Lyndsey Butler, Designer, VEDA
Lyndsey Butler was born in Texas and moved to NYC at the tender age of eighteen. At twenty-one, she got her first job in fashion and after spending a few years in the industry, accumulating all the necessary know-how, this Dixie transplant decided to create the perfect leather jacket, thus launching VEDA. With an emphasis on fit and materials of the highest quality, Lindsey sees leather as an elegant layer between you and the elements of modern living. Now, VEDA has your entire wardrobe covered and still holds fast to Lyndsey's founding principles. Today Lisa Says Gah takes you to the Chinatown headquarters of Veda for a chat with Lyndsey about the first leather jacket she loved, starting a business at twenty-three and valuable lessons learned through collaboration. Enjoy!
LSG: Hey, Lyndsey! You moved to NYC from Texas at 18. Can you describe the mixture of feelings you had going on at the time?
So many feelings… I didn’t know anyone in NYC. I was excited, scared, naive, open, etc. It was a very rare and unique feeling to be completely alone in such a crowded, vibrant place. But, I was ready for whatever was next. I am super close with my family, so that was tough, but cell phones made a huge difference. I talked to them all the time which helped ease some of those initial feelings.
LSG: What was your first fashion related job and how do you see that experience connecting to your current endeavor?
My first internship was for the brand YA-YA, and quickly became my first job, and the jumping off point for VEDA.
LSG: Did you every consider designing in-house for another brand? What inspired you to branch out independently and pioneer your own?
I started VEDA when I was 23, so I didn’t know much. I just knew I wanted to work for myself. Now I think about it sometimes; it would be cool to have the resources of a huge design house. Designing on a big scale, for a brand with an established identity, would be a fun challenge.
LSG: How did you go about naming your company? Does "Veda" have anything to do with the Hindu Vedic texts?
It does! In Sanskrit, Veda means “truth,” which is something I cherish and actively seek.
LSG: Who do you imagine wearing your designs? Do you have a muse in mind?
Initially, I just imagine myself wearing it. That is the easiest mental leap. After that, I think about my friends, the Veda team, and my mom.
LSG: How does your community influence your collections?
I live and work in Chinatown, and I love the wild print and fabric mixing I see on my daily walk to work. In general, I find downtown NYC incredibly vibrant and inspiring in the way of style.
LSG: Do you work alone? If not, tell us about your team.
I LOVE my team! I also LOVE being alone, so it’s a tricky dance. I want to be present and engaging when I am at the office, but I also like to put my head down and get lost in work.
LSG: Where do you source inspiration and how do you organize it? Do you have a sketchbook, make mood boards or use Pinterest?
All of the above, though I am more of list writer than a sketcher. It is easier for me to describe what I am thinking verbally and then create it visually.
LSG; What themes are influencing your work right now?
Art, literature, and travel are usually big influences every season. We are working on our Resort collection, and we’ve been looking at a lot of work by the painter Ana Mercedes Hoyos, and the photographer Uta Barth. I’ve also been reading some Kinky Friedman novels. He’s witty and great.
LSG: Can you tell us about your process of designing a collection? What is the lifecycle of design at your company?
We start every collection with inspiration and color. Usually, it begins as a series of conversations between our Design Director, Jess Cambronero, and myself. After that, we start sketching and merchandising. Because we develop 90% of our samples in our studio, we quickly jump into prototype sampling and make changes to each style at the different stages. I am always pleasantly surprised when it all comes together. It’s very rewarding to see that you aren’t crazy and that there were a plan and vision in the final designs.
Because we are a small company, we are simultaneously designing, selling, shipping, producing, fitting and developing. For example, at this moment we are designing our 2017 Resort collection, selling our Fall 2016 collection, wrapping up production on Spring 2016, fitting and confirming production on our Pre-Fall 2016 collection. It’s pretty crazy, but each phase informs the other. Whenever I come out of a production fitting, I’m typically already thinking about how I can make this style better next season. Or, a sales appointment will push me to think about what we need to include in the next collection.
LSG: Materials obviously play a huge part in your line, tell us about why you choose the main ones you do.
The original concept behind VEDA was to create the perfect leather jacket. That said, we are always bringing in new materials to work with our leather core. This Fall we’re working with a wide wale cord, and also a lush silk velvet.
LSG: Why did you start with a leather jacket?
I love everything about leather jackets. I love how iconic they are, and what they represent. A leather jacket is special; it’s an investment. It’s a piece you can wear every day for years. They’re powerful. They make you feel cool and strong and ready to take on the world.
LSG: Describe your very first leather jacket (That you didn't make).
My first leather jacket was from Gap; it was a Christmas present. It was a beautiful, distressed, brown suede. One day I left it in my dad’s truck while we went to see a movie and someone stole it. I never liked another leather jacket as much as that one, until I started making them.
LSG: What are a few things people probably don't know about working with Leather as a material in design?
Each leather skin is unique. They vary in size, texture, thickness. When working with a natural material like leather, it is important to understand that and embrace it.
LSG: What do you think holds people back from starting a business?
Starting a business is scary. Typically in life, you have someone telling you what to do in some capacity, whether it is a parent, or a teacher, or a boss. It can be scary to realize there isn’t anyone else above you in the hierarchy. You are the end of the line. It can be a lot of responsibility.
LSG: As a business owner, what advice would you share with someone interested in starting a company?
Have confidence. Be bold, but also flexible. Be humble. Ask for help and guidance along the way.
LSG: Describe the first year of going independent. What was your mantra to get through hurdles?
I think I was so busy, that I never thought about it too much. I was just trying to survive! I enjoy learning and challenging myself, which is something that you are doing non-stop in those first years. It can be tough at the moment, but also rewarding afterward. I still do that now. I like new projects — like opening a retail store or making baby leather jackets —just to shake things up.
LSG: You have done some pretty exciting collaborations. What have you learned from working so closely with other designers and companies?
You learn a lot by collaborating — both about the other person and yourself. I think I can be overly accommodating, to a fault. Also, it’s been great to observe other people with similar roles as me. I love seeing how other people structure their team.
LSG: Does intuition play a part in your design process? Do you experience a gut feeling when something "works" or doesn't?
Yes, 100%. It all feels very intuitive.
LSG: How deep does fashion go for you? Do you see it intersect with culture in a broad sense?
It’s more about style than fashion, to me. I am always thinking about style. When I watch a movie, read a book, look at art it's all about style. But, fashion is universal everyone is involved whether they know it or not. We all make decisions about how we dress every day.
LSG: What are a few things you love that have nothing to do with fashion?
I love cheese, my home state of Texas, my boyfriend, flowers and plants, the color blue, the moon.
LSG: Tell us a little bit about your routine. Five things for a stress-free day?
Doing prep the day before is a great way to alleviate 'day of' stress.
Finding some alone time
Eat healthily and often, and maybe drink some tequila