In his Provincetown studio, Victor Powell creates custom leather goods with Old World techniques.
Steps away from Provincetown’s Lobster Pot Restaurant, a simple sign comprised of the words “THE WORKSHOP” and a large wooden sandal draws curious visitors away from the commotion of Commercial Street down a quaint alley.
A set of wooden stairs at the alley’s end leads up past a wall covered with morning glory vines to a beautiful view of the ocean and an unassuming workshop with the Rolling Stones playing softly from a back room.
“I’m in what’s known as a destination location,” says Victor Powell, who has been working in this space since 1999. “Once you come past the bikers and the funk in the alley, you reach this oasis up here.”
Victor Powell has been designing and creating high quality leather goods since 1967, and legions of notable buyers from around the world have traveled to The Workshop to have pairs of his famous leather sandals fitted, fashioned, and signed as unique, wearable art pieces.
In 2006, fashion designer Michael Kors commissioned Powell to make all of the footwear for his spring menswear 2006 Collection, which was exhibited at a runway show during New York City’s Fashion Week. Three months later, Vanity Fair pictured Nicole Kidman wearing a pair of Powell’s sandals. Even Cardinal O’Malley of Boston purchased a pair of his sandals a few years ago.
The artisan’s studio is chock-full of an eclectic mix of leather materials, shelves full of tools and journals, rows of finished sandals and belts, and collections of hand-stitched briefcases, bags, agendas, organizers, and portfolios.
Powell moves smoothly through his workspace, reaching instinctively for leathercraft tools. He epitomizes an artist’s cool, standing tall yet relaxed in jeans and a casual button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. A checkered scarf is wrapped artfully around his neck and tucked into a soft black vest. He wears glasses that give him an air of erudition, and he has a head of short, shocking white hair and a small goatee. Sparky, his large affectionate canine trots freely around the studio.
Originally from Cocoa Beach, Florida, Powell learned how to make leather goods shortly after he moved to Boston in 1967. He is self-taught, having enjoyed the craft as a hobby before deciding to make it into a career. After a brief return to Florida, he came back north, eventually moving to Provincetown in 1974—a time when leather artisans were found everywhere.