Richard Lambertson and John Truex are stepping down from their design roles at Shinola to pursue a reboot of their namesake brand, Lambertson Truex.
The duo joined Shinola in 2014 to develop the company’s leather goods program. In four years, they have grown that business to become Shinola’s second-largest category after watches.
Shinola’s founder Tom Kartsotis said of Lambertson and Truex’s departure and Shinola’s restructuring thereafter: “Going forward, creative director Daniel Caudill will take creative control of the men’s leather category, and women’s design director Ruthie Underwood, will oversee women’s leather design. I hope to support the Lambertson Truex relaunch in any way I can…We will greatly miss their incredible talent and energy and wish them well on their next chapter.”
Lambertson Truex’s second iteration will soft-launch with a direct-to-consumer model for fall, and will open wholesale accounts for the spring 2019 season.
Truex told WWD that, while the brand will offer high price point exotic designs, it envisions its leather assortment ranging from $795 to $1,400. Samples are in production, and the brand’s site has already gone live — offering a preview of its structure to come. The e-commerce site will stock seasonal designs, offer a bespoke program and sell small lots of vintage Lambertson Truex product.
The duo is officially curtailing its work with Shinola this week, but will remain in contact with the brand in an advisory-type role. Though Kartsotis has pledged support, Shinola’s holding company Bedrock Manufacturing will not be financially involved or invest in LT’s new iteration. Truex confirmed that the project is self-funded.
The Lambertson Truex label, founded in 1998, built its designers a reputation for all-American, streamlined carry-alls and structured lady bags. The brand was purchased by Samsonite in 2006, and came under ownership by Tiffany & Co. in 2009. Following Tiffany’s acquisition, Lambertson and Truex closed their label to focus on building the jeweler’s own leather goods assortment. They departed Tiffany in 2013.
Truex admitted that the accessories business is far changed since he and Lambertson launched the label. The product landscape he feels, though, is caught in a visual rut similar to the late Nineties. Then, much like now, logo-mania was widespread — leaving a shopping population in search of clean, unadorned bags.
“In 1998, logomania is what inspired us to start with an approach that was completely the opposite. It’s ironic that 20 years later, we are kind of back there again. It just feels like the time is right to bring something that is fresh and more focused on the consumer and less on one-upping everyone,” he said.
Lambertson and Truex were incentivized to reboot their label after observing young girls wearing vintage Lambertson Truex pieces on Instagram — some purchased in secondhand boutiques and others pulled from their mothers’ closets.
“I think, not only are we going to address the needs and desires of the first and second generations of Lambertson Truex shoppers, more importantly we are looking at getting a third generation,” Truex said. “What inspired us was going through Instagram and seeing younger women post things. Our consumer has also encouraged us, we get notes from clients still carrying our bags and worshipping our shoes that they bought 15 years ago and don’t wear too much because they don’t want them to wear out too quickly.”
In an industry currently riding on social media hype, the duo hopes to bring “something different.”
“It’s a very different marketplace and a different consumer approach [today]. I think if we can pour our hearts and passions into it, that will come out in the design — I think a customer will really appreciate that approach. Richard and I are rather quiet, we are understated about our process.”
While the brand’s loyal audience can expect trademark subtleties, Truex does hope to “push the envelope and try new things.” He and Lambertson’s time at Shinola was formative in its exploration of American manufacturing capabilities.
“I do want to concentrate on making and producing a collection of leather goods here in the U.S. as well as working with some partners we had in the past in South Africa, where great leathers are available,” Truex said.
The designers hope to revive many of the longstanding wholesale relationships that they had nurtured. Said Truex: “We are looking forward to just having fun with our wholesale clients, and our customers and working with them — the idea of being in front of them again and creating something special.”