The quest for the perfect leather iPhone wallet case

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Edward Field blue Libby
Small-batch iPhone wallet case maker Edward Field gets colorful with its new Libby line.
Photo: Edward Field

SAN FRANCISCO — Teddy Winthrop is into leather. Like, way into it. In the year since he launched Edward Field, his high-end iPhone wallet case company, he’s been obsessing over ways to make his leather cases sleeker, more functional and more straight-up appealing to the humans who use them.

“It’s weird,” he told Cult of Mac while discussing the mission of his company, which launches a new line of products today. “I never thought I’d be passionate about wallets.”

Like Jony Ive delving into materials science to come up with the perfect gold alloy for the Apple Watch Edition or to shave another inch off an iPhone, Winthrop is keen to learn everything he can about leather. He also geeks out over the tools of the trade as he searches for tiny tweaks that can make his iPhone wallet cases even better.

Now he knows about skiving machines, used to split leather in half so seams can be streamlined. Winthrop points out the slightly bulkier corner of an older case, and compares it to the thinner profile (and finer stitching) of a newer model.

He and his team spend a “ridiculous” amount of time sweating the small details, like exactly how big to make the credit card slots in their growing line of wallet cases.

“We had to find the perfect width,” Winthrop said.

Edward Field launches Libby line of iPhone wallets

Edward Field Libby collage
The new Libby line of iPhone wallet cases comes in eight Pantone colors.
Photos: Edward Field

Winthrop started Edward Field a year ago. The company racked up $30,000 with a successful Kickstarter campaign selling its wallet cases, which came in black and brown.

Today, Edward Field adds three new colors to its Classic line (tan, burgundy and navy). The company is also unveiling its Libby line of wallet cases, which feature gold-plated clasps and come in eight colors (kelly green, orange, royal blue, yellow, red, black, tan and navy).

Designed with women in mind, the Libby line takes its name from Winthrop’s mother.

Winthrop gets plenty of inspiration from his family. His original wallet case grew out of his dad’s love of the classic Day-Timer personal organizer. And Winthrop’s entrepreneurial spirit was kindled by his brother Bayard Winthrop’s company, American Giant, which manufactures the “world’s best hoodie.”

The quest for the perfect iPhone wallet case

Edward Field design process
A lot of thought goes into making the Edward Field wallet cases just right.
Photo: Edward Field

In fact, in his quest to make the ultimate iPhone wallet case for the digital age, Teddy Winthrop borrowed several smooth moves from American Giant‘s playbook for success. Edward Field proudly manufactures its wallet cases in America (of fine Italian leather), and sells them directly to consumers online.

Teddy Winthrop
Teddy Winthrop is surprisingly passionate about wallets.
Photo: Edward Field
Teddy Winthrop, who is 30, says he’s focused on providing the kind of “seamless” customer experience that his generation demands, meaning no-hassle returns a la Zappos and other e-commerce trailblazers.

“It’s just becoming more and more of a trend,” he said.

There’s another similarity between his company and American Giant, too: High demand for Edward Field’s hand-crafted wallets puts a bit of a strain on the indie manufacturer.

“We almost can’t make them fast enough,” Winthrop said of his small-batch cases.

Nevertheless, he is forging ahead with plans to continue expanding the Edward Field product line. Look for wallets for Samsung phones in the near future, with a brightly colored (and lower-priced) Cordura line coming this September and exotic leathers like lizard skin to follow. A card carrier that attaches to the back of a phone and holds three cards is also in the works, as is a popup shop, opening next month in the hipster capital of Brooklyn, New York.

“We’ve got a lot of things in the pipeline,” Winthrop said.

A commitment to made-in-America quality

Edward Field sewing machine
These iPhone wallet cases are assembled by hand in America.
Photo: Edward Field

All the Edward Field wallet cases get manufactured in Burlingame, California, so the company can maintain a “tight grip” on quality, Winthrop said.

With five card slots and pockets for cash or receipts, the cases also feature an innovative microsuction pad that holds the fragile iPhone firmly in place.

I’ve been using a demo unit for a year, and never once has my iPhone 6 Plus fallen out of the case (or even shifted, for that matter). I had doubts about how the case would hold up over time, but the card slots remain tight and, if anything, the high-quality leather looks better than it did when new. The Edward Field Classic wallet case is Cult of Mac’s choice for best iPhone wallet case.

A case for many iPhones (and soon the iPhone 7)

Currently, Edward Field cases come in sizes to fit the iPhone 5, iPhone 6/6s and iPhone 6/6s Plus. They cost between $109 and $115, and yet Winthrop sees them competing with high-end products from Louis Vuitton and Hermes that cost hundreds of dollars more.

Unlike some other case manufacturers, Winthrop says he’s not worried about modifying the design to fit the upcoming iPhone 7.

He’s working with potential partners who use lasers to cut leather, which would cut production time dramatically.

Using the traditional method his company has employed up until now, it would take Edward Field a week and a half to come up with a case after the iPhone 7 drops this fall.

“They can do it in three days for us,” he said.