In the Studio with Lyndsey Butler
The downtown designer and creative director takes us behind the scenes of her leather-focused line, Veda.
Situated on the fifth floor of a building on Canal Street in Chinatown, the creative space—large, light-filled, tranquil—feels like a heavenly reprieve from the perpetual grind below. Lyndsey Butler herself is as cool as they come, which makes sense since the clothes she designs have a certain effortless charm. Since founding the label in 2008 at the age of 24, Lyndsey has expanded her offering from a capsule collection of leather staples to a full ready-to-wear line coveted by everyone from fashion editors to downtown scenesters. Here, we talk about her early years in New York, the ways in which the city shaped her creative output, her enduring love of leather, and the styles we should add to our fall wishlist.
Can you tell us about the ways in which living in New York has propelled your personal and creative growth?
Lyndsey Butler: Just being surrounded by so many ambitious people striving for success daily. The energy and momentum toward achieving goals in NYC is really unparalleled in my opinion. Also, the exposure to art and culture and an island full of people who are deeply invested in the pursuit of art and culture is incredibly inspiring and has definitely helped shape me. I think these two aspects of the city have fueled my drive for the last 15-plus years.
What do you remember most vividly about your first few months in New York?
LB: I moved to NYC in late August 2001, so my first few months (and years) were obviously colored by 9/11. I remember they closed off all the streets downtown to cars so we were just walking in the middle of the avenues which was a very surreal experience. I was so young, I had just started college and I didn’t know anyone here so those first few months would have probably been a little weird and lonely regardless. But, I never wanted to leave. I loved the city from the very beginning.
You launched Veda in 2008 with a staple leather jacket and have expanded since, but leather remains at the core of your brand; can you recall your earliest memory of being interested in leather? What was the first leather garment you fell for?
LB: My mom had this badass 80s power dress in caramel suede. I thought it was very chic. As a kid, I also spent countless hours lusting over everything in the Dover Saddlery catalog—tall riding boots, chaps, and all the equestrian gear.
In what ways, if any, does downtown New York inform your creative output?
LB: My daily walk to work through Chinatown is a huge source of inspiration. I love seeing what the women in my neighborhood are wearing. There is always wild print mixing going on, lots of texture and unexpected color combinations. It is kind of a sensory overload but I like it!
How long have you been in this studio? What initially appealed to you about the space and being based in this neighborhood?
LB: We have been in this space for almost five years and have been in the neighborhood for close to eight years. Initially, it was attractive because it was SoHo-adjacent and we could get a lot more square footage. We also had a store at 19 Mercer Street up until last year, so the proximity to that location was key. Since moving out of Mercer Street we have opened up our showroom to the public, so people can still shop with us in the neighborhood. Our current studio previously housed a small garment factory and it was on the fifth floor with lots of natural light, so I was pretty excited when we found it!
What does the first hour of your workday look like?
LB: By the time I get to work, I have already had coffee and done my morning stuff—a quick news check, texted with my long-distance husband and maybe gotten in a quick meditation—so once I get to the office, I try to give myself at least 15 minutes to get settled and mentally prep for the day: run through my agenda-meeting schedule, write my to-do list and psych myself up to take on the day. And then I just dive in—probably emails for 20 to 30 minutes and then another 15 to 20 on administrative things. I reserve my afternoons for more creative work or projects that require me to really dive deep.
Do you have a favorite place in the studio? What goes on there? What makes it special?
LB: Our mini factory in the back where we make a lot of our leather pieces is probably my favorite place. It isn’t lost on me how rare it is to have the space and resources to be able to actually make clothes in NYC. It is definitely not the most financially responsible decision I have made, but it is really important to me and to our brand. Currently, we make everything in our V. for Veda collection in-house, this is a huge point of pride for us.
From start to finish, what is your idea of an ideal day spent in New York?
LB: Wake up in my apartment that I love. Have coffee and bagels with my husband. Read The New York Times for a while. Then take the train up to the Natural History Museum, have an edible, look at some dinosaurs and contemplate the size of the universe. Walk back downtown and put our name down for a table at Uncle Boons or Rubirosa. While we wait for our table (which is inevitable), go to McNally Jackson and get some books. After lots of food and drinks, I would stop for ice cream at Morgenstern’s on the way home.
If you could dress any New Yorker, who would it be and why?
LB: That’s a great question! The first one that came to mind is Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. It has been so inspiring to watch her run, win and now fight for her constituents in Congress.
I really believe in the power of a great leather jacket to make you feel strong and ready to take on the world. AOC is already doing that but how cool would it be to see her doing it in a leather jacket or a leather trouser!
Any tips for wearing leather in the warmer months?
LB: Wear leather shorts or skirts. But if we are being honest, there is only a short window when leather is a questionable choice in NYC. I was wearing a three-quarter-length lightweight leather trench until early June over dresses, with sandals or a t-shirt. And I have these purple leather trousers that I was also wearing until around the same time—I just traded my boots and sweaters for sandals and t-shirts. I think the key is to wear lightweight leather pieces that aren’t super tight.
With fall up ahead, what are some styles we should keep an eye out for?
LB: Well, if you don’t have a good leather jacket I think investing in one is a good place to start and I am happy to help! I also think a leather pant is something we will be seeing a lot of this fall-winter and is another investment piece that you will wear for months and years to come. You can pick a pair that suits your style—a wide trouser, a slim leather legging, or a five-pocket denim-inspired silhouette. And then I am a sucker for a “statement” coat. I love an unexpected color or a printed wool coat for the colder months. I don’t think I own a black coat! I do wear a lot of black leather though. Now all you need are some fun sweaters and a boot you can wear everywhere. I always love a cowboy boot. I think that is a trend we will continue to see going strong this fall-winter. Lucchese or Miron Crosby or Space Cowboy in NYC are good options if you want something authentic. Ok, and finally I want to take all the fun color and tie-dye we are seeing this summer straight into the colder months even if it is just tie-dye socks or a t-shirt. I am all about putting your dollars toward pieces that are well-made and can live with you for years, maybe even forever!
WORDS Edwina Hagon
PHOTOGRAPHY Andee Maher