Sep 9 2013
Stock your shelves with meaning! Next week, Capsule will play host to a stellar product-filled environment where attendees can get familiar with Etsy’s new, exclusive wholesale marketplace, Etsy Wholesale. Retailers rejoice, it just got a whole lot easier to find a slew of amazing, independent product.
SHELTER/ ETSY X CAPSULE
Designers Rob Maddox and Karie Reinertson spent the summer of 2010 in Vermont. It was there, between days filled with hiking, swimming, cabin-building and foraging, the two conceived of Shelter, their line of handbags and accessories.
Shelter’s aesthetic is elegant yet rustic, playing up the contrast between utilitarian materials designed to endure like vegetable-tanned leather and waxed canvas, and the softer, brighter notes of ’70s-inspired textiles.
When the two moved to Asheville, North Carolina, Karie began working on Shelter full time. “I was instantly surprised at how fulfilling it was,” says Karie. “Sure, there were days when I was tired and fried, but I was always excited to work on new designs.”
All of Shelter’s products are made in the USA and composed of American-made fabrics whenever possible. Despite the line’s increasing demands on the couples’ time, Karie and Rob still make room for hiking, cooking and jumping in rivers.
Photos by Winnie Au
UPPER METAL CLASS/ ETSY X CAPSULE
“I love doing what I’m doing: being my own boss, putting my time into my own dreams instead of someone else’s.”
T, designer of Upper Metal Class, worked a number of different fashion jobs before eventually realizing her passion for jewelry. The first piece she made was a pair of dainty triangle earrings with a slight curve on each corner. It was the sort of modified classic that defines Upper Metal Class’s style to this day.
“Random people on the street would ask me if I’d make them one too, and I slowly started designing for other people.” Eventually, T could no longer keep up with customer demand. She had to quit her job in production to focus full time on fulfillment.
T’s pieces center around elegant geometric shapes with slightly off-kilter details. Her unique aesthetic comes in large part from allowing the process to play a hand in her work. “Often, I’ll start creating with one idea in mind and by the time it’s finished, it’s become something else entirely.”
Her Imperfect Faceted Necklace, for example, was realized after a fissure in a straightforward pendant was incorporated into the necklace’s final design. “It wasn’t what I wanted to happen, but I respond to things that a lot of other people would consider a mistake.”
When T’s not designing, she spends time giving back to her community. Just last month, T accompanied her mother, an expatriate of wartime Vietnam, on a trip back home where they arranged an informal Mother’s Day celebration. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my community”, says T. “I want to help out however I can.”
SOLID MANUFACTURING COMPANY/ ETSY X CAPSULE
Solid Manufacturing Company designers Dan Cordell and Alex Worre offer their customers the opportunity to shop quality homeware and small leathergoods that are affordable, stylish and made in the USA.
Founded in the winter of 2012, Solid Manufacturing Co. is influenced by the woodworking and leatherworking from America’s dustbowl era. “We want our products to outlive our customers. We believe in the longevity of our pieces, so we won’t sell a product unless we can be sure that we’ll be able to stand behind it forever,” Alex says.
That means a lot of prototyping. Every piece that Solid Manufacturing produces is used, shared and tested before it’s sold online or in-store.
Dan and Alex are committed to local production, quality materials and practicality. “We really care about small space living and all of our products are designed with that in mind,” says Alex.
Solid Manufacturing’s customer base is taking note. “When we officially launched our biz on Etsy, we had an unbelievable response. In the first month, our products were being sent to over forty states, eight countries and four continents. After sending out those orders, we pulled out a world map and started pinning. Taking a step back and seeing all of the new homes Solid Manufacturing Co. products were going to was definitely a wow moment for us.”
TUMBLEWEEDS/ ETSY X CAPSULE
In two years of business, selling online and through Etsy, Doug Switalski and Beca Lewis Skeels have made over 5,000 pairs of their much-coveted hand-crafted wood sunglasses.
“We only did it as something for fun. It turned into a business all on its own. I had no expectations, so every success we’ve felt along the way has been such a surprise to us. The fear of it all going away keeps us driven to put out new products and try and do better, just like anyone.”
Each new style that Doug and Beca create is inspired in part by their nomadic history. The couple met in Tucson, Arizona, moved to California (with stops in Florida and Chatanooga), and have finally settled in Louisville, Kentucky, where they design sunglasses in a renovated Jamboree Hall across the road from their house.
“We pull materials from where we are in the moment. For example, the slate rock comes from the fishing hole by our shop. We try and take the world around us and then be a little brave, because if you don’t take risks, you’ll never know if something’s going to work out or not.
