Growing up in Rayne, Damien Mitchell began making things at a young age, often things his parents wouldn’t buy him. When they wouldn’t get him a go-kart, the determined 10-year-old sketched out plans for his own backyard roadster and took apart the family lawnmower. His efforts fell short, but looking back, Mitchell says he was exploring the industrial design process and didn’t even know it. By the time he entered the industrial design program at the University of Lafayette, the work felt natural to him. As part of his senior thesis, he interned at a family-owned shoe repair shop, where he was introduced—and soon fell in love with—leatherwork. After graduation, he moved to Baton Rouge to work at an engineering firm and took up sewing as a creative outlet. He began creating backpacks and belts, bringing his designs to life with his mother’s old sewing machine. In 2015, he launched his business.
STITCHING IT TOGETHER
Mitchell was laid off in 2016, but instead of looking for another job, he decided to live off his savings and dedicate himself to growing his fledgling business. “I felt like if there ever was a time to take my business seriously, it was then.” He launched an online store and began attending more local art markets—events Mitchell savors for the feedback he receives. Along with being a designer, Mitchell sees himself as a problem solver. “I would love to work with other designers—interior designers, architects—to help them solve certain design issues they may have. Someone may need a certain piece of furniture for a certain type of space but nothing like that exists. Let me design that for you.”
DRAFTING FUTURE GROWTH
In recent months, Mitchell has been working to evolve his business from one that merely creates items to one that also offers design services. Going forward, he aims to further diversify his portfolio, collaborate with area designers and architects, and eventually open his own industrial design studio. He also plans to host an art show. “I think that would help me tell the story of what it is I actually do—then people won’t just know me as the leather dude that makes wallets.” In the meantime, he’s busy creating soft leather goods for sale on his website and at arts markets.