Jackie Sanders ’14
In July 2011, Alex Stroud ’13 launched an Argentinean-inspired belt company with his brother that has grown into a multi-accessory high end brand. Stroud’s company, La Matera, is perfect for Trinity students. The belts come in a variety of colors and each one has an individual look. If described in one word, La Matera would be “tribal.” Stroud first found inspiration for his belts when he travelled to Argentina in 2008. After his sophomore year at Trinity, Stroud went back to Argentina to work on a ranch about 18 hours south of Buenos Aires. Alone on the ranch with plenty of time to think, Stroud began to realize he should bring Argentinean style back home. He believed that if he improved the quality and design of belts already sold in Argentina, he could successfully sell them in America where they are not available. Soon after, he proposed this idea to the guachos working on the ranch.
These South Americans had been making belt patterns for hundreds of years and didn’t understand the large amount of potential at first. However, intrigued by an enthusiastic American telling them their product would be profitable up north, they sat down and began brainstorming. Stroud and his companions decided on the name “La Matera” because it represented the roots of where their ideas began: in a room on old Argentine farms where workers sat around a fire, drinking their traditional Maté tea. Stroud connected with his older brother Brook, a recent University of Richmond graduate, who immediately loved the idea. Stroud argues that it’s crucial to go into business with someone you trust, are very close with, but most importantly share a similar vision with. He then worked on the project throughout his entire junior year at Trinity. At one point, he flew down to Argentina to meet with fabric suppliers and potential manufacturers. While Stroud initially tried having the belts manufactured in Buenos Aires, he had difficulty reaching the high end quality that both boys envisioned. They then switched to their current location, partnering with a leatherworks shop in New England.
The belts can be worn for almost all occasions. However, since the patterned belts already draw attention, shirts with a lot of activity can somewhat muddle their elegance. Currently, La Matera has one full-time employee who works at their Brooklyn office. They have 12 sales representatives at different schools, including three at Trinity, Thad Reycraft ’14, Chris Naidu ’13 and Alex Harvey ’14. Stroud also hired Antonio Diaz ’12, a Trinity graduate and former squash player, as a translator to work with their fabric manufacturer in Buenos Aires. La Matera sells hats and shirts in addition to belts. By the end of the month, new wallets made in Italy will also be up on their website as well. Their products appeal to men and women of all ages. As with any high end luxury accessory, their sales mostly stem from an older demographic. New York City and New England draw the most clientele, but they’re working on greater Southern exposure as well. Sales have been phenomenal since the launch, especially around the holiday season. Stroud’s friends at Trinity have been particularly supportive. To get the word out, Stroud puts an emphasis on online blogging and social media. He suggests writing to a blog, sending them a free product- and maybe charming them with a bottle of whiskey too.
In the future, Stroud hopes to keep La Matera different from other accessory brands. Very few high end companies try to include as much humor and personality as Stroud does. Co-founding La Matera has been an incredible experience that will prove invaluable. He explains, “it was an extremely hard learning process. We had to learn how to manage products being made and imported from five different countries around the world. The manufacturing business is not like the tech industry. You can’t just have an idea, move to Silicon Valley and easily arrive at the mecca of eager tech workers… Ask and take advice from any person you can.” Be sure to check out www.lamaterashop.com to see these unique and sophisticated belts, and check in again at the end of February for their new wallets. Also, be sure to follow their company on Instagram at username @la_matera. Each month, Stroud holds a photo contest on both Instagram and Facebook where the winner receives a free belt! See website for details.