Interview: Simon Psaric of Dillion Des Prés Co.
SIMON, TELL ME ABOUT LAUNCHING YOUR BRAND.
"Launching Dillon des Prés has been an incredible experience in understanding leather craft and experiencing firsthand the connection between smart design and successful entrepreneurship. It's been a challenge, but not without exceptional rewards and an insightful glimpse into manufacturing a highly specialized, craft-focused product in the USA."
WHEN DID YOU ARRIVE IN NEW YORK -- WAS IT FOR SCHOOL?
"10 years ago, I stepped into my first Manhattan apartment in the East Village. I had recently been accepted to Parsons for their fashion design program. Perhaps this was the beginning of my fashion career--although I could also say the true beginning of my fashion career was when my lovely Croatian grandmother taught me to sew at age four."
YOU HAVE WORKED FOR AKRIS AND DESIGNED FOR PRIVATE LABELS. HOW HAVE THESE EXPERIENCES SHAPED THE WAY YOU APPROACH YOUR LINE?
"I've had the privilege of working for some storied brands, and it's been a learning experience to see that the more sharply a brand differentiates, the greater recognition it carves out in the market. But creating a niche isn't enough. It's about a total obsession and passion for product and craft. You can tell instantly when a brand is focused on delivering quality, innovation, and value, while sparing no expense. I believe customers are constantly evolving to sniff out authenticity. My own personal benchmark of quality would have to be the way Akris works with woven horsehair fabrication, and double faced cashmere. Nothing compares to the deep obsession with craft you will find in the Akris family, who have been perfecting their trade for over 100 years in the town of St. Gallen. I hope I can strive to maintain this type of integrity in my design convictions."
WHAT INSPIRED THE FIRST DILLON DES PRES CO. STYLE, THE MASON TOTE?
"Dillon happened naturally. I just wanted to create a tote to carry my belongings on the subway to work every morning--and owning many bags, I had a very specific vision in mind for this perfect tote. I bought some leather, cut into it, riveted it by hand with solid brass, and added some sturdy, genuine bridle leather straps--repurposed from saddle making, as most of my materials are. The focus was an unfussied, handsome design--just for me. Without knowing it, I created what would later be named the Mason Tote, the most popular Dillon des Prés style."
WHO HAVE YOU LEARNED THE MOST FROM IN YOUR CAREER THUS FAR?
"I haven't had the privilege of meeting my loftiest "design mentors," as they are quite far away, but nonetheless formative to my aesthetic and convictions. They are the designers who quietly focus on craft, expression, and design that empowers and enhances the life of the user. It's Azzedine Alaïa, perhaps the Charles James of our time. It's George Nakashima, who understood that a simple, flawed, and poetic material such as a gnarled tree trunk can create the most profound design object if given the right attention and treatment. But I am also beyond thankful to a few of my superiors in past positions--who have taught me the importance of applying myself to learning and embracing humility. Or in the words of Sarah Lewis in a moving TED Talk: 'To sacrifice everything for craft--and not for the sake of crafting your career."
YOUR COLLECTION IS PRODUCED IN LEATHER FACTORIES IN THE GARMENT DISTRICT. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU THAT DILLON DES PRÉS CO. REMAINS MADE IN NEW YORK?
"It's essential that each piece from Dillon des Prés is manufactured in the USA. That being said, I will reluctantly reveal how difficult it has been to find a level of craftsmanship and care high enough to meet my standards of quality. Part of this is due to my unusual choice of materials, and strict adherence to handmade construction to ensure the look and feel of the brand. Factories don't like to work with anything different--it's a costly risk. Luckily, I have vetted the proper facilities to create my unique product, and trained them to create each Dillon des Prés piece to an exacting quality. An even better bonus: I have learned great lessons from these factories--it's only natural I would learn from these master artisans who have spent decades sitting at a leather work bench."
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE FASHION PRESS.
"I am deeply grateful to the editors who saw something in Dillon des Prés during its infancy. I have had several surreal experiences after starting this brand in my apartment--the support from such incredible publications as Vogue, W, Harper's Bazaar, and Style.com to name a few. But even greater than this exposure were the accompanying appointments with the editors behind them. I have been given some truly valuable feedback from these legends."
WHAT'S THE MOST REWARDING PART OF DESIGNING DILLON DES PRÉS CO.?
"The most rewarding part begins and ends with the product: with the leather, with the satisfying look of a well-loved leather object that has unfailingly traveled the world with its owner, and worn into a unique piece. It's rewarding to know I am offering an incredible value as well--as the cost of each Dillon piece is driven first and foremost by the hand-made labor and fine materials--there certainly is no unnecessarily ambitious communications/marketing plan to speak of, just a love for the integrity of the design and slow-made manufacturing."
TELL ME ABOUT THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE IN YOUR BUSINESS.
“There will always be little fires to put out for every entrepreneur: a certain leather on backstock, a factory uncertain about a deadline, the rising cost of high quality materials: but these are all trivial challenges. The only true challenge is maintaining a sharp vision. I am not scrambling to expand quickly, or to quickly meet my growing demand. Good things take time. In a society bloated with unnecessary data, too many apps, chemical-laden food, and countless retail fashion seasons which puzzle even the most seasoned customer, I would like my hand-crafted leather products to stand separately from these dated forces. To reference Dieter Rams, "Good design is long lasting." Let that be my only challenge: to create designs which are long lasting and honest.”
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU AS A DESIGNER?
"I'm motivated by the beauty of solving a problem. In its deepest essence, this is the definition of design to me.
I'm driven by what I find to be beautiful, which is simplicity and the natural world. An afternoon spent outdoors always gives me the drive to keep creating. I want to celebrate a sense of slowness and simplicity, and share this love with a larger audience. I want to share how sacred and luxurious it is to eat a meal at a table that doesn't have a computer sitting on it. I want to glorify the vacation and time spent with nature and friends. This is really all that matters."