Tooling Up

Mike Payne crafts hand-tooled leather and denim goods

Originally from Mokane, Missouri, Mike Payne has been making Burgundy Circus Hardgoods, a line of handmade bags and accessories, here in Kansas City since 2013. While working full time in the telecommunications industry, Payne designs and crafts his product at night and on the weekends. The hardworking yet stylish bags made of leather and denim provide a utilitarian elegance for the long haul, whether you’re carrying fresh produce, your workout clothes or a few bottles to a dinner with friends.

Kansas City Spaces: You’re working full-time professionally, but this seems like more than a hobby.

Mike Payne: I’m trying my hardest to make Burgundy Circus a full-time gig, but I’m not quite there yet. I work a lot of late nights and when time allows on weekends. It’s exhausting and gratifying all at the same time.

KCS: How did you get started?

MP: I’m self-trained. I was always a huge fan of Wood & Faulk, Strawfoot, and Ewing Dry Goods. I knew these guys sewed and hand-stitched all of their canvas and leather goods and decided to give it a shot. I had a sewing machine lying around, so I youtube’d a video and sewed my first camo twill weekender bag about three years ago. That bag is still being used. I approached leather the same way. I bought a side of leather and some basic tools and I’ve been using the first slim card wallet that I made for three years now. I just learned my process as I went along.

KCS: Handcrafted leather goods are having a resurgence, but incorporating denim is a fresh and interesting take. What made you want to bring those materials together?

MP: I am first and foremost a huge denim aficionado (nerd). I love the way a raw pair of denims will fade and take on the characteristics of the owner’s everyday life. Leather is the same way, especially in its natural state. The more it is used and handled, the more it gains a beautiful patina and tells its own story.

KCS: Where are your products available?

MP: Around Kansas City I’m lucky enough to have my products carried in Urban Provisions General Store, Made in KC, West Side Storey and Houndstooth. I also just got picked up by Gidget’s Garage in Columbia. I’ve done several collaborations with Cable & Company. (Check out Payne’s website at

KCS: What’s your biggest challenge?

MP: The biggest challenge has been just getting the word out. It’s a slow organic process, but it’s starting to pay off. I tend to do everything myself, which takes a lot of time and energy, but this way there is no miscommunication between the client and me. Sourcing the material is the fun part and learning how different weights and materials wear and react to everyday use is so awesome.