For Dustin Bentall, leather is better

When he was a teenager growing up on the North Shore, Dustin Bentall acquired his first pair of Dayton boots. He loved the ruggedness of the leather footwear; the heaviness, the look, the feel and the durability. Dayton Boots itself has become a trademark of longevity in Vancouver, having lasted over 70 years at their location on East Hastings Street.

Dustin Bentall – a long time local musician – hopes to follow in Dayton’s lasting footsteps with his own, newly launched Dust Leather.

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Dust Leather is not Bentall’s first foray into working professionally with cowhide. A few years ago, Bentall took his life-long love of the product and created B.B. Gun Leather with partner Spencer Baker.

Entering the dusty confines of their tiny workshop in Strathcona – filled with old tools, Mexican blankets, a pot bellied stove, and yes, a BB gun – was like stepping into the pages of a Louis L’Amour novel. The Old West aesthetic came to Bentall naturally. His love of the medium was inspired from his years of hanging around the Bentall family ranch in the Cariboo, always admiring the leather cowboy gear that seemed to last forever. B.B. Gun leather found immediate success with handmade bags, purses, belts, and guitar straps, and lasted from 2013-2016.

“B.B. Gun was a great success for three years of my life, but it ultimately began to consume all of my time,” Bentall lamented. “My music career was beginning to suffer for it and I wanted to give that some focus as well.”

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Dustin Bentall's handmade Dust Leather bags. - Tobyn Ross

Bentall has done that, with a new album partially complete. He’s also currently on tour with his dad Barney’s Grand Ol’ Opry-like touring road show, the Cariboo Express (this year’s finale is at the Vogue on Saturday, Nov. 25). Dustin has been working on launching Dust Leather between gigs.

“It’s all me this time around,” Dustin told me over the phone from his new home on Bowen Island. “I’ve learned from some of the mistakes and growing pains that B.B. Gun experienced and have moved forward with this new venture. I’ll specialize in woman’s bags, men’s messenger bags, belts, guitar straps, purses and wallets.”

When I enquired about Bentall’s prowess with a sewing machine, he was quick to correct my assumption. “Everything I create is handmade and hand-stitched by me. No machines. I use thick, high-quality leather, so a sewing machine couldn’t even puncture it. As a guitar player, it can be hard on my hands, let me tell you.”

Bentall’s handcrafted work is his personal and professional reaction to our modern day consumerist culture.

“Today’s lifestyle focuses way too much on throwaway material possessions,” he stated. “We buy it, use it, break it and chuck it. It’s sad to say, but there’s a lot of crap out there that is made to break down after a certain amount of time, so you have to just go out and buy a new one. I want to create the exact opposite of that. I build products that are made to last a lifetime, and look better as they age.”

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Dustin Bentall wearing his own snazzy hand-made boots. - Stasia Garraway

The one irony to Dustin’s hands-on, old-time approach is that he markets his products 100 per cent online, both at and through some of the most modern sharing platforms. “It’s true,” Bentall admittedwith a chuckle. “There won’t be a storefront or anything. Dust Leather is an online-only business.”

Social media also plays a big role.

“Instagram is a huge and highly effective medium for physical goods in general. We now live in a very photo-driven lifestyle, and Instagram allows me to get my products to those who desire it, all through my phone to @dustleatherco.”

Bentall often collaborates with different Vancouver photographers for the best possible imagery, creating a modern reach for a very old art form. And, speaking of old, Bentall still owns his original pair of Dayton Boots.

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