Once upon a time, there was a man with an axe. And so begins the humble yet highly inspired tale of Best Made Co. Founded by Peter Buchanan-Smith in 2009, the designer spun his love of the great outdoors into the ultimate lifestyle brand. Today, it’s a wildly successful company known for far more than its axe lineup—although that’s inarguably impressive.
Think of it as an artisanal approach to necessary gear. The range is packed with everything from rugged attire for men to sturdy bags to camping equipment. It’s a robust collection that celebrates the fine art of craftsmanship from start to finish.
Indeed, Buchanan-Smith’s background is practically a study in the fine art of making…well, everything. He was a design director for Isaac Mizrahi, creative director at Paper magazine, and guided art direction for The New York Times Op-Ed section of The New York Times in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He’s worked with musicians like David Byrne and Justin Timberlake, and won a Grammy Award in 2005 for his design work on Wilco’s album, A Ghost Is Born.
He built a workshop in his New Jersey home and began creating, from scratch, items that he knew were purposeful and valuable.
That type of history alone is enough to inspire any budding artist. But Buchanan-Smith was always entrepreneurial. He built a workshop in his New Jersey home and began creating, from scratch, items that he knew were purposeful and valuable—including an axe, since he couldn’t find one on the market that met his own specific needs.
It was the unassuming tool that planted the seeds for Best Made Co. Armed with nothing but an axe—not even a business plan—Buchanan-Smith set out to form a brand that embodied his interest in creating only the best. That’s why each piece from the vast and diverse lineup is made with meticulous attention to detail and the kind of craftsmanship you might expect of something that has been around for centuries. In other words, you can expect endurance of your purchases.
It’s a lofty growth pattern for a brand that was quite literally established because of an axe. Yet Buchanan-Smith proudly credits the hardy outdoor tool to everything that has happened to his brand since then. It served as a model, of sorts—a piece that captures utility, history, functionality, and style all at once.
Style? An axe? It’s true: Best Made Co. has the innate ability to make even the simplest and most basic of products look and feel more like collector’s items. Everything begins with raw, natural materials that set the stage for a deep and innovative creation process that incorporates the initial dreaming and sketching phases to the final buildout. It’s easy to see the sense of pride and accomplishment that the company takes in everything it designs.
They recognize that their products have greater potential: to arouse a sense of possibility, fuel a desire to travel, and motivate them to do things they never thought possible.
But there’s more than beautiful construction happening behind the scenes. There’s an understanding of people’s expectations. It’s more than simply tapping into what the average outdoorsman may appreciate when he steps into a pair of boots or throws on a sweatshirt before he heads out the door. Best Made Co.’s designers consistently put those needs before everything else. They recognize that their products have greater potential: to arouse a sense of possibility, fuel a desire to travel, and motivate them to do things they never thought possible.
You’re best off starting where it all began: with the axe collection. There are dozens of varieties in dozens of finishes designed for a variety of purposes. The Hudson Bay Axe is a two-pound wonder that’s ideal for camping or clearing small patches of land in a hurry. But if you’re seeking a piece of hardy gear for the farm, you won’t go wrong with the iconic American Felling Axe. It’s a four-pound tool that is made for chopping and splitting efficiently.
At a glance, the axes are remarkable for their clean, stylish appearances. But it’s the thoughtful construction that sets them apart from their counterparts. The products boast sleek profiles that make them considerably easier to manage and far less bulky overall. Handmade with only the finest woods, including Appalachian hickory, the axe is crafted with functionality in mind. It’s why the handle is almost ergonomic to a degree, with a smooth and easy grip that promotes safety and efficiency. The finishing touch is the company’s logo branded on the head. Even the packaging is extraordinary. The tool is nestled in wood wool, placed inside a foolproof wooden crate, then boxed in crush-proof cardboard to ensure a safe journey.
When you work in cool climates, you naturally require garments that provide an optimal combination of fashion and function—primarily the latter, but without sacrificing too much of the former. It’s precisely what makes the burgeoning clothing collection so workable for both noncommittal and discerning outdoorsmen alike. Utilizing sensible materials like wool, denim, and leather, the brand crafts pieces that are as immaculately styled as they are heavy-duty.
