We’re so excited to introduce a new series today called How It’s Made, where each month we’ll be going behind the scenes with your favorite brands to find out how their most popular products get produced. To start things off, we headed over to Veda’s headquarters to find out exactly how its dream leather jackets come to fruition!
Lyndsey Butler launched Veda in 2008 with the sole goal of making the perfect leather jacket: “an elegant layer designed to protect against the myriad challenges of modern living.” And as any fashion-loving lady or gent knows, a jacket like that is an absolute necessity. With a finely tuned focus on fit and high-quality leather, Butler quickly made her dreams a reality and had It girls the world over knocking at her door (or, shall we say, store). Today her designs can be found on the backs of celebrities ranging from Emily Ratajkowski to Abbi Jacobson and top bloggers including Leandra Medine of Man Repeller and Jayne Min of Stop It Right Now. If that’s not proof of her jackets’ perfection, we’re not sure what is.
Butler (above) runs the whole Veda operation under one roof, on a particularly busy street in New York City’s SoHo nabe where you’d never expect to find the home of these luxurious jackets. But then again, it’s always the unexpected factor that renders something cool. “After years of outsourcing everything, besides design, I really wanted to take control of the brand and its direction,” she tells me. “[This way] I can closely monitor and shape our message at all stages—design, sales, production, and press.” Put simply, it’s good business, and, from my humble perspective, it’s really paying off.
Veda’s headquarters is the ultimate reprieve from the chaotic city street below, where the amount of faux-leather goods being sold feels like an intentional joke. The wide-open loft space of the showroom, which recently underwent a full renovation by the brand, is decked out with the freshest greenery and the omnipresent scent of Le Labo Santal. Directly to the right of this room is where the magic happens—a union of actual production (sewers working away to one side) and post-production duties (PR and sales to another).
Butler and her team do three full collections a year and have recently added to that with the Mercer Collection—a limited-edition line comprising two leather jackets and one skirt, which are produced entirely in-house in NYC and sold strictly at Veda's flagship and on its website. Although the team does all of its sample-making in-house already, as well as much of the actual production for the regular collection, it does outsource for items like knits and silks. And, because it makes the most sense for maintaining regular stock and the Veda price point, the big-hit jackets are produced overseas.
That reality and the fact that the Mercer Collection retails for under $500 (nearly half what the main line sells for) makes it especially distinct. So, we decided to follow along as one of these übercool jackets came to life.
At the beginning of any collection, Lyndsey and her co-designer, Jess Cambronero, get together to decide on colors, patterns, and the overall mood for the season. They’ll talk about what’s inspiring them lately, sourcing everywhere from Pinterest to vintage art books, and collect those inspirations both in an online folder and on the giant mood boards in their office.
For the Mercer Collection, they listened to feedback from their stores and their website to combine details that everyone was already loving with elements that their friends—per a casual survey—desired.
What follows is a collaborative sketching process between Lyndsey and Jess—done among a selection of the colors and fabrics they’re hoping to use. Although they normally have about three months to get everything done, they were able to turn around their first batch for the Mercer Collection in under two weeks.
It's during this time that they’ll focus on developing the “bodies,” which refers to the specific silhouettes they envision for each piece.
For their main collections, they’ll also make a line plan, which includes leathers, knits, wovens, and light wovens, and start designing from those categories. To get a feel for how any prints might look on the body, they’ll often manipulate images in Photoshop—filling in a woman’s dress with a print they're considering, for example. They debut new prints with every collection to keep things fresh, although their Elements print (sprinkled with peace signs and cacti) now gets repeated throughout due to such a positive response.
They'll then order the sample fabrics and start cutting the patterns. For the Mercer Collection, the leather comes from a local supplier in New York who can get their order to them really fast. On top of that, they have to order all the proper zippers and labels, along with making sure that they have the different types of lining required (for this limited-edition collection, they're only using two).
Once all the materials are in, they can turn these jackets around pretty quickly, as they have the patterns all marked and ready to go at their HQ.
One way they changed things up for the Mercer Collection was trying out a shorter bracelet sleeve, as a lot of their jackets have longer sleeves. "We kept having to hem people’s jackets, so we wanted to see how these would do," Cambronero explained. For the first jacket, they added a belt, lending it an edgier biker look they've found to be quite popular, while the second jacket has a center-front zip that's unusual for a leather jacket.
Once all the fabric is cut and ready to go, they'll hand it off to the sewers.
Veda employs two full-time sewers, though they’ll occasionally call in more when necessary. These übertalented women can turn the jackets around, from start to finish, in a day. “We’re always negotiating the sewers’ time,” the team tells me, noting that it’s when they have downtime from their regular production that they’ll have them work on the Mercer Collection pieces.
There’s always a lot of dialogue between the core team and the sewers, who Cambronero oversees closely. “It’s very rare to have such close control over sample creation, [not to mention] the ability to draw something, drape it, and have it made all in one day,” she tells me. “It makes so much sense [to do it this way] that it would be hard to work somewhere else. In corporate, you usually don’t get the sample back for at least three weeks.”
The final designs for the Mercer Collection took a few rounds of tweaking—the pocket placement in particular was changed around a couple of times.
Although the team does work with a fit model on occasion, all final pieces are usually tried on Butler first and then cycled throughout the office, where women of differing body types can share their opinions.
Once the final touches have been made, the Mercer Collection jackets are walked directly over to the store, a reality which allows the Veda team to react very quickly to the market—to expand on what’s working and, perhaps, scale back on what’s not.
You don't have to be a design aficionado to appreciate the beauty of this process—where everything’s done, from beginning to end, in one place and in support of one city. I was already a big fan of Veda, but learning about what actually goes into its killer pieces made me fall even harder. There are a lot of great leather jackets out there, but when given the choice between one that’s homegrown and produced in an honest way, and one whose production is, well, a little less clear, you can bet I’ll be choosing the former.