Director of Design Hollin Norwood’s Creative Spirit Drove Him to a Love of Leather. A craftsman at his core, Hollin isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty when sourcing the best possible raw materials for Ariat’s diverse collection of boots.
Hollin Norwood is best defined as a creative genius. He follows his passion to create, whatever it may be, and wherever it takes him. Today, that is a career designing cowboy boots, something his younger self would never have predicted. Born and raised in North Carolina, Hollin spent his childhood as many kids do in the south – playing in the woods. With ample space to roam between his family’s plot of land, the neighbors, and the nearest town over, Hollin passed his time by exploring nearby wooded areas. It gave his imagination a chance to blossom into what would eventually become his career.
“I never took an art class as a kid, but always had a big imagination, and at some point, your imagination gets a chance to become something bigger.”
At first, Hollin thought globally, wanting to study German Linguistics in college. However, he quickly realized it wasn’t the path for him. Instead, he set his sights on something decidedly different that would marry his love for creativity with natural textiles that evoked a sense of place, specifically the American West. At North Carolina State, Hollin landed on a dual design and textile science program. He taught himself to sew and how to work with various natural materials, concluding that textiles aren’t all that different; in fact, they are all inter-connected in some way.
For Hollin, leather became the ultimate expression of raw material – a blank canvas in which you can find beauty in imperfection. He turned to footwear first as a freelance design consultant, then as a full-time design director at Ariat where he discovered what has become a lifelong passion.
Dedication to Craftsmanship
Quality, comfort, durability, and usability are the DNA of Ariat and guide the development of every product we create. To design and produce Ariat boots that stand the test of time and last through the toughest of conditions, Hollin and his team source raw material – hides – that are stout, rugged, and thick. In order to find these hides, Hollin works closely with tannery partners, continuously making trips back and forth to see and touch hides in person and get his hands dirty (literally). His obsession with seeking out these hides comes from a desire to find the perfect material that is both durable and beautiful.
Hollin searches for hides based on what he envisions the end result to be, and his background in the science of textile design plays an important role in how he selects these materials. If he’s designing a lifestyle boot, he looks for leather that is soft, flexible and able to withstand the addition of details such as intricate flower embroideries. If he’s designing a work boot, he’ll search for something that’s tough and that won’t be damaged by constant wear in harsh elements. By first imagining how a raw material will affect the performance of a finished product, Hollin is able to make boots for any kind of job or occasion.
“The performance you need from a given fabric or hide goes back to the raw material. It means you always know the worth of the end product and have the knowledge to create a really great boot from the ground up.”
Coming Full Circle
As important as it is for Hollin to use the best leather possible for his designs, it is of equal importance that we understand and appreciate where our leather comes from. As a part of the Leather Working Group, Ariat has committed to investing in hides from cattle that are better cared for, and the highest quality available on the market. We source a majority of our hides from American cattle ranchers, as we believe that the best hides come from the U.S. Our work together with these ranchers presents a unique symbiotic relationship in which we work directly with the demographic who will eventually purchase and wear our boots.
“We use U.S. hides because our customers are working on ranches where they come from. The circularity of it is so cool. I’m far more interested in the farmer and worker and the impact that making boots here has on them.”
Hollin and the rest of the Ariat team understand the importance of sourcing local and supporting the people who are representative of our company values. That spirit is what drives Hollin’s creativity and energy to design Ariat boots that are as durable, comfortable and stylish as they are symbolic to the community that wears them.