Their latest collection incorporates more stonework, using turquoise and corals to create a look that’s uniquely their own.
betsy & iya / ETSY X CAPSULE
Husband and Wife design duo Will Cervarich and Betsy Cross design their line of bohemian, artfully constructed jewelry out of their brick and mortar store in Portland, Oregon. There they sell pieces from their private label as well as from fellow independent designers and artists across the country, they demonstrate production techniques in their open studio and manage their growing staff of ten.
“It’s beyond more than selling something and making money, it’s about an experience and connection to the work; it’s about a lifestyle, ” says Betsy.
The customers that flock to betsy & iya come looking for something different and off the beaten track. Bracelets and necklaces made from matte and oxidized metals and etched with graphic elements comprise the mainstay of the line.
Neither Betsy nor Will have any technical training rather their recognizable branding and style is completely intuitive and their jewelry the better for it. Betsy is a perfectionist by nature and insists that her lack of experience enables her to think outside the box as a designer.
“I’m a huge advocate for education and training, but not knowing has forced me to think and create in unconventional ways. I am not burdened by the idea that there is a right way to do things.”
Each piece in the betsy & iya collection comes with its own poetically worded micro-story, further fostering connection between customer and object. Their latest collection Voyage is inspired by Betsy’s travels through Portland, Mexico and Scandinavia and takes influence from various places and times in her life.
“The only way I know how to create is to draw from experience: place, color, culture, people, nature, temperamental weather, good food, art, MUSIC— basically, anything non-pretentious, anything that has real soul to it.”
SCOUT AND CATALOGUE / ETSY X CAPSULE
Photos By Hana Pesut
Scout and Catalogue, a collection of beautifully designed, minimalist handbags and totes, was initially conceptualized as a travel blog.
Founder Breanna Musgrove used the space to chronicle her extended sabbatical in Mexico. The name Scout and Catalogue pays homage to the designer’s intention to scout new culture and catalog her findings.
While in Mexico, Breanna became inspired by the rich artisanal heritage of her surroundings. She began experimenting with fabric dyes to create a series of clutches and scarves, which she put up for sale on Etsy, still in its naissance at the time.
“My line was an exploration. Mexico has a vibrancy to it and the pieces I was making reflected that. I’ve always been attracted to more reserved color palettes, but my line down there was brighter, more expressive, a little jazz hands,” says Breanna laughing.
After a year and a half in Mexico, Breanna moved back to Canada and realized that if she was going to continue to support herself, she’d have to transform Scout and Catalogue in to a viable business. “I had to reexamine what I was doing because I had built this whole brand around living in a different culture and it took me a while to bring my experiences in Mexico together with my Canadian sensibilities.”
Breanna’s designs gradually became more spare and architectural and her palette a touch more muted. She also started to take note of her customers’ reactions to her pieces soliciting customer feedback and responding to product inquiries. In particular, she received an overwhelming positive reaction to her bigger, statement pieces.
“Because my brand started on a blog where I was communicating to a small audience that became much larger as I grew, people never felt like there was a wall between the brand and them. People feel like they have access to the person that’s impacting the designs.“
THOMAS IV / ETSY X CAPSULE
Graduating from college with an interest in the fashion industry can often mean a few years of lackluster interning or assisting (if you’re lucky). Not so for Lia Cinquegrano, designer of Thomas IV handbags, who upon receiving her degree from RISD promptly landed herself the equivalent of a grown-up Never Never Land: a giant studio in Greenpoint with cheap rent and room to create.
The space, a former Catholic Elementary School, attached to Saint Cecilia’s was shared with a dozen of Lia’s fellow classmates, the whole top three floors transformed into studios and artist spaces. “It was perfect. It gave me freedom to make a mess and experiment with new ideas, “says Lia.
Lia studied apparel design at RISD, but quickly realized that handbags were where her true passion lay. “I was going to my studio every night after work and on the weekends, playing around and turning old ‘80’s foil printed leather jackets into handbags.”
After making 15 prototypes, Lia found a local factory to produce five of her best-in-show styles. Her first collection was delivered in store in Spring of 2011. Barney’s and Steven Alan were two of her first retail accounts.
With Thomas IV, Lia’s set out to capture the market on alternative handbags, the holy grail of statement bags that allows the wearer’s unique sense of style to shine (and not a gigantic logo).
“Maybe it was a time when hardware was really “in” or there simply were not any casual yet elevated bags that suited me. I wanted a bag with personality and was thoughtfully constructed. I like to challenge myself to integrate the functional elements of a bag into the design itself. Above all, I try to always be authentic and feel good about my designs.“