Last month we had the unique pleasure to sit down, meet, and interview the two designers behind Lambertson Truex, namely Richard Lambertson and John Truex. The interview felt more like a fun talk with long-lost friends than a meeting over their successful business, history, design and future outlook. Richard and John are as lovable as they come. Very approachable, funny, and not the slightest stint of self-importance that one would almost expect from designers of their caliber. After chatting it up, Richard and John walked off to a meeting and we left the showroom with a newly earned respect and adoration for Lambertson Truex, one of the great American design houses of this time.
Richard Lambertson: My first job was a display job for Saks, later visual merchandising for Bergdorf, moved from there into the fashion office, then to Geoffrey Beene, went to work for Barney’s New York, then as design directory for Gucci, back to Geoffrey Beene again, Calvin Klein, back to Bergdorf Goodman as creative director, advertising, publicity, fashion office and then started this. That’s quick!
John Truex: Mine is a little simpler; I never thought I would ever be in fashion, I always loved the business of advertising. I made a book bag in college out of a piece of leather that was a birthday gift. That got me into leathers, 3-dimensional creation of something. I moved to NYC, still thinking I’d go into advertising, it didn’t work out. I answered a Help Wanted ad for an office assistant position for a high-end accessory company, became the assistant office manager; and the company was called Carlos Falchi. I moved up to the retail division, then ready-to-wear and then moved my way into the actual design of accessories about 6 years after that. Shy of 10 years of being there, I had a brief freelance career at Ralph Lauren and then joined CK as creative director for handbags. A year and a half later, Richard and I decided to team up. We asked each other What’s Next? So we gave it a shot.
John: We have many years of experience in accessories from buying leathers, to lasting shoes to color coordination and even merchandising of a collection. Starting the [LT] collection, we didn’t want to just do a bag. We really wanted to open a line, an accessory house. When we first presented the collection it was women’s handbags from fabric and leather, to all leather, to alligator, to lizard. There was a belt and wallet to accessorize with it, it was even a men’s tote, placed in the women’s line but a bag that we could carry. We presented the collection at the studio of our friends and it was really a launch of an important American accessory House, which really did not exist.
Richard: Bergdorf’s was our first account that bought our collection. At the time they maybe had bought Tod’s, they had Fendi, Prada, Barry Kieselstein, a little Donna Karan, but that was about it. We were really one of the first American Houses, other than Judith Leiber, that they bought as a whole collection.
John: We designed the whole collection knowing the customer, knowing who would walk down 5th Ave, who lived on Park Avenue, who visited from SLC for a weekend. We completely designed into that.
Richard: We entered the market in ’98 when it was the era of logos. GGs, Pradas, Jacquard-Mania, Dior, Vuitton ads. And then we had the simple bags with tiny hardware on them. The complete opposite.
John: We truly think that our customer is a leader, she doesn’t follow trends. She buys for herself, not for the girl sitting next to her, she is not there to impress. She is there to feel great about herself. With logos all over the place, women would go uggghhh. We pulled out the sketchbook and started sketching.
Richard: A lot of people take out bags from our early collections and we get compliments from them, saying they still use it and love it. I hate the word “classic” or “timeless” but they kind of are.
John: Timeless fashion is the perfect way to describe it. If you spend $15,000 on a bag, it’s precious. Nothing is more insulting than designing something for $30,000 and then she wears it twice! Maybe you are satisfied that you wore it twice and it was $15,000 each, you feel good about yourself but then what?
Richard: The leathers and materials we use segway into where we get inspiration. It is most important to find the right leather to work with. We find exactly what we are looking for on a trip to Italy and it may inspire a whole collection. Other times, we don’t find it but we find something else and it changes the construction. We work organically.
John: There are times where you sit on a train and daydream, at a speed going past and something catches your eye, that is an inspiration. These epiphanies, moments. Is it a DÃ©jÃ vu? When it comes to designing bags, you are there, sketching, erasing, it moves and it starts happening. Leathers are very important though. You need the right medium, the texture or drape. Because it is so three-dimensional, functional, industrial – you have to use with the leather, the weight of it.
Richard: Vintage pieces are inspirational. Not to copy it, but you buy an old vintage bag and you use the handle. Or you like the clasp, the mechanisms of it. You use old designs and make them modern.
John: Our first collection was inspired by the twists and turns that the bags from the 1950s had. We were one of the first to really bring the interior-exterior-works-as-one. You can go to today’s major fashion brands today, open their bags and they are lined in canvas with one zip pocket. Hello?! And they are $2600. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Open it up, take the tissue out, feel how light it is. Look at the detail. Open our alligator bags, the pockets are trimmed in alligator. Collars are trimmed in gator. The backs of the straps are in alligator. Look at what you are looking at, dive into it!