Sometimes luxury screams (diamond encrusted, gold embossed). Sometimes it whispers (the logo for the Hermès Birkin bag is printed on the interior). And sometimes, as with the black leather Kale Miles belt pictured here, it’s inaudible. Kale Miles (212-870-0090 or kalemiles.com) is a small men’s-accessories company whose belts usually run $240 to $380. This one is $18,000. We asked Kale Miles designer Kristina Pitaniello and co-founder Bill Miles what makes it cost more than a car, or 400 times more than the $45 version from Banana Republic.
The bulk of the price comes from the buckle: It’s platinum, about seven-to-eight ounces’ worth. At press time, an ounce of platinum was $1,600. If the price goes up or down in a day, that will change the cost of the belt.
It takes about three weeks for Pitaniello to make the buckle in a Boston workshop. Of course, no two are alike.
Assembly is relatively simple; measurements are given over the phone or online. Customers are asked to add two inches to their normal size. If it’s too big, it can be cut down, but too small and they have to start all over again. The cutting and assembly are done by hand in Maine. That part takes about one week.
For what the company says are “competitive reasons,” it won’t release the name of the English tannery that supplies the leather, although it is supposedly the oldest in the world, founded during the Roman Empire. The leather is cut from a specific spot on a particular breed of cow. Typical cowhides cost a few hundred dollars; Kale Miles pays “in the thousands” for theirs.
Often belts are several strips of leather and synthetic filler stitched or glued together; this is one single layer of thick, supple skin, which will supposedly hold its shape for decades.
The organic vegetable dyes used by the unnamed English tannery take longer to adhere to the leather than the standard chemical dyes. The leathers are tanned for over a year, which Kale Miles says results in “a longer lasting leather with a beautiful finish.” Standard tanning using chemicals takes days.
The average weight of each belt (minus the buckle) is around nine ounces. Typical belts are half that.