First comes love, then comes leathergoods. Matt and Michelle Twite are the husband and wife duo behind an inventive new local product, Seppes. After tossing out too many of her husband’s expensive and dreadfully scratched sunglasses, Michelle set out to find a solution to the eternal sunglasses free-fall from shirt collar to unforgiving ground. After searching the internet for something (anything!) that would protect sunglasses from crash landing, the couple didn’t find a lot of options and what they did find wasn’t even close to stylish. In just one week, Michelle took her ideas from sketch to prototype. The duo posted a photo of Matt wearing the final design on social media, receiving an amazingly positive response, and Seppes was born! I?talked with the Michelle?to learn more about their?innovative?accessories line.
Max La: What inspired you to start your own company?
Michelle Twite: I?m a first-generation Lao-American and my parents were entrepreneurs from the minute that they landed on US soil in 1980, so I guess you can say that’s where I got my entrepreneurial spirit. They?ve always worked hard and seeing them prosper from nearly nothing has always been my motivation.
ML: What does it take to start your own label and make it as an independent designer?
MT: For me, starting my own label really took some courage to put my products out into the public. I really just had to be fearless and go for?it. There will always be those who don?t necessarily understand the need or usefulness of your product or aesthetic, but as long as you believe in it, and put in the hard work, it?ll be a success.
As an independent designer, you have to be able to wear as many hats as possible. Most new brands don?t have the funds to hire the necessary help at the beginning, so you?ve really got to bootstrap it all – and I mean?all. Along with the designing, sample making, pattern-making, prototyping, sewing, and everything else that goes into the design process to get the product from zero to market, I?m also the stylist, photographer and photo editor for product shoots. I also do all of the social media and blog posts and I even taught myself a little bit of coding to build my website. I can?t say I learned everything on my own though. I did a handful of unofficial internships and was able to really figure out what I wanted to do by exploring different areas of fashion ? marketing, styling, magazine layouts and production, and fashion design. I can?t express enough how much the internships I had throughout college?enable me to wear so many hats today.
ML: Can you take me?step by step through your full creative process of designing one of your unique pieces?
MT: I always start with a product that I think is needed and not available yet. I then start sketching designs, considering trends in color and shape. Once I have a good idea of what I want to make, I start making prototypes and go through a process of trial and error until I end up with the final design. That design then will go through some testing to see how it holds up. If it passes, I?ll source out the necessary materials and start producing the product.
ML: Ethical fashion covers a wide range of issues such as working conditions, child labor, fair trade, and sustainable production. Do you address all these issues in your business?
MT: I have a high regard for ethical fashion and I think that it definitely isn?t something that should be overlooked, especially in the industry of fashion. I make everything myself from beginning to end in my home studio here in Austin and I carefully source my materials from companies who also have the same regard for ethical fashion as I do.
ML: Your style in 3 words?
MT: Sophisticated, Easy, Neutral
ML:?Favorite style icons?
MT: NYC socialite Olivia Palermo for personal style, and Diane von Furstenberg for her hustle and her perpetual message for the empowerment of women.
ML: Where do you see Seppes in 10 years??
MT: I envision that in 10 years,?Seppes?will have expanded to offer many other innovative accessories and I can see future partnerships with notable lifestyle brands such as Brooks Brothers and Bonobos, just to name a couple.
ML: Which Seppes do?you currently love the most?
MT: My favorite is the vegetable tan (veg-tan)?Seppes. I?ve always loved seeing leather age with time. Over time the veg-tan?Seppes?will develop a rich patina and will be a completely different color and feel as it is exposed to natural elements such as the sun and the oils of your skin. I also love that they can be personalized and monogrammed!
Join Michelle and Matt?in their mission to “Save sunnies, one Seppes at a time” and start shopping! For more information please visit their Seppes.net.