One of the traits I have inherited from my mom, and which I guess comes built-in with a European upbringing, is a retarded lust for leather bags. Case in point:
At just $58, it’s very hard to say no.
Gift Shop Brooklyn creates leather bags that are unique and handmade. The designs are lovely and incredibly practical: the satchel above is perfect for when you just need the essentials; for everyday carry-it-all AND keep the style level in a cushy high spot, there’s the two-tone clutches:
The materials they use are as sustainable as can be for leather: they source leather remnants in the US. Because their materials are very limited in quantity, their designs are limited editions, which makes them that much more special.
A few years ago, Annie O’Lean quit her job and set off solo with one goal in her mind: to create. After working for years in the fashion industry, she felt like she needed to take the next step and create something on her own.
Annie tells us more about her experience as an entrepreneur, the original ‘Gift Shop’ back at her parents’ house, and her favorite spots in Park Slope.
What moved you to take the BIG step to quit your job and start your business?
I have always had the itch to create my own items, and be my own boss. My parents often remind me of when I was young and I would arrange items artfully in my room and put an ‘Annie’s Gift Shop’ sign on my door, so I guess it was inevitable. I tend to like tedious work; if it’s easy I get bored very quickly, I think that’s why I was drawn to sewing. I didn’t really know too much about it when I quit my job, and it was definitely a challenge, but it is so rewarding when I see myself improving.
It was my husband who said it was time to quit my job. He saw how miserable and depressed I was. We didn’t really know what I would do next, but I knew I would either have to get another job, or create my own. My husband has been, and continues to be so supportive and helpful through this whole process.
What’s your background?
I graduated in Graphic Design, moved to NYC and worked in the fashion industry for many years. Before all this though, I was born into a very creative household, and was always encouraged artistically. I feel my creative upbringing combined with the knowledge I gained working in the fashion industry is why Gift Shop Brooklyn has worked.
Your designs are both gorgeous and incredibly practical. Where does your inspiration come from?
Since I started sewing (which was literally two years ago), I’ve wanted to create things that I would use myself. It’s actually harder than it sounds; many of the times I have to say, “is this good enough to give as a gift?” I often have to think, what would I give my mom or my sister or a very good friend? I personally love vintage details combined together with simple, clean and timeless aspects.
You make it a point to source all your materials in the US. Why is that important to you?
I feel it would be hypocritical to sell my brand as handmade in the US, and then outsource all materials. To me, it just seems like common sense to support each other, to make our communities and ultimately our country stronger.
What are Gift Shop Brooklyn’s plans for the next few months?
Well, I will probably be mostly sewing! Other than that, I am always thinking of new products or designs. Often, I will be in the middle of working on an order, and stop to try an idea or make a prototype. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s frustrating when it doesn’t work out the way I want it to, but at least I know I tried it and ultimately learned one more thing about my craft. A future goal for me is to someday have a studio (outside of my apartment). I love working from home, but it is almost impossible to get away from work when it’s constantly staring you in the face. Until then though, I do feel grateful that I can actually say I love working.
How long have you been in Park Slope? What are your favorite spots in the neighborhood?
I’m going on my fourth year here in Park Slope, after living in Manhattan. There are so many great spots in just a few blocks radius; it’s hard to pick favorites! We always bring out of town guests to Piccola. The food is delicious, and the atmosphere is friendly and cozy. For great drinks and small plates, it’s always Brook Vin. Then onto Sweet Melissa’s for something sweet. My favorite dessert there is The Double Shot, which is freshly brewed espresso over ice cream (I get vanilla), garnished with candied lemon peel; it is so amazing! Last but not least, I make frequent trips to Beacon’s Closet for amazing vintage (and modern) finds; it’s difficult to leave there empty handed!
Head over to Gift Shop Brooklyn to check out their latest collection!