I like things that are what they are. Girls in high ponytails and red lipstick. Rigid denim blue jeans. A steamy hamburger, A frothy beer. You can’t change these things for the better, nor would you want to try. They exist wholly, fully, and resolutely in their classic desirability. They are never outré, and because of this; when well-done, they are most certainly always en vogue. My predilection for well-made, hearty classics is what initially drew me to Tanner Goods, a Portland-based company known for their veg-tanned leather wallets, hefty belts, and utilitarian totes. Every item is made lovingly by hand in their workshop; and due the company’s ethos of unmatched attention to detail and a strident commitment to superb quality, the handsomeness of their pieces can only improve over sustained use. Launched fall of 2014, all five pieces which form the backbone of the Tanner Goods Women’s Capsule Collection possess the same quality and timelessness found in their men’s offerings. The wallet may be slightly more compact, the satchels more feminine, and the belt more petite but the collection’s ethos is surely the same – a round-up of sturdy classics that can weather the test of time with grace and verve.
For something to truly bring value into my life – be it a tote bag or a best friend – it must possess one quality above all else, and this quality is versatility. In order to really separate the wheat from the chaff – in both accessories and all else– an element of knee-jerk decision making based on overall versatility and ease of use must be implemented. Consider it, if you will, like speed-dating for your closet. Synthetic fabrics and shoddy construction? Swipe left. Trend—driven silhouettes that will date themselves in a matter of months? Swipe left again. Leggings? Polyester? It-bags? Low-rise anything? Wouldn’t wanna grab a craft beer with any of you fools. Swipe, swipe, swipe. Books I own and yet will never start to read, furniture I don’t really sit on, mugs I don’t drink out of, and monthly memberships I never use — these are all things I swipe left on with utter ferocity because in the words of Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins — ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that.’ After all of this left- swiping, what I am left with is a wardrobe of the same three things I wear all the time (denim jacket, denim shirt, denim blue jeans) and more importantly, a simpler lifestyle that is both easier to maintain and much more reflective of my truest self. This is where my favorite piece from Tanner Goods comes into play. The Women’s Perennial Day Bag is a combo of casual bucket tote and handsome shoulder bag — the result — a swoon-worthy satchel that is utterly flexible. This sucker looks just as appropriate out on the weekend riding shotgun in my truck as it does tucked underneath my desk. The bridle leather strap fits comfortably over the shoulder; the brass hardware gives it just enough detail to feel dressed up. I like that it simplifies my life rather than complicates it, I like that it is built so well as to most likely outlast my student loan payments, and I especially like that the bag’s tomboy styling fits seamlessly into my wardrobe of blue jeans, Stetsons, and western snap shirts.
My friend Caroline is similar to this bag in that her companionship is as versatile as it is dependable. She is beautiful and flippant, she is also quiet and introspective. There’s a silent seriousness belying her bubbly effervescence, and this is something I have grown to become exceedingly fond of. Because of this versatility and handsomeness she was the perfect match to model my favorite piece from TG. Swipe right for pieces and people worth holding onto.
Elizabeth: I believe that good design is also genderless design. That being said, what made you decide that it was time to design an assortment of product specifically for women? Sam Huff: I’m a firm believer in the Eames mantra, “Getting the most of the best to the greatest number of people for the least.” That means creating a product that speaks to all, regardless of gender, age, aesthetic preference, etc. And while it’s not fifty-fifty, we have women purchase our in-line products every day. I was kind of surprised how many [women customers] there were when we first launched nine years ago, but quickly realized it meant we were doing our jobs as designers well. I also think that good design and genderless design are not necessarily dependent — there’s plenty of really great, inspiring design out there that speaks to the specific needs of both men and women. That’s really what it came down to when we decided to develop the Women’s Capsule collection –the partners in our lives, female employees and customers who were asking us to create key styles that were a closer fit for their lifestyle. We listened.
Elizabeth: How did both yourself and the design team land upon the two bag silhouettes that make up the women’s collection? Sam: When we made the decision to move forward and develop the collection, we really didn’t have to look far to find the duo that would help lead the charge. My wife Meghan Wright is an apparel designer by trade, and has been instrumental in helping me develop the brand over the years. She’s a very keen, insightful designer and understands our approach intrinsically. She’s also a sounding board for a lot of creative decisions I make at TG. Her nine-to-five is running the day to day operations at our other company, Mazama Wares, but I was lucky enough to steal some of her time away to help us out. The second person we tapped was our close friend Casey Keasler — she’s worked alongside me for over the years at Tanner Goods, helping with everything from product development and sampling to our brick and mortar store design and buildout. Her nine-to-five is Casework, a studio focused on designing inspiring physical environments, but she’s also a partner with Mazama. Like Meghan, she’s not someone that can be easily categorized. They’re both just renaissance women, of sorts.
Elizabeth: I became a Tanner Goods fan after working with your wallets and belts during my post in menswear stores. What’s been the most inspiring/humorous gender-bender story you’ve heard from your female customers on how they have adopted your products? Sam: I’m always amazed by the number of women who do the reverse — they’re already fans of Tanner Goods and end up getting their guys into the brand. I hear stories all the time from ladies in our retail stores about how their guy has commandeered a tote or camera bag, so they end up buying a second one.
Elizabeth: Regardless of end-use or gender; what are the qualities each and every Tanner Goods product is imbued with? Sam: With every product we develop, we start by asking ourselves one simple question: “How can we give this item longevity?” Because ultimately, we want our customers to purchase something and use it day in, day out for years to come. And I think to achieve that, we have to consider a few key things… First and foremost, is the need we’re addressing something that is essential? Are we producing something provides utility to the user for years to come? Secondly, the design language needs to be just as relevant years down the road as it is today. And finally, the materials and construction techniques need to guarantee a long lifespan. All of this really drives our “Worth Holding Onto” tagline — our approach to product creation hinges on the idea that quality, value and longevity are all intertwined and all equally important.
Elizabeth: What’s next for TG in 2015? Sam: We’re expanding our paper goods collection and have some new sizes, graphic treatments and writing utensils planned for later this year. We’re also introducing a handful of new categories in general, including watches and eyewear. I’m really excited for those. A big one for us will be expanding options for customization online. There will be a handful of new ways customers can create something that is truly unique to them. And in addition to all that, we’re working on a small collection of all-leather bags. I’m hopeful we’ll have at least one or two out by the end of the year. We’ll see though, those are still pretty early on in the prototype phase. All in all, It’s going to be a busy year for us!