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Welcome to Better Know a Store Owner, a weekly Racked feature focusing on the people who run our favorite boutiques around the city.Photos by Rebecca Dale
It's hard to imagine that Veda designer Lyndsey Butler never planned to get into fashion. But after moving to New York to attend NYU, a college internship at a showroom turned into a job doing wholesale in L.A., where she learned the ins and outs of heading a fashion line. It also convinced her that leather was the way to go. "I felt like there was a dearth in the market. I know when I was looking for one, it was either prohibitively expensive, or I didn't like the fits," Butler said. "I just wanted something that fit really nicely and was butter soft." Fast-forward a bit, and Veda was born.
Veda was part of a wave of local retailers that fled the Lower East Side in 2011, but Butler brought the brick-and-mortar shop back in September, this time at 19 Mercer Street in Soho. We stopped by the new location to discuss her move, her favorite pieces from the collection, and how she gives back to the community.
Let's backtrack a bit—you had a store on the Lower East Side that closed in 2011. Why did you close?
My office used to be right across the street from the store on Ludlow, and I was moving my office around the time that the lease was up. We're a small company, so for me to have a store I needed to be really close. It's kind of why this space has been perfect—my office is two blocks away, so I can pop over here any time and actually keep an eye on it.
So why did you decide to open another store after two years of e-commerce?
We are actually mainly a wholesale brand, so we sell to a lot of department stores and retailers. When I opened the store on Ludlow, it was just a fun outlet to interact with customers and get a better read on who was buying the product. I do really love having that direct link with the customers. I get to hear more of what they are saying: they wish it was a little longer, or they don't love the fit of the sleeve. It's great to get that immediate feedback.
Do you notice that you attract a different clientele being here than on the Lower East Side?
Yes, definitely. They definitely have overlap, but I think girls that would shop on Ludlow lived in the neighborhood and people that shop in the Soho location tend to be tourists. [There are] definitely people that live in the neighborhood who are just passing by on their way to something else during the day, but the tourist customer is different for us. I feel we didn't get that as much on Ludlow—it was more locals.
What was the aesthetic you were going for when you were designing this space?
This used to be this really crazy computer repair store, so I thought it was really funny to keep the computer sign, but we had a pretty even vote between everybody who works here—some were like, "Get rid of it, it's terrible," and then some were like, "No I love it!'" But I think I'm leaning towards getting rid of it, so that might be a relic of the past.
We poured the cement floors in here and added this marble piece on the floor. I really wanted cement floors [because] I felt like it would just be clean and a nice contrast—we have a lot of dark things in the store, so I kind of wanted to keep it bright in that way. And then we found a bunch of Persian rugs, cut them up, and had them attached to the ceiling, and with the leftovers we made four or five purses.
We have our green wall: I wanted to bring in some green elements to the store. We actually had a lot more when we first designed it—we were going to put a bunch of plants on that wall and treat it like a mini grow room, but it kind of felt intense for the small space. And the loft space is going to eventually have an installation in it, but it hasn't been done yet.
And why do you have an iPad out in the store?
If there's something [customers] like in the store but we don't have the size here, they have the option to go ahead and order it online right away. There's also not enough room for everything we have in the store. It's just kind of to give people another option to look at the rest of the collection.
What do you find is the best price point for customers?
It's really something that I think about when I design. Our classic jackets range from $750 to $950. I think that a price point under $1,000 is appealing to customers. It's a big purchase—everybody knows they're getting quality when they're buying a leather jacket, especially if it's expensive. The way we see it is that it's an accessory that you buy one of per season, if you're able to.
So to keep it in that price range, where do you get your leather from?
We source leather from all over—Italy, South America, India. We're always looking for new tanneries, meeting with them, looking for new techniques, things like that.
What are some of your favorite pieces that are in store now?
We make a lot of one-of-a-kind pieces for the store specifically, and so those tend to be some of my favorites. It's us testing new things, or maybe there's a style that didn't make it out to wholesale.
One of my favorites is the parka that I'm wearing right now. I like this piece because I love to layer, and so I can totally wear my leather jacket underneath it and throw this on top—it's important for me to be warm! And we just launched our leather stretch pants, and I think we [the staff] are all living in them. I was really conscious about price—those are $695, which I feel, for stretch leather, is a really decent price.
How did your collaboration with Pamela Love come about?
Pamela and I were talking about it for years, and we just couldn't seem to get it together timing-wise. We had a lot of styles in the beginning, but we settled on this motorcycle jacket and we did a couple of color options. I liked this collaboration because it was like, "Let's just both do what we're good at, and come together on it." I really wanted her to focus on hardware, so she made these really beautiful talon claw and eagle claw pieces. We also pulled from things that already exist, like these buffalo nickel pins. She just came with those ideas, like, "We should have this color hardware, have this buckle, put a zipper there."
I saw on your website that you're donating 10% of sales to the Coalition For The Homeless. What about that cause is close to your heart?
It's always hard to pick a charity because there are so many things I want to be involved in, but I feel like this time of year this is on the forefront of everyone's mind. It's starting to get cold, it's Thanksgiving, that time for family and food and all of those things. What we do is we clothe people and keep them warm, and I felt like for me a leather jacket is something that keeps you protected and gives you confidence. I feel like that is mirrored in what Coalition [does]—they give people everything from shelter to clothes to food, but they also have a lot of initiatives to make sure people don't get evicted from their homes, and they have programs to send kids to summer camp.
Do you want to expand into anything else?
We've opened up the collection to have a more ready-to-wear element, so we have some staple cotton button-downs that go with the Veda uniform. You can wear them with leather leggings and a leather jacket. We also have some knits. We usually do a really basic, jersey cashmere with leather details. I love doing those little things that compliment the rest of the collection, because I don't expect people to wear head to toe leather all the time—it's fun for me to create those looks that go with it.
We've always done bags off and on, and it's something that I've always enjoyed, but I know I have to make a decision on it. I'd love to do shoes—we're working on a fun project for that, so hopefully we'll have something to show for it at the beginning of next year.
Anything you can tell us about that fun project?
It's going to be a collaboration, and it's just going to be one or two really simple but cool motorcycle boots that go with everything.
Okay, time for the lightning round: 8am or 8pm?
Beer or wine?
Whiskey or tequila?
Cats or dogs?
Beach or mountains?
Scandal or Homeland?
Favorite vacation spot?
Favorite neighborhood lunchtime spot?
Smile To Go.
Favorite happy hour spot?
Anywhere with margaritas.
· Veda Opens In Soho, Just In Time For Leather Jacket Season [Racked NY]
· Veda Designer Lyndsey Butler On Life After The Lower East Side [Racked NY]
· All Better Know a Store Owner Posts [Racked NY]