Member Since 2011
Cliff Huang was inspired to launch his line of belts because, “Walking into the belt section of a men’s department at a clothing store can be a very uninspiring experience. Row upon row of the exact same bland belt made by 20 different designer brands at outrageous prices.” His solution was to create belts out of cork, an environmentally friendly resource that’s strong, lightweight, and ages to a beautiful patina. And to keep them interesting, he makes them reversible.
Interests: Skiing, tinkering, innovative materials, delegating authority
Background: Entertainment, feature film development, brand-building
Recent purchase: Coffee
Book/film recommendation: Almost anything Jane Austen, Don Delillo
Transformative travel experience: Two weeks whitewater rafting in Utah as a teenager
Favorite neighborhood: Ketchum, Idaho
Dream holiday: Surf camp, tacos & spicy margaritas
Why did you curate the Bomb Shell Garden Marker Spoons and Wrap Bracelet?
The peaceBOMB project presents an incredible blend of social responsibility, creativity, and aesthetic allure. As purchasing options begin to stretch to infinity, I tend to seek out items I can connect to on a more personal level. It's hard to get buyer's remorse when you purchase something that inspires so much good.
What inspired you to create the reversible cork belts?
With belts, I wanted to break away from the mundane and indistinguishable black and brown leather belts that line most stores and do very little to compliment other items of clothing. Belts don’t have to be boring—our cork belts are reversible with detachable buckles. You can attach your own buckles, get more colors, or simply revel in the fact that you don’t have to take off your whole belt in airport security.
How were the belts and guitar strap made?
I was bored with belts and I thought other people might be too. This is what I was thinking a couple years ago when I was trying to figure out what to do with myself. I had just graduated from Columbia Business School, fractured my back, ruptured a disc, and was recovering from surgery when the economy took a nosedive. Not the greatest time to be switching careers. Over the next eight months of limited mobility I experimented with different materials, designs, and products, mostly as a hobby while I looked for a “real” job. Eventually, I stumbled onto cork and began making belts for family and friends. The belts got such good reactions and enough orders that I decided to take the endeavor more seriously. Over the last year I put together the business, sourcing the highest quality cork from around the world and contracting the fabrication to a network of skilled local tailors I exhaustively vetted. Each belt is made by hand, not churned out on assembly lines in large factories. We produce reversible guitar straps in the same way.
What was the big aha! you had while creating these products?
Finding the cork material was a big light bulb moment. Every quality, from the look and feel to the unusual narrative (hand harvested tree bark!) surpassed my expectations for what I hoped to find in a single material. Creating a snap system for holding the buckle and loop in place while also making the belt reversible was a real challenge. There are buckles that swivel, but I wanted to give people the option of swapping different buckles or attaching completely different ones of their own (like cowboy buckles). I also liked the idea of a quick buckle release for easy trips through airport security. One day I was snapping and unsnapping components almost thoughtlessly, not really trying to solve those particular problems when my fingers did it for me. Every once in a while thinking actually gets in the way.
Can you describe your creative process?
Usually I sketch and map out designs and plans exhaustively—recently I have relied much more on trial and error. Little failures seem to lead to bigger breakthroughs.
What do you love about what you do?
I love making things, especially tangible things with a function. There’s a great sense of fulfillment when you can see something you’ve created fulfill a purpose and be enjoyed at the same time.
How would you sum up your aesthetic/design philosophy?
I want to see products with an interesting narrative—i.e., what makes this item more exciting than its peers? Where does it come from and how does it stand out from the crowd?
What are you working on next?
We have several exciting products in the pipeline; computer cases and messenger bags are coming out very soon.
What would you like to do other than your current occupation?
I can’t imagine anything I’d like more than this right now. Perhaps doing the same thing with the resources to make it all happen faster. Of course, I’m hoping that will be the CLIFF brand fast-forward a couple years.