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Waltzing Matilda’s Leather Goods Are Locally Crafted and Built to Last a Lifetime

By , October 28, 2016

Name: Mike Balitsaris
Occupation: Owner & Founder
Company: Waltzing Matilda

In a world of mass production, Waltzing Matilda is founded on handcrafted leather pieces that are built to last. The first item crafted was a leather sandal made from a repurposed shoe. Since then, the product line has grown to include bags, shoes, and accessories – all made by local artisans and sourced from materials made in the USA.

We chatted with Mike Balitsaris, the owner and founder of Waltzing Matilda, to learn more about the values that he brings to his company.

LAUREN: You’ve worked to ensure that your products are made in the USA by local artisans. Why is this standard so important to you?

MIKE: I used to redevelop old factories into office spaces, and I would get to see the last couple of guys who were closing the factories down. It broke my heart to know that at one time, there were thousands of people working there. I’ve seen the real-time devastation of these small communities when a manufacturer gets on the road and leaves the town. Within six months there’s an increase in serious drug use and crime. Every horror that you can imagine happens. When you are putting factories back in these places, the reverse happens. I have four kids, and I want to leave them something so that they can experience the things we have that are good.

L: What motivates you to hold on to the standards that your company started with?

M: What motivates me is living a lifestyle that I feel like everybody should have the opportunity to live. I spent the first half of my career traveling every week to little Podunk towns by myself, [staying] in hotel rooms and not doing what I would have liked to do. [Now] I can literally ride my bike downhill to my shop, and I don’t even have to pedal. You can get more done and learn more by being home. I’m trying hard to make that a reality.

L: What is your favorite aspect of the work you do for WM?

M: Well by and large, it’s finding the materials that we are going to use. It’s finding a material that gives me inspiration and turning that into an actual living thing – a real product that somebody is going to cherish forever.

L: What is your favorite product that WM currently carries?

M: It’s not our highest volume product, but [lately] I’ve found a lot of vintage materials, particularly cowboy chaps. The patina on these chaps is super cool. I’ve been making various backpacks out of them. It looks like you have an amazing 70-year-old bag that’s kind of just been retooled.

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