on the blog today, for the new small business series, i am pleased to introduce you to the lovely people of winter session. i kept seeing the name creep up in mentions from brick & mortar, instagram, and some tweets. i was intrigued. after doing some snooping around, well, i was sold! i know every town probably has it’s leather goods and their makers. but winter session just seems to be doing the partnership of canvas and leather and rivets so freaking well. from their logo to their stitch work, it’s impeccable. they offer everything from pen rolls to wallets to canvas bags (with this simple leather handle that just makes me swoon every time i see one).
ramona and jp and i stopped by their shop one day at The Outpost on welton street in five points, just a stone’s throw from crema. tanya, roy, and laura graciously greeted us and welcomed us into their gorgeous workspace (open thursdays to the public and other special days for pop-ups). it’s in an old building on historic welton street and has light streaming in that perfectly highlights the details of their goods.
we had a wonderful time speaking w them: picking their brain about their move from chicago (where we last moved from!), the highly reputable restaurants they collaborate with, how they got into it, how they maintain it, what they love about denver. basically, jp and i fell in love. their passion for what they do is palpable and contagious. and their products reflect this. again, the design and construction is thoughtful and perfectly executed. furthermore, we are thrilled they’re a part of the ‘hood as they are incredible advocates of all the awesomeness going on in the five points and north larimer areas.
my photos don’t do justice for the items and the space they are created in (in my defense, my camera died when i still had many photos to take!) but just one look at their shop, online or IRL, you will get what i am talking about. read on to learn more about the inspiration and work behind the company and you will be swooning like i am…
what is winter session?
how did you get into this? what was your inspiration?
We both have backgrounds in art, architecture and design — both academically, and in professional experience — and were brainstorming with our friend Tristan, who worked at our neighborhood coffee shop in Chicago (and now owns his own, Gaslight Coffee Roasters), about opportunities to do something creative that was independently driven and involved working with our hands. The general movement of young people making things definitely contributed to our motivation.
We were (and continue to be) inspired by uniforms, utilitarian wear and gear, and also Japanese aesthetics.
A lot of people comment or ask about the experience of working with each other, since we’re also married. The idea wasn’t a foreign concept: on both sides, our parents own small businesses and work with their spouses (in the realms of food, design and clothing retail, all threads that are part of Winter Session).
[Roy] My parents never questioned my desire to start a small business. [Tanya] my parents did, but because they’ve been through it, but that helped us think it through critically as well.
what has the process been from conception to execution?
Organic and meandering. It started as a side project, not with the explicit intention of it being a livelihood.
Local retail, live events, and word spreading through blogs have been responsible for connecting us with pretty much all of our wholesale accounts.
We’re currently at another milestone, of having a space that’s open to the public, where we can expand the Winter Session brand as something a bit more experiential and collaborative, rather than just based in commercial exchange. We’re doing monthly popup markets, “Weekend Specials” — the next one is coming up on June 8th for Fathers Day.
has creating/developing/launching/sustaining this been what you expected? easier or harder? what have the challenges been?
We expected it to be hard. Developing and sustaining is hard. But it’s a fun kind of business — building your own — there’s flexibility, and it’s totally open, but those are also the challenges. The same things that make it fun make it hard.
are you doing this solo or you have other partners/collaborators/helpers in the brand?
We are a small team at The Outpost, and we partner with sewing contractors in Chicago for some of our larger production. We also collaborate with other brands in designing special projects.
We also partner with other like-minded companies. For Father’s Day, we’re teaming up with the California company Juniper Ridge to offer a limited edition pre-run of our Dopp Kit stocked with Juniper Ridge’s all-natural soap and cologne, which they make by harvesting fragrances from the wilds of the West.
who, if anyone, has helped w branding/website development/maintenance?
Nathan Michael, our friend and collaborator, has helped develop a visual vocabulary for us, and helped with building out our website and crafting our graphic identity. We maintain the website, and use the Shopify e-commerce platform. We also love Square!
when did you open for business?
We started doing physical research in May 2010 and “launched” in September. It’s been a slow and steady evolution. Our current direction and collection (including our online shop) really came together a year later.
where can your items be purchased? where can you be found?
what new/other businesses are you excited about in denver? or would you like to see in denver?
We’re excited about the coffee and eating scene, cafes that are doing something special with creating an experience — like cosmopolitan Cafe Max, dreamy Black Eye Coffee and roving Public Coffee. Small craft food brands like Ritual Chocolate, Dagstani & Sons and The Real Dill. Curators of product and culture like Beet & Yarrow, Brick & Mortar, Steadbrook … There are too many to list! We’ve been so grateful for and energized by the warm community of businesses that are confidently dedicated to craft at a really high level.
We want: doughnuts. (Preferably across the street). And how about a craft butcher shop — it seems logical, as we’re surrounded by ranches. We’re pretty happy with the scene, though, and see a lot of positive energy moving toward the future.
what’s your favorite shop in denver? favorite place for food? neighborhood?
Our favorite shop is probably Ironwood, because it just does its own thing and has a magical character and presence.
Not trying to suck up, but we’ve really been digging the sweet potato waffle at Crema and anything involving seafood at The Populist (mussels, trout rillettes, ceviche). We love the areas around The Outpost; so much history and fresh opportunity side-by-side. We also really like Berkeley and LoHi.