Photographs by Emily Dulla
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. How did growing up in California influence the rest of your life?
I grew up in the Santa Barbara mountains in a house my parents built over the course of about 10 years. My parents were antique dealers and great designers and our house was always full of eclectic art, jewelry and textiles. We lived far enough out from town that you would hike to your friend's houses, or find creative ways to entertain yourself. Being outside, surfing, making things was a big part of my youth. It helps breathe a bit of independence into you that can be hard to shake. Everyday I try to get outside and create a little bit of this kind of environment in my life.
When & how did you first become interested in working with leather and jewelry making?
When I was about 15 I was helping my grandma and we came across some beautiful deer hides that she had tanned years back. She gave me the hides as well as some tools and taught me a bit about basic leather work. I began to realize the satisfaction of using thing that you had handmade. Working with leather was great because it provides many limitations- it was about taking the time, observing the material and keeping it simple, which is important in all design. I started making jewelry with scraps left behind and overtime my interest evolved and I found myself incorporating other materials and refining my aesthetic.
You spent some time living and working in Mexico; How did that shape your life and your career path?
Living in Mexico happened somewhat unintentionally. I had just finished college and as much as I wanted to, I didn't have a set plan yet, so I took a trip down there. I got a job and then a month long trip turned into 3 months, then 6, then a little over a year. I worked, surfed and made things. There was a lot of space for creativity and I didn't many of the distractions and anxieties I would have had back home. I learned how to be happy through simplifying my life. These days I work a ton and tend to take on as much as I can handle and so it is great to try to remember the value of just cutting back sometimes, simplifying, and make space for what you love most.
Who is the customer you design for? Do you have a dream customer?
Having my store in Oakland, CA has been an amazing experience because I get to meet so many awesome people and see them wearing the pieces. Oakland is a really diverse place, so you get the full spectrum of people shopping the line which has been rewarding to see. Dream customer? I had Linda Evangelista (who has been on the cover of Vogue more times then one can count) purchase some pieces from me the first month I started out. I figured that if someone who has been in the industry for so long liked it, then maybe this could work.
Can you tell us about your design process? How does a single piece go from an idea in your head to a finished product?
When I go to design a new collection I begin with drawings and then I start putting materials together and experimenting. Properly using materials is crucial to me - Find what is unique about leather and show that. Bring out what is different about brass. I make tons of samples and start pulling things together and seeing how the scale is working, the weight, the balance. Making all of my samples is critical to my process; working, adapting, and changing them as needed. Some styles come together in a few hours and other times I will spend days and get nothing. I know a piece is done when I want to take off whatever I have on and wear that one instead.
What have been your proudest moments and your biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge was getting over the intimidation of going into this industry. I thought there was some magic formula for making it happen. Turns out its mostly about being willing to work really hard, do things you don't think you can pull off, and having your eyes peeled for lucky breaks. As far as running my business goes- creating a system where we can make everything for my line by hand in our studio in Oakland has also been a huge challenge. It feels good though- building your team, making it by hand and feeling proud of the camaraderie you create.
Can you tell us about your UO collab?
Working with UO, we wanted to design great statement pieces for a wide audience. I feel like the type of person that shops at Urban Outfitters is so diverse that I really wanted the styles to be bold but wearable by someone of a variety of fashion leanings. We kept the pieces very true to my line and we made them easy to wear for a wide audience.