- Buyer's Guide
5 Minutes with Winter Session
Denver-based Winter Session started as a side project for Roy Katz and Tanya Fleisher to utilise their experience in the fields of art, architecture and design in order to foster creative bag and apron-making craft. However, the side project flourished and Winter Session now enjoys customers from around the world who appreciate the brand’s dedication to creating carry that is versatile, functional and built to last. To learn more we snagged 5 minutes with Winter Session to discove their design insights and inspirations as well as new developments to look forward to…
What key insights drive your stuff?
We’re a small, fairly young business and that means we wear a lot of different hats (metaphorically speaking) both at Winter Session and outside the workshop: we’re designers, account managers, instagrammers, sewers, hikers, bike commuters, and product photographers. To us, versatility and functionality are essential values to leading a productive and sane daily life, and these priorities inform our approach to designing wallets, bags, and small accessories.
Beyond addressing functionality based on our own daily lives, we consider the range of our customers’ needs and lifestyles when we’re designing. We get orders from all over the map and from very different environments. It’s pretty exciting to know that one of our bags will be living in rural New England, while another is headed off to a metropolis in South Korea. Because of this, we focus on creating bags and accessories that we think would fit well in both urban and outdoor environments, and that are adaptable between the two.
You’ll notice that we often talk about our designs sort of like people, and it’s true – we think of Winter Session products as companions to a life well-lived. We strive to create pieces that will wear long and hard with style and grace. And we hope that our customers develop dynamic and trustworthy relationships with their Winter Session gear, as it adapts to many different roles throughout the day and over their lifetime.
Who else is doing rad things in the world of carry? And why do you think they’re important…
Instagram has been a great way to keep up with our peers – both in terms of product development and how they represent themselves and connect with their customers. Fellow Denver brand Topo Designs does a fantastic job with social media: by really getting out into the field with their gear, they authentically transport their audience right into the mountains, embodying the adventuresome spirit of the outdoor lifestyle that is so essential to their vision. On the other side of the world (Japan), Southern Field Industries keeps us engaged and inspired with their focused and intentional approach to making and their fresh, simple and highly-attuned aesthetic.
We also have a lot of respect for Atelier de l’Armée, a French brand that creates beautiful bags and accessories using reclaimed or deadstock materials. Winter Session actually started out that way four years ago, foraging for well-loved materials in Chicago thrift stores. We acknowledge that the leather and textile industries are resource-intensive, and although we ended up changing directions, it’s really neat to see another business that has flourished using that sustainable sourcing model.
Are there any things other brands do that you think are great or could be improved?
We’re really glad to see the idea of Slow Fashion taking hold: that people are interested in investment pieces, in making a more substantial purchase that’s versatile and that they use every day – as opposed to, say, buying five or ten different cheap bags that are used a few times and then tossed in favor of next year’s trend. Our customers’ consistent use of a Winter Session bag or wallet – and appreciation for the effort and care put into its creation – means they are more likely to tell a stranger at the airport, or a friend over coffee, that it was made here in Colorado, USA. That said, we do have a lot of repeat customers, and they let us know that it’s the quality and consistency that keeps them coming back. It’s exciting to see this quality-over-quantity mentality become more mainstream, and we hope that the integrity of the movement is maintained as more people – consumers and brands – catch on.
What’s next for you guys?
Our team of eight is always using our products (whether it’s the Day Pack, the Day Bag, the Garrison or the Felix, along with various wallets, iPhone sleeves, and keychains), and we’re constantly field-testing our own designs and tweaking them according to our discoveries. Customer relationships also guide our evolution as a brand and as designers/makers. We depend on valuable feedback from our brick and mortar retailers and web customers to determine what products are working best, how our materials wear over time, and improvements or iterations they’d like to see in the future.
So the answer to ‘what’s next?’ isn’t necessarily creating something brand new, but instead engaging in a process of continuous refinement. With each wallet, pouch, sleeve, bag, and roll-up we make, we gain a deeper knowledge and expand our material and technical vocabulary just a little bit further. Our ‘new’ products are often variations on existing pieces – with proportions and details rearranged to serve a different or expanded function. Some time in the next year we’re going to design a good knife roll, a duffle bag or weekender, and possibly an all-leather bag.
What do you carry daily and how?
Day Pack: I carry it everywhere, whether commuting by bike, going for a hike or walking to the grocery store
iPad sleeve: the Burgundy Dublin leather has acquired quite a few ‘character markings’ over the past year
iPhone sleeve: protects my phone so there’s no need for one of those bulky plastic cases
Zip Folio: my go-to item for short trips and quick outings when I just need a few things with me (I also keep it inside my pack at all times)
WS+DP Utility Notebook Cover: for keeping my notes and sketches neat and tidy
WS+DP Pen Holster: for my most used writing utensils (Uniball Signo and Micron pens)
Doane Paper Flap Jotter (small): for quick lists and dimensions
Snap Wallet: my new favorite for my cash and cards
Double Wrap Bracelet: mine has darkened to a rich tobacco color after wearing it every day for the past six months
Oyo foot bag a.k.a. hacky sack, for when I need some post-lunch downtime
Seiko Chronograph watch with military band (ten years and still ticking!)
Multi-tool, tire irons and patch kit
Banana (my snack of choice)