Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In a clutch-metal and chic

Ketchum manufacturer takes on fashion industry

Express Staff Writer

Howard and Peggy Trott design and manufacture CherryCase clutches at their Ketchum-based business, the Sawtooth Design Group.
Photo by David N. Seelig
Howard and Peggy Trott not only share a love for each other but a love for invention. Howard's love for fine Italian automobiles and Peggy's love of beautiful purses led the couple to produce a high-fashion purse, the CherryCase clutch, in Ketchum.

Manufactured in Ketchum's light-industrial area in a 3,000-square-foot space on Warm Springs Road, the CherryCase clutch is produced by the Sawtooth Design Group, owned and operated by the Trotts. The company is a manufacturer of door hardware, furniture, signs and other fine-crafted products made primarily of metal.

"How do you take a love of high-quality cars and translate it into fashion?" Howard Trott asked. "I grew up playing with and fixing cars. The early Ferraris and Maseratis were inspiring."

Having the equipment to produce a sleek metal clutch gave Trott the impetus to design shapes for the CherryCase. Trott said the shapes of his beloved Italian autos were the inspiration behind much of the CherryCase clutch design.

The CherryCase is precision-milled to within one-thousandth of an inch. Each is coated with an extremely smooth, powder-gloss finish in the owner's choice of colors, with additional options for engraving a custom monogram or logo. Trott said a CherryCase can be gold-plated in 24K gold for a little extra "bling."

The clutches are lined with leather from free-range cattle that is a byproduct of the beef and dairy industries. The leather is processed without chrome or other toxic substances. Each CherryCase is made from 50 percent recycled aluminum.

"The aluminum is a recycled product that is light and strong," Trott said. "I use an aircraft-quality product, which holds fine lines and shapes."

Trott's computerized aluminum-shaping equipment can cut any shape. Once the high-precision milling machine is programmed, it takes two to three hours to spin the material for each clutch.

"The machine has to go back and forth thousands of times to make the shape, which is why it takes so long," Trott said. "To make sure things are done right, it takes time. It's a risk [financially], but we want to be proud of what we do."

A lathe at the Sawtooth Design Group in Ketchum spins material automatically to make parts for chic CherryCase clutch.
Photo by Roland Lane
Trott is no stranger to taking risks or inventing. A part-time Ketchum resident since 2006, his main home is in Kirkland, Wash., where he is a partner in a business called Form, which manufactures environmentally friendly house components. He is also managing partner of the Teanaway Solar Reserve, a planned 75-megawatt solar facility in central Washington.

"We are a U.S.-based manufacturer of purses," he said. "We have to be true to what we do. It's nice to have something built locally and this happens in Ketchum, Idaho. It's our home. We invest our money in the U.S."

Trott said the door hardware is more challenging and involves more mechanics. The clutches happen to fit his machines capabilities.

"We're not a cast product," he said. "Accuracy and precision are very important parts of design. It's all integrated. There are no add-ons. The purse is super strong, and it fits most people's hands."

Each CherryCase comes in a protected box made from environmentally friendly, LEED-certified Richlite, a popular countertop material. The starting price of the CherryCase clutch is $2,000.

As the purses are becoming discovered, Trott said, he's learning more about the fashion industry.

"We have had a request for a chain," he said. "That is another design project."

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