the perfect leather jacket is hard to find—there are either too many zippers, the leather is the wrong shade, or it’s hopelessly too tight…even…if you…try…to make it fit. liz thayer is out to change that. her line, claflin, thayer & co., named after a defunct (and now resurrected!) family business, consists mainly of leather bags, but her first attempt at jacket-perfection came out pretty pretty good– a cropped motorcycle masterpiece with a few essential zippers on thick, supple, oil-slick black leather & a polka-dot lining.
i came across liz’s site last year and became absolutely obsessed with her colorful lip pouches. when i contacted her to order them, we realized that we had a mutual friend in jen, who also designs for gymboree. i had to know where and how everything was made, so we arranged for a visit to her studio. nestled in the garden behind one of the many beautiful, older homes in north berkeley is a tiny garage—liz’s workspace that she shares with the house-owner/jewelry-maker/old high school friend, becca.
odd thrifted leather jackets hang above her work-table: a hand-cropped stunner with the excess shredded into crudely glued-on fringe; a teeny-tiny baby jacket, complete with teeny tiny pockets; a 70s avocado green number. she had just returned from a trip to her leather man up in napa, the largest leather distributor on the west coast, so i got a first peek at the material for a commissioned jacket for a friend. she cut open the roll with some crazy scissors (she also has her grandmother’s scissors!) and displayed the buttery hides, in caramelly browns and cognacs.
next on her to-do list is a short leather poncho, but for now it’s only a hobby…until she gets more orders! stop by liz’s blog to read chronicles of her adventures in leather. and if you’re looking for a new leather jacket, the hunt may be over….
Name: Liz Thayer
Age: 33 – ouch!
Hometown: Berkeley, CA
Where are you right now? How’d you get there? Right now I am making things. Leather bags, accessories, and most recently leather jackets that I’m very excited about. I love jackets! And leather!
Where are you going? I’m going to design a small collection of jackets – probably 3-5 styles – that I will make on a made-to-order basis to start. Perhaps I’d sell a very small collection at a store I really like further down the road. For now, I‘m working to perfect the fit, patterns, and construction of the jackets – it’s a lot of work.
What will you be doing when you get there? Working a lot and drinking coffee like nobody’s business.
Who/what/where inspired you to go in this direction? I love making things that can be used all the time. I’m very utilitarian. I love jackets because they not only keep you warm but also provide a hands-free place to carry your belongings. Even though I love making bags, I don’t particularly like carrying them! I’m partial to a good jacket that has pockets for my keys, wallet, phone, and chapstick. I don’t really need anything else, I prefer traveling light.
How are you feeling? Are you excited? Nervous? Terrified? Thrilled? I’m excited. There are so many things I want to do, I just have to figure out how to make it all happen. I struggle with time management issues. I work a full-time job, so I can’t help but think of all the progress I could make if I had more time (and money!). Maybe further down the road, the leather gig will become a full time project for me.
What kind of expectations do you have? I expect to have a lot of calloused fingers, late nights, and more grey hair. But that’s okay, because there is always hair dye and hand lotion and I like working hard on something that interests me.
Are you scared of anything? Failure. Being broke. Not having time for fun. My sewing machine breaking…oh, that would be bad.
What’s the worst thing that could happen? The best? Worst case scenario, I quit my job to make jackets full-time, it doesn’t work out, I am bankrupt, and I ditch everything and start a new career. Or I move back in with my mom and pop. Big deal, people do it all the time. Best scenario – My business supports itself and I even have enough money from it to travel and eat a real nice dinner out once in a while. I love what I do and I get a good response from other people as well. And I have a nice jacket and bag that I didn’t have to buy.
What are you taking with you/leaving behind? I guess I’m taking everything I have learned along the way with me. I’ve been sewing since I was a kid and I’ve learned a lot about the business side of the things from working in the corporate world. I hope to always bring a sense of humor to the table as well as some good snacks and beer. I am leaving behind any regrets.
What did your friends say when you told them? Make me a jacket!