Utilizing sensible materials like wool, denim, and leather, the brand crafts pieces that are as immaculately styled as they are heavy-duty.
If it’s performance wear that you’re after, you won’t go wrong with the brand’s Blanket-Lined Chore Coat. It’s named in such a way that raises brows, and it’s so purposefully conceived that it’s hard not to envision a place for it in the average closet. Some may appreciate it for its dazzling good looks—it’s something of a model in the hefty coat world—but it’s more than a pretty face. It’s lined with a customized Pendleton® wool blanket, for starters, and is made with cotton duck canvas that repels moisture.
Don’t be fooled by all the tough-guy detailing, though: this coat is dramatically soft for something so tough and agile. Even the pockets are lined with corduroy to ensure consistent comfort throughout the day and into the night. And Best Made Co. nods to its beloved axes here, too; the stripes on the blanket lining are inspired by the painted handles of the tools. A multitude of pockets make it easy to stash everything that you need without worry, while secure zippers and snap buttons make for easy, secure wear.
Bags are a key part of the brand’s repertoire, too. In the mix are everything from demure card cases to slouchy duffles to slim briefcases. Everything is crafted of top-tier leather, and all have distinguishing features that true bag enthusiasts will notice and appreciate. Vegetable-tanned leather, for example, develops a striking patina with age. The stitch work is performed with a shoe-cobbling device to enhance security and durability, and solid brass hardware provides a beautiful complement to each bag’s earthy finish.
There are many in the mix worth a second, third, or fourth glance, but it’s the Leather Duffle Bag that stands out as a true investment piece. It’s hard-working gear that develops into something even more handsome and attractive with each subsequent use. No matter your lifestyle—jet-setting global explorer or rugged farmer born and bred for outdoor lifestyle—this weekender is built to perform.
No matter your lifestyle—jet-setting global explorer or rugged farmer born and bred for outdoor lifestyle—this weekender is built to perform.
Over the years, Best Made Co. has grown dramatically. There are piercingly notable furnishings designed with very specific needs in mind—wooden trash cans, for example, and smart, snap-tight stools featuring crisp leather and wood bodies. Many vouch for the Lumberlander Camp Blanket, a testament to the brand’s understanding of and appreciation for outdoor living. Yes, you can take it camping—it’s made with a cozy blend of wool and cotton, and also includes a convenient leather sling for simple carrying. Or you can sling it over the couch at home and call it a night if you need a little respite from the world. It’s made to withstand everything with ease, including brisk winds, unreasonable temperatures, and frequent transport.
If you happen to be in New York City or Los Angeles, you can see the evidence for yourself. The company’s Tribeca store opened in 2013 to great fanfare, and it’s calculatingly designed in a no-fuss, no-frills manner that’s highly appealing to the average Best Made Co. client. Who needs dramatic decor when you can have space to practice a few test swings, or to try on a hefty coat? The LA branch on South La Brea Avenue follows suit, boasting a similar industrial style fleshed out by brick walls, exposed beams, and axe displays on the walls.
Buchanan-Smith announced his departure from Best Made Co. in early 2019. It was, he said, “time for me to move on.” While this parting of the ways signals a change for the company, it doesn’t diminish its resolve to continue supplying products of value. It will resolutely always be because of the axe in all of its humble, empowering glory.
The tool that inspired an entire company did more than that—it set the stage for creating products of great intention, that essentially would inspire people use their hands more. Each item is a tool, and there’s no doubt in its ability to perform when they’re made with only the highest quality materials by master craftsmen who put purpose at the forefront of everything that they do.
It’s an impressive journey for a company that began in a minuscule workshop.
It’s an impressive journey for a company that began in a minuscule workshop. Realizing his dream alone was never the actual dream. For Buchanan-Smith, bringing global appeal to his passion project, inspiring a generation to work more, and supplying them with the equipment and goods that they need to make life easier was the ultimate success story, and i’s sure to continue in his wake.