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York River Traders' Compass Belt Buckles 'Tease a Little Bit'

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In Behind the Brand we uncover the stories behind New England's brightest emerging brands and look ahead to what their future holds.

The regional men's accessories market is booming as of late, with New England guys taking extra measures to stand out in a sea of J.Crew, Vineyard Vines, and Ralph Lauren. One of the brands making waves with its distinctive wardrobe add-ons is York River Traders, a Holbrook-based brand founded by brother-sister duo Madeleine and Ted Mariner about a year and a half ago. Initially started as a way for Madeleine to produce the line's shotgun cufflinks ($75-$175), the company has become known for its sailing line belts ($98), featuring flattened colorful rope with a leather backing and completed with a patented compass-etched brass buckle that Ted notes "teases a little bit" and begs for a second look.

Pulling influence from their shared experience spending summers and winters in York Harbor, the family brand speaks to popular sporting sensibilities from duck hunting, sailing, and fishing. Tying back to that Maine heritage, the Mariners also see domestic manufacturing as a core value to York River Traders, producing their cufflinks in Massachusetts and their belts in New Hampshire, in addition to a selection of hand-sewn bowties ($49-65) sourced in Kennebunkport, Maine. Ted elaborates: "We thought it was something important to do for the boutique style of creating high end items. Our New Hampshire manufacturer actually just hired someone to help make our belts; that's one of the best feelings I've had in a long time."

York River Traders has found a home in several Boston-area stores, including The Andover Shop in Harvard Square, Ball and Buck, and North River Outfitter. When asked about the challenges learned in entering the brick-and-mortar space, Ted cites the need to differentiate. "Provide something new that fits within the context of that particular retailer that doesn't compete or cannibalize the other stuff there. You gotta make it different, you gotta make it cool, and you gotta make it well." And make it well they do, working with a factory that has 150 years of leather experience under its belt.
· York River Traders [Official Site]