A passion for fashion: Goddess of the Moon Leatherworks opens in Buchanan

Published 5:00 am Friday, December 8, 2023

BUCHANAN — Nestled in downtown Buchanan is a new business aiming to help people tell their story, one bag at a time.

Chandra Williams opened Goddess of the Moon Leatherworks, 101 Days Ave. Buchanan, Saturday, Nov. 25 during Bucktown Christmas. The retail store, open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, houses a wide variety of leather goods including handbags, wallets, jewelry, barware, belts, bowls, key fobs and more. 

“I come to work every day, but it doesn’t quite feel like I’m coming to work,” she said. “I have ownership of this. I can do whatever I want, it feels good. I’m happy where I’m at.”

Goddess of the Moon Leatherworks is one of four small businesses housed inside 101 Days as part of Live Buchanan’s Hometown & Co. small business incubator.

The building was bought and renovated by the Rowland Property Group, which leased the space to LiveBuchanan. After being accepted into the business incubator, the businesses spend a year learning and growing together with the intention of finding long-term homes for their businesses in Buchanan at the end of the program. LiveBuchanan provides a shared market/retail space, business training, one-on-one coaching  and connection to vital resources to help support these businesses on their journey. Each vendor selected for the program is required to attend trainings, be present during open hours and pay a monthly program fee.

Born in Chicago, Williams grew up in Saginaw before earning a fashion design and textiles degree from Western Michigan University. After graduating from Andrews University’s architecture school in 2012, Williams crafted her first bag in 2013 from an old suede coat she found at a thrift store. 

“There was a feeling that I got from it that was more gratifying than anything I’d ever done before and I guess I kind of became obsessed with leather working and bag making,” she said. “I’m wanting to give Gucci a run for their money. That’s where I want to go with that.”

Since then, the Niles resident has dedicated herself to creating leather goods that are unique, unexpected, and enjoyable. Her brand is known for quality construction, vibrant colors, and one-of-a-kind pieces.

“I really like to blend the disciplines of paint and color mixing, color theory with actually drawing and sketching, pattern drafting. All of it has been part of my journey in some way or another, so making all the stuff I’m making is kind of a culmination of everything that I’ve learned, everything that I’ve been excited about. That’s why I do what I do. I love it.

“As long as it’s bright, fun and it’s not anything you can see anywhere else. I’m all about that kind of leather work and I don’t make the same bag twice. All of my bags are one-of-a-kind and they have a lifetime warranty. I stick by what I make.”

With her brand, Williams is honoring the people who have paved the way for her success. Her core line of bags are named after prominent women in her life, including the Nora Tote, named after her mother.

“It’s family, It’s friends, it’s just women that have really impacted me and helped me to keep going with this,” she said.

‘Everybody’s one-of-a-kind’

Williams’ mission has become a family affair. She recently welcomed her sons, Alex and Noah, who are both on the autism spectrum, to the team. For Williams, their presence has shown her the importance of embracing one’s true self, regardless of societal norms. 

“They started getting to an age where they needed jobs and I realized there was a real fear for me, because both my sons are on the spectrum,” she said. “I didn’t want them to go to a job and worry about how they were being treated or being taken advantage of… I thought, ‘what if you hired people with disabilities’ and you cater to each person’s individual needs. Just like my bags, everybody’s one-of-a-kind.”

Williams purchased equipment that would be easier for Alex and Noah to use. From helping her cut leather and bag lining to helping her trace patterns and set up for shows, Williams’ children have played a pivotal role in the development of her business. Even better, Williams has been able to witness the growth of their skill sets and confidence.

“My oldest went to an event with me and was selling, talking to people and talking up the products and I thought ‘who is this? Where did you come from?’ He left the booth and went and walked and got food and he had never done anything like that before.” 

Williams hopes Goddess of the Moon Leatherworks will become an inclusive space for employees on the spectrum.

“I think the purpose of what I want to do is hire people and build up their confidence because it’s not about me keeping them as employees – it’s about me making them feel comfortable enough to know that they’re capable of doing something that has value; that they deserve to be paid for. They can take that skill set and roll anywhere they want to with it.

“So that’s the mission – establish this brand and get enough in sales where I can really start to pay a lot of employees and we can take our time. I work slowly and I’m very meticulous about details. A lot of people on the spectrum, especially, are the same way, and it’s not something that you should discourage; It’s a trait that should be celebrated. It’s a win-win situation. I see it in my sons and I’m excited to extend that patience into this different business model and I’m excited to make that a part of my mission as well.”

The next level

If Williams has her way, Goddess of the Moon Leatherworks will one day become a signature leather brand. Williams said she wants to do it in a way that is environmentally conscientious and cruelty-free. 

“I want to do it in a way where I’m helping people and have employees that are unique and I want to do it in a way where I’m kind to the environment,” she said. “The process of tanning is not good on the environment but there are companies out there that do care. I want to get to a point where I can start getting all of the number tanning from places like that… I want to get my animal hides from animals that were not killed for their hides. There are so many animals that pass away every day; it’s the cycle of life. 

“To be able to have relationships with sanctuaries and different companies that have animals that are no longer alive would be a wonderful way to still have my products available but not be a part of a process of cruelty. Nature does not waste and so I firmly believe that leather is a beautiful material. I’m a leather worker at the end of the day. This is the perfect material. That’s why we’ve been wearing it for hundreds of thousands of years because it’s perfect. I want to take that stigma away. That’s the final piece of the puzzle.”