December 20, 2011

Brand Profile: Tucker Blair

Tucker Blair is now a fairly established, quality needle point belt company founded out of Washington DC. Their owner/founder/designer, Taylor Llewellyn, is based around Georgetown (not too far from College Prepster herself!).
He creates a quality product, at a reasonable price, while maintaining his original ideals and designs. Taylor created a product based around the classic scenes of New England and the Northeast, such as these lobsters:
With my Derby Party likely to sneak up on me again this year, I'm already thinking about it with this great horse race scene belt:
But especially around these holidays, this Santa Taxi Belt seems especially appropriate:
And speaking of just in time for the holidays...
Taylor has generously provided a 20% discount to all you fabulous readers!
Just use coupon code: prepinthemidwest
on your next purchase! Get those holiday orders in fast! Only a few days left!

I had also asked Taylor how he got started and about his inspiration. Check out what he had to say:

 When did you first decide to start your company?
Summer of 2007, I was working in DC for another company. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. I loved needle point belts and thought there was an opportunity in the market. I thought it was a great product niche that I could jump into, and there was a space in the market for these really cool belts. It wasn’t until May of 2008 that we sold our first product. It took a while to find a source overseas. I was just sitting down with a pad of paper and pen drawing out my ideas.

What is your inspiration regarding your designs?
The whole company, and especially the design process, has been a huge learning curve. We started out with 12 designs, some of which remain the most popular today. The American flag, the lobsters they’re designs that remind people of what they love most. From golfing to American flags. The designs have become much better over the years with the addition of designer Chris George. We take a lot of customer input because if we get enough demand it becomes a standard product. Now we’re at over 100 patterns that keep getting better and better. I feel there’s a huge opportunity to make even more.

Where did you first develop your style?
I grew up outside of San Francisco; I was born there and went to college there. It’s not typically thought of as a preppy enclave. My parents are both from the East coast and that helped me develop my preppy roots. We’re very much east coast centric. A lot of the patterns are very much, and a lot of the inspiration is derived from, Cape Cod and DC. I went to college in the Northeast; I went to Colgate. However, one of our largest demographics is the Southeast; we sell a lot of product down there. That kind of fratty-preppy style is even stronger down there. It’s also very strong in the northeast. It’s also very divisive by defining our demographic, and you see a lot of the country club set in the northeast. It’s a very niche preppy product that a lot of people are put off by. You see a lot of those pockets of people around the country. And those are the types of people that we target. It’s a self selecting group.

What do you hope your products will convey about yourself and your style?
I hope they covey eccentricity and reverence. If someone’s going around with Nantucket red pants and a needle point belt, they’re clearly trying to draw attention to themselves, I mean I do. It’s the same kind of way that people are trying to dress hipster, alternative, that’s the same way people wear our belts, they’re trying to convey something.

What has been the hardest thing about starting your own business?
It’s been very challenging. I have no fashion experience, so to speak. It’s just been a huge learning curve. I’m also on a shoe string budget. I’m just trying to grow customers and develop sales. It’s just very hard. I have a much better appreciation for entrepreneurs. It’s a very inventory intensive business; very capital intensive. It’s hard to put all this money into inventory and then market to customers in the hopes that they will buy your business. I think I’ve made just about every mistake I could possibly make while starting this thing. I look back at some of the decisions I made along the way, and just thankfully have made enough of the right decisions.

What other products do you hope to add to your portfolio?
Over the years we’ve looked at offering other products, from headbands to polos to non-needle point belts, but we’ve just realized our niche is the classic needle point. I’m always evaluating the idea of other needle point products, but at the same time I’m still sensitive to keeping true to what we are, a cool niche belt company.

How would you define today's 'Preppy' and how do you think it compare to the preppy past
Lisa Burnbach wrote the official preppy handbook, but I think it’s like a country club type, beach style. It’s timeless, and doesn’t look any different from your grandparents to a few generations after that. It exudes a life style: golf, tennis, sailing, and eating lobster. It’s a small category; I see it a lot because I live in Georgetown because it’s one of the preppier places. Vineyard Vines is probably one of the largest 

Want to learn more about Tucker Blair? Check them out here:
Twitter: @TuckerBlair
And as always, if you have any companies you think I should check out and feature on my blog. Please let me know!

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