TORONTO — Imagine if a box came to your doorstep and with it anyone, anywhere could create a custom leather jacket that is unmatched in its fit and personalized detail.
For Canadian designer Rosa Halpern, bringing that idea to life — and in a way that mimics her client’s sensory experience in her Toronto studio — has been an all-consuming passion for the 26-year-old founder of the edgy bespoke brand, Namesake.
Now Halpern is putting that concept to the test in 2018 with today’s launch of a first-of-its-kind Try-at-Home design platform that empowers digital shoppers to build the perfect leather jacket based on their own customization choices.
“A great leather jacket has always been recognized as an investment piece. But finding that perfect fit is elusive,” said the British-born Halpern, who, after graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014, launched Namesake in 2015 determined to create ethically made customized essentials for women that could capture the essence of who they are or who they want to be when they slip on her sumptuous, timeless designs.
Within Halpern’s studio, customers ranging in age from 25 to 70 can touch and feel more than 40 leather options — some more durable for outdoor activities, others for dressier fare — that have been handpicked from around the world to accommodate every client’s lifestyle needs.
“It’s the kind of quality leather that we can stand behind,” said Halpern, whose web site offers a smaller, curated collection of 25 to 30 leathers for shoppers to explore.
Yet Namesake’s Try-at-Home method “re-creates the intimate experience you would get in our atelier and makes the consumer an active member of the design process,” Halpern told WWD.
That collaboration begins on the brand’s web site, where shoppers can peruse a variety of jacket styles inspired by women such as Yoko Ono, Isadora Duncan, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe and others.
Once a style is selected, viewers must then choose two base sizes, as well as four leathers to work with from the descriptions featured on the web site.
With that data Halpern constructs an expertly curated customer kit, which includes two black twill jackets, hardware, leather swatches, lining samples and other design options like full fox-fur sleeves, distinctive studding, leather and suede fringe, as well as detachable fur collars for shoppers to try.
The Try-at-Home box includes a booklet with tips on adjustments, plus a video that takes shoppers through the process of trying on and measuring a jacket’s fit.
“The video shows you how to do the basics like measuring a sleeve’s length, which many people don’t know how to do, or marking off extra room at the bust so the fit will be just right for a customer’s body type,” Halpern said.
A pre-pay envelope is included in every box. “There is a $65 fee for the kit,” Halpern said. (That fee is knocked off the purchase price for those who order.)
Finally, shoppers simply call UPS to pick up the box from anywhere in the world, or drop it off themselves for return to Halpern’s studio. Upon receipt, Halpern and her team will e-mail clients to confirm every order’s details and commence sewing.
Four to six weeks later a perfect-fitting jacket embossed with the wearer’s name on the label is ready. The cost for this collaborative experience will typically range between $700 and $3,000, depending on final customization picks.
“These are the kind of jackets that will never end up in a landfill in 10 years’ time,” said Halpern, who will showcase a Try-at-Home Method pop-up in New York at 332 Bleecker Street on Dec. 1 and 2.
Halpern will launch her first men’s wear collection in 2019 and begin developing a bigger presence in North America.
“The truth is this niche market found me. A friend asked me to make a jacket. Then five more friends, then 20. It was an accident that this happened, but it was a beautiful accident,” Halpern said.
“Leather is an old practice. The equipment and machinery haven’t changed much over time and that is true whether you’re making leather shoes, handbags or jackets. But today’s consumer is moving into a more technological world. Our Try-at-Home Method is a response to that reality.”