. We source our materials as close to home as possible, and recycling plays a major role. We don’t communicate it much, because sustainability is inherent to the slow processes we apply and the materials we use. A professor of mine used to proudly exclaim that metal workers are the original recyclers”. 

“Slow is Fast”

Michael: “Behind closed doors, we tell each other jokingly that there’s nothing slower than fucking up. It’s true, we don’t aim to make things as fast as possible, we aim to make products that are going to last—so naturally our production is going to be slower than a factory full of machines. In order to sustain this type of business at a price point accessible to the greater public, we don’t have a ton of room for mistakes”.

“We have “Slow is Fast” painted in giant lettering across our workshop walls as a reminder that slowing down and paying attention actually is the fastest route to the quality we demand. We also love this slogan because it spills over to so many other trades and life experiences: it always sparks an interesting conversation”. 

The story behind the Lodge & Thompson cuff for Tenue de Nîmes      

“We started from a photo of an antique cuff and then cut our own stamps, hereby giving us a lot of control over the resulting composition”, Michael says. “I grabbed lengths of old tool steel and cut, formed, ground and hardened them to exactly the shapes and sizes we liked. From there it was just a matter of laying out the pattern and spacing, and the result was exactly what we wanted. We originally mocked it up on the Thompson Cuff, but couldn’t resist the temptation to see how it looked on the Lodge. We’re pretty excited about both”.  

The future of Studebaker Metals 

“In ten years, we hope our kids are adept enough at metal-smithing to provide free labor”, Studebaker jokes. “Kidding, sort of. This has been a family business from the start. Alyssa and I were virtually strangers when we started, but through the process we became a family and have built on to that with our brood of animals and children and our team. We are always looking for the best way to grow and change while staying true to our mission: making genuinely good things for good people”.

“At the core of it all, we are immensely grateful to wake up every day and work with the people we love and have fun with. 
So for the future? More of that, please”. 

Shop the Studebaker x Tenue de Nîmes Lodge & Thompson cuff here!