Couch founder Dan Perkins has been making vegan guitar straps since 1999. Yes, you read that correctly — vegan guitar straps.
“Vegan means a few things,” he says. “First and foremost, all the materials we use have zero parts that came from a living thing. While not all of us working at Couch are vegan, some are, and it makes all of us feel good to make a product that is cruelty-free.”
As many great stories go, it all started with a guitar.
“I bought an old, gold Fender Telecaster as my first electric guitar and wanted to get a good strap for it,” says Perkins. “Other than all black, I was shocked I couldn’t find anything I even vaguely liked. It was nearly as simple as that — the idea for Couch was born.”
Besides agreeable weather, southern California has an abundance of vintage upholstery warehouses where materials once used for cars and furniture are stored.
“We try to find as much of this stuff as possible,” says Couch’s day-to-day operations guru Matt Fry. “It really is like a treasure hunt at times.
“Some of the stuff is literally 30- to 40-year-old material that was originally purposed for use on chairs and couches. We also work extensively with vintage deadstock auto vinyl — materials that were used as seat covers, interior panels, trunkliners and hardtops in classic autos like GTOs, Mustangs and Volkswagens from the 60s, 70s and 80s.”
Over time, the company has grown. Perkins started out using smaller Los Angeles-based production houses to do runs of 50 or so “less-than-perfect straps” that he’d sell on eBay — all the while slowly learning the ins and outs of industrial sewing production.
“It took about five more years of learning to sew and pounding the pavement of practically every production house in greater LA to figure out the combination of machinery, designs, materials, and production methods until I got to a point where I felt like we had an idea of what we were doing.”
So in 2006, Perkins moved his sewing machines out of his apartment garage into a small warehouse where his band practiced. Today, Couch still operates out of that Signal Hill, California, location and offers more than 120 unique vegan guitar straps that range from $20-$60. And in true California style, they’ve expanded their line to use every scrap of material possible.
“We get bored of making just straps,” jokes Fry. “We use as much as possible on straps and belts, but adding wallets and pick holders has been a great way for us to use the smaller pieces of material and scraps left over from the strap process and reduce the amount of waste involved with making our straps.
“More than anything, we’re looking to make things we’d like to own ourselves. So if we can get excited about a made-in-the-USA, cruelty-free, handmade wallet, camera strap, dog leash, sunglasses case, etc., then we feel pretty good that there are a lot of other people out there who will, too. Especially when we have a cool range of vintage materials to work with.”
And judging by the impressive list of pros rocking Couch straps — Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio), Nels Cline (Wilco), Bill Kelliher (Mastodon), Nikki Monninger (Silversun Pickups) and John Cale (The Velvet Underground) to name a few — people are into it, which makes Perkins very happy.
“I am stoked on Couch and feel extremely lucky, mainly because we ship direct to our customers, so we get to communicate with them every day,” he says. “It’s so rad to make something that people are thankful for and excited about!”
For more info on Couch Straps, go to couchguitarstraps.com
Note: This interview was originally featured in Tone Report Weekly