“Belt buckles are a little rebellious,” says designer Laura Shape, “and that’s inherently sexy.”
Shape, owner and designer at For Love & Legacy, isn’t talking about your basic D-ring or—for the logo-obsessed—a double “G” Gucci belt. Instead, her Denver-based buckle brand caters to those looking to make a statement. “There aren’t a lot of powerful, sexy, anti-establishment things for women to wear. So the more I do this, the more I like that idea.”
Shape’s been making jewelry in one form or another since childhood—from crafting leather and fishhook bracelets as a teen to taking metalsmithing and jewelry-making courses in college. She began designing her timeless, cool-girl brass buckles about eight years ago while living in Los Angeles and working as a graphic designer. When she relocated to Denver last year to remarry, she formally launched For Love & Legacy.
Initially, Shape’s designs focused on powerful symbols like Shiva in the ring of fire (her very first design), the Medusa, and the lotus flower. However, her more recent work features antique and ornate imagery, while maintaining the oversized scale and detail that are signatures of her aesthetic.
Shape sculpts her buckles using lost-wax casting. In this process, a mold is sculpted in hard jeweler’s wax, and then filled with molten metal; once the mold is made, the wax is burned out of it, thus the name “lost wax.” If something goes wrong, she has to start over.
But her process isn’t all old-school; because of her graphic design background, Shape uses Photoshop and Illustrator to help plan her designs. Once she finalizes an outline, it’s sculpted by hand, so that the finished image is entirely unique. A foundry in Indiana does the casting, and her belt straps are dyed and handmade by an artisan leather company in Los Angeles, which keeps nearly all of her production in the U.S.
In the last year, Shape has dramatically changed the look of her buckles by adding new elements, like metallic and color resin paints (a time-consuming process, as each color is applied by hand on every buckle). Our current favorite? The Queen Bee buckle with red resin and a shimmery leather strap that has the appearance of brushed gold. The combination of colors and textures makes the buckle look like a piece of antique jewelry that’s been handed down for generations.