When did you first start sewing?
I started sewing when I was 16. I went to school at Pratt for fashion and figured I would be doing clothing after school but I fell into accessories and it just worked.
How would you describe your path to starting your business?
I kind of made a few things to start like for my senior collection in college I made outfits that had leather jackets to coordinate with each piece. I had this company that made this 1950's printed cotton and I lined each of the jackets with that. Then I had all this leather scrap left over and made myself a wallet and I was making wristbands out of scraps and all my cousins were like "we love these! Our friends want these!" So I started taking my stuff to stores and it pretty much has grown organically since then. Slow and steady has been my motto.
How would you describe your design philosophy? Where do you look for inspiration?
Anything can inspire me. I do find that I'm very inspired by the hides themselves so when I go to Italy for the leather fair I tend to just see whatever catches my eye. I'm not reinventing the wheel so it's all about doing it differently or better so I try to offer really basic minimal shapes that people will actually want to use. That's something that's really important to me.
It's really fun to watch people come in and discover your leathers. Can you describe a little more how and why you choose the finishes?
I know Cameron Marks carries stocks a lot of foil finishes which happen to be some of my favorites. One thing that's really important to me is that the hides are going to hold up over time. Most of the hides I use are meant to kinda distress and work in, become your own, and last for a very long time. So the longevity is definitely something that's key to me. Kinda classic, even though they might be fun colors, something that I'll want to use for years. Many of the hides I've been working with for years so I know how that leather is going to wear over time. If I ever encounter an issue with a hide I stop using it because I don't want my customers to have any issues as the piece breaks in.
Can you tell us more about where and how your pieces are made?
Unfortunately, I've had to take a step back from the sewing since I was in a car accident a few years ago but everything is cut and branded in house here in Brooklyn. I also have a team of sewers that sew everything locally in Brooklyn. That's very important to me. I definitely don't want to take the production to a larger factory where I'm detached from the process.
What is it like running your own business?
There's a plus and a minus to everything...haha. I'm not much of a morning person so I tend to come into the studio around noon but that means I'm going to be working until midnight or later. The downside is that at the end of the day all of the stress falls on me personally but it's a tradeoff because I love the idea of being able to put my name on my work. I get to do things the way I want to do them too. I know it's not typical as most people tend to do 10-12 colors a season and I'm close to 50, but I do it because that's something I want to do. I can try to do things a little differently if I want to.
Where do you live and how does your environment influence your business?
I live in Williamsburg. I got the space through a friend and it's an awesome deal. It's one of those things when you find a good apartment in New York you never want to leave. I recently moved my studio to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to a space with lots of artists artists. It's a very helpful and cooperative space, I love it. I always joke that we can make anything happen here because there's a wood, metal shop and another leather designer who's really amazing. It's given me a resurgence of inspiration and helped me continue to be happy about what I'm doing.
Where do you love to take people when they come to visit?
One of my favorite places is actually a traditional english restaurant called Tea & Sympathy which is a very comfy little restaurant that has the best mac and cheese in the world. So that's my spot. I'm friends with Kristina of Satomi Studio and she was staying with me recently for a trade show and we went to Donut Plant, I'm a huge fan of donuts!
We heard you are working on a few collaborations, is that something you can talk about?
Yeah there are a few in the works! I'm going to be working with Kristina from Satomi Studio which I'm reluctant to talk about at length but I'm very excited about it. We shopped the gem show together and bought a bunch of stuff and I'll be out to work on some things in Santa Cruz when I'm in town for the trunk show. I've also been working with Heather Marie Heaton who makes leather moccasins and we've been talking about collaborating which is very exciting because I've always wanted to do footwear. I just spoke with an old friend who just opened his own store on Atlantic Ave called 'Hunting with Jake' and he's been asking me for more men's stuff so I think we're going to collaborate on a few items that are more targeted to men.
Okay, one last question. Where do you see Tracey Tanner going in the future?
Up to this point everything has really grown organically so I really want to keep doing things that way. I do know I really want to get into footwear so I'm really excited about that collaboration. Every collaboration I've done has been with people I've been friends with for a long time and we have a mutual admiration for each others products and that's really something I hope to always do.
Thanks so much to Tracey Tanner for giving us a look into her life and business. We can't wait for the Pop Up shop on April 25th! We hope you can join us :)