I first met Leanne when she had applied for a design position at our textile design studio 8 years ago. I was so impressed with her portfolio - which was filled with beautiful artwork, but what especially stood out was the gorgeous hand crafted box that she made herself to hold her work. Early on she had a great eye for craftsmanship and an eye for putting together a cohesive design experience. It’s no surprise to me that she now has founded and designs a beautiful line of bags and leather accessories. Read more to hear about her journey of creativity and entrepreneurship.
You’ve been with Printfresh Studio, our textile design studio, for over eight years. What skills do possess that you think have led you to be so successful there, rising the ranks to become our Art Director? It definitely takes specifics skills and attributes to be a successful Art Director. I think having an eye for detail, an allover love for design and beautiful things, and strong communication skills is extremely important. And for me, being a successful designer at Printfresh first, showed that I really had the skill and eye for print design and helped to build trust not only with my boss but with the designers that I would later art direct.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? I’m definitely most proud of being able to develop the people that I’ve worked with. Being able to take someone just out of school, with little to no work experience and help them to build a strong career as a textile designer has been incredibly fulfilling.
The staff of Printfresh Studio is all-female. Is there anything you’ve learned from being surrounded by so many other creative women every day? It's so funny, as a kid I was such a tomboy and really didn’t have that many girlfriends, but now I’m surrounded by women every day and I love it! I honestly think I’ve learned that there really isn’t much of difference, especially when we are all working towards the same goal. I could see someone with an outside view assuming it would be catty or cliquey, but it’s really just not like that at all. It's a very supportive environment and I chalk a lot of that up to hiring really great people and keeping a great company culture.
When did you know that you were going to be pursuing a creative career? Probably since I could hold a pencil. I’ve literally always loved to draw and make. When I was really young, I gave my mom all the coloring books, looked at her and said, “I want a pencil so I can make my own lines!” Creating is in my DNA.
Where do you go to get inspiration for your work? I get inspiration for my professional work from many places, the runways, magazines, TV shows, walking through the city, a trip to the mall, a great exhibit. Print is everywhere when you are looking for it.
You recently started a handmade leather goods business with your husband, Nick, called Hemlock and Hyde. What brought on this new venture and why leather goods? A while back, a good friend of ours, was a manager of a shoe store. When the window display team came in to take down a display of old hides, he asked them what they do with it all when they are done. They told him they would likely just throw it out. So he asked if he could have it and gifted us about $3000 worth of vintage leather. That leather sat around for a few years in our studio, I would make things here and there for fun and for gifts. But this past Christmas I had some time on my hands and started sewing these leather bowls that combined the leather with some vintage woven textiles that I had. I really loved the bowls and when Nick saw them he decided to try and make some wallets. Nick has a great business mind and decided we had to try making it into something more and it kind of went from there.
How did you guys meet, and what qualities attracted you to him? Nick and I met in college, we both went to the University of the Arts for Illustration, Nick was 3 years behind me. We became friends through mutual friends and stayed close friends after I graduated.
Nick was extremely shy when we first met, I was actually dating his roommate at the time and spent plenty of time over at the house. I don’t think he said a single word to me for the first three months of knowing him! So he can be very mysterious. But when you get to know him, he is an extremely genuine person, he says what he means and really thinks things through before he speaks. He is incredibly kind and caring and is always looking to improve himself, his situation and the lives of the people that he loves. We share a lot of the same values and I really appreciate how calm he is in stressful situations.
What has been the most exciting moment in launching your new company? I think the most exciting moment in launching Hemlock and Hyde has been seeing how we can create something like this together. There are times I step back and see how far its come in such a short period of time and not only am I impressed with our product and the improvements we’ve made, but really in how strong our relationship has grown in working on something like this together. Makes me feel like we can do anything together.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and who was it from? The best piece of advice is a hard one to answer. I feel like both Nick and I have learned a ton in our full time jobs, of what it’s really like to run a business.
In school, assuming that we would all be freelance illustrators, they told us to never say no to a job and take whatever we could get. But what I’ve actually learned from Amy, is that you can definitely say no to the job if it’s not the right fit. It’s important that you choose the things you do with other companies carefully because what they do will reflect onto your brand.
What is your approach to fashion and style? What is important to you when you’re getting dressed for the day? My personal approach to fashion is to wear what makes you feel like the best version of yourself. It’s also good to identify something that is signature to you. That way if you are trying to wear something new, but you pair it with your signature red lipstick or your signature necklace or hat, than it will feel like it belongs on you.
What do you want to be known for? Professionally I’d like to be known for producing a high quality product. No matter what it is I’m working on; be it our leather goods or working with a designer to create a beautiful print, I always want it to be the best quality it can be.
Favorite artist? It’s so hard to choose one! I’ve always loved NC Wyeth and Andrew Wyeth! I love NC for the lighting in his paintings and the rich environments he puts his characters in. Each one of his paintings takes you deep into a story. Andrew I love for the emotion he evokes in the stillness of his paintings and the stories behind them.
What are three things you never leave the house without? My hair or makeup (one of those has to be done!), my bag, and a list; if I’m going anywhere I most likely have something I have to get done and I’ll never remember it all without my list!
Leanne is wearing the Sabina Button Down in French Navy with the Rita Quilted Trouser in Deep Olive, the Sabina Button Down in Solid Alabaster, the Ella Dolman Top in Solid French Navy and the Timi Guaze Top in Chocolate Stripe.