Coffee Catch Up With Alyssa Lesser
"Running a brand can feel solitary sometimes," Alyssa Lesser shared in our interview with her below, "so I really appreciate any opportunity to meet other creative people living the same weird life." Weird is one word to describe it, but from what we've seen amongst our designers here in NYC and in LA, is something that can't fully be expressed in words. Creative thinkers and truly talented designers like Alyssa possess a certain quality that can best be understood by getting to the root of their passion - and that passion is design.
From apparel to accessories, Alyssa Lesser (of her namesake brand Alyssa Less) has got her sartorial bases covered. Splitting her time between Los Angeles and New York, the designer attributes her inspiration to being fully "entrenched in the actual design process" which extends to both her work in jewelry and her new endeavor, denim. With an emphasis on specialty items and quality craftsmanship, the young designer's affinity for a quirky, and in many ways, lively aesthetic has caught the attention of renowned outlets including Vogue.com, Of A Kind and more.
Today we are thrilled to join the roster and share our recent visit with Alyssa at Verve Coffee in Los Angeles. There, we chatted about managing a business on the go, trying new things, and overcoming challenges that young designers (in just about any city) face when first starting out. Check out the full interview below and head over to The Style Line for an exclusive second part of our conversation and more of Alyssa's retro style.
Please introduce yourself!
Hello! My name is Alyssa Lesser and I am a human and a girl and a maker of things. I enjoy and value things that inspire me to feel and think - music, art, design, comedy, books, world news, good friends, good family, good food, and honest, hardworking people living their truths.
Thanks for meeting with us today! Talk to us about Verve Coffee. Why do you like to work from here and as someone who is always on the go, how have you learned to stay organized?
I work so much on my laptop and often need a change of scenery (and caffeine, always), so I love to work in different coffee shops. There are a few great ones in LA, but this Verve wins on a nice day because of their INCREDIBLE patio and foliage. Also they have darn good coffee, cold brew and kombucha on tap, and yummy treats… obvious prerequisites. I don’t know how I stay organized, because I don’t always… but I do keep a lot of to-do lists and date books, which are my bibles.
How would you characterize your relationship to Brand Assembly? Who is the Alyssa Less woman?
I have participated in a few Brand Assembly shows and they are intimate and friendly in the ways that all trade shows should be. They have also been great at connecting us with other people doing cool things in the industry, like Production Showroom, and other designers. Running a brand can feel solitary sometimes, so I really appreciate any opportunity to meet other creative people living the same weird life. There is so much positivity and excitement surrounding what Brand Assembly does, which is MAJOR!
The Alyssa Less woman is a charming babe who appreciates art, specialty products, and thoughtful design. She prefers a quality garment to a cheap garment, and is drawn to unique details and pieces that she will love forever. She collects clothing and accessories in the same way she might collect art. She reads and registers to vote. She dresses for herself and her mood, and harbors a wardrobe that connects her to her true self.
The contemporary movement is not only making a splash in fashion, but in other many relevant creative industries too. Based on your experience as a designer in this market, how do you hope to see the community of contemporary makers evolve?
I think the contemporary market is pretty rockin’ right now, and filled with makers that understand that people want nice things that they can actually fit into their lifestyles. I would rather other “high end” designers take the contemporary market as a hint that good design can and should be more accessible to more people.
Your experience runs the gamut from apparel to accessories, what have been a few of your design milestones? Do you feel that any of your work throughout your career really captures the essence of what you’re trying to say or do as a designer?
I am still growing a LOT, so I don’t think I have hit many milestones yet - but definitely being featured on Vogue.com felt like a nice little coup. I am also very excited that the line is currently in stores that I have loved to personally visit and shop at for years. The idea that other people just like me are walking into the stores that I walk into and connecting with my work feels really special.
I don’t think I’ve had the resources available yet to fully express all that I want to express, which involves building a full wardrobe and lifestyle brand. I currently work on a focused range of really special items, and facets of a wardrobe, that we are gradually expanding. I like to focus on what I feel is currently unavailable elsewhere in the market, and what I know I can execute right before I expand.
All emerging designers are faced with growing pains. Looking back on your start, what aspect of launching a brand scared you the most and how have you worked to overcome this fear? As Alyssa Less grows what do you anticipate you’ll need to focus on that might not be relevant at this stage in your business?
I am pretty fearless with a lot of things, but I didn’t know whether anyone would appreciate or even look at what I was making. There are a lot of creators making a lot of amazing products out there that don’t get seen. Having people respond so positively to the line has helped make all the riskiness of doing this feel more worthwhile. As we grow, we definitely will want to focus on expanding our product categories and hopefully get to partner with more stores outside of the country.
There’s a really lively quality to Alyssa Less pieces - they are bold and have their own unique qualities that give them personality. With this in mind, if you had to give your pieces a personality what emotion or characteristics would be the best representation?
Contemplative, spunky, buoyant, intuitive, emotive, beaming.
It’s hard to imagine that one day is always the same, so tell us what does your day to day generally look like? What parts of the job excite you the most and how have you learned to overcome the challenges that a growing label faces?
When I am in LA, I spend many days sitting in the car, running back and forth between various factories/wash houses/patternmakers etc. checking and approving samples and production. In New York, everything is much closer together so hopping on the subway or going for a long walk to the jewelry district or Midtown is much simpler! When I am not physically on the go, I sit on my laptop and the phone for hours and vacillate between Photoshop and Illustrator artwork and sending emails. I love being entrenched in the actual design process: researching, sketching, hand-making jewelry samples, sourcing, developing textiles, and seeing first washes and fittings. Working with stores and customers and witnessing what I toiled over for months actually make it into a shop or on a body is my absolute favorite part of this.
Launching denim felt like an impossible feat, but I am learning and hustling every day. I am a young woman and a new designer, so constantly having to prove myself to everyone is frustrating. I am genuine and perseverant with an iron work ethic, and that helps. I am always pushing, learning, and laughing at my mistakes.
What do you assemble daily?
I think a lot about textiles and prints, and am always peeking around for street-inspiration: colors, plants, architecture, fonts, signs, and patterns to inspire me.