Tulsan’s camera gear is used across the globe.
Matt Swaggart’s camera gear and other leather products were born out of his experience as a professional photographer.
In a nondescript office in south Tulsa, Matt Swaggart is studying a cushioned shoulder strap, measuring the piece and taking notes. His goal is to create the most comfortable one available. It’s his latest endeavor for Holdfast Gear, the company he started six years ago.
Swaggart started his career in graphic design and video production, and became a professional photographer in 2002.
To meet the needs of his job — which included shooting up to 25 weddings per year — he often wore the standard black neoprene straps to hold his camera gear. He always thought they were uncomfortable and did not look appealing in a formal setting.
In 2011, Swaggart says he was at a low point and felt it was time for a change.
“I felt like I was spinning my wheels,” says the Oral Roberts University graduate. “Being 30, I really wanted to focus in on what I was doing with my life. I’d just had a second kid, didn’t know what to do and was frustrated. So I prayed for guidance, and this idea came to me a few days later.”
Swaggart says he has always loved the image of the 1970s detective with the leather gun holster that holds a revolver. He decided to create a similar tool for camera equipment. Within two weeks, he’d built a prototype.
Fast-forward to today, and Holdfast is an industry leader.
Swaggart says his gear has been used on every continent. His product line has expanded beyond camera equipment into high-quality leather lifestyle apparel like luggage and briefcases.
Nearly all his leather is sourced from the U.S., and most everything is made in Tulsa. He currently outsources duffel bag production to New York, but soon plans to bring it in-house, where he has one full-time employee.
“I wake up surprised every day,” Swaggart says. “I thought I was just going to be a photographer the rest of my life. I never had a vision or a dream I’d be doing something like this, and I’m humbled by it.”