Last time we caught up with bag-making babe Toni Truong, it was at one of her DIY leather crafting workshops—where we left our very own cute yellow clutch, FYI. Since then the woman behind TONI has been busying herself with the usual: handmaking her line's beloved bags and fanny packs in house and coming up with more sleek and functional pieces (Psst! Keep an eye out for her cosmetic bag in metallic coming soon).
We got the Texan born lady to tell us more about when she first fell in love with leather, how she shops for textiles, and why she'll probably ask to see your wallet.
How did you first begin experimenting with leather?
I was going through an exploratory phase and working at a fabric store at the time. I was in-between jobs and thought working there would be a good opportunity to learn about textiles and to meet people working in the industry. It was Christmas time. My mom is not a present-type person, so I wanted to make her something instead of buying a present. I bought a piece of leather from the fabric store and made my first leather bag. I fell in love with it and started the TONI line a couple of months later.
You know a lot of the processes that go into making a bag. Why was it important to learn those hands-on? Not every designer does.
I make all the bags in my studio. I fell in love with the skill of leather craftsmanship and all the tools/machinery, so it's natural for me to learn on my own and produce the bags in house. From designing, sourcing, pattern making, prototyping to production, I still do it all. Because I know the my products and process really well, I have a better grasp of how to expand the line. As a small business owner, it has been beneficial to contribute to every part of the process from the beginning. I learned a lot of my strengths and weaknesses, and it's allowed me to focus on the things I am good at and to outsource the rest.
Let's talk textiles. How do you choose your leathers?
I handpick all the leather and materials! The collection is sourced from all local vendors around town. I start the design process with a design in mind and look for leather best for that structure. I chose leather based on their texture and thickness. I then choose leather colors available with those qualities.
We've been to one of your fun workshops in the past. Any plans for more?
Of course! It's such a rewarding experience to be part of someone's creative process. It also has been a great source of inspiration for the line. It's an opportunity to learn about people and how they carry what they carry. I lean on that knowledge when I design. I tend to collaborate with other brands for workshops. It happens organically. The best way to find out when the next leather workshop is through social media and or newsletter.
Where else do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! I tend to pin mood boards of natural elements with textures and imperfect beauty. I find that they have a lot of similarities of what I find so beautiful in leather. And also people! I always ask people if I can see their wallet. For me, it tells a lot about a person's personality.
Tell us about the TONI customer.
A cool, independent person that likes to 'collect things' to add to their wardrobe. A person that edits and simplifies. A person like knows exactly what they like.