Last month, we sat down with the very talented Brooklyn-based designer Tracey Tanner, who hinted at some exciting collaborations in her future. Now we can finally spill the beans: She has partnered with another ABC favorite, jewelry designer Julie Rofman. While Tracey is known for her unique leather handbags, wallets and pouches, Julie’s background as painter and sculptor has led to her current labor of love, a collection of vibrant, geometric, handcrafted friendship bracelets, each made of Japanese glass beads woven together using a traditional Native American method.
What better way, we thought, to show our love for both than to integrate these two design aesthetics into one. Enter: the Tracey Tanner/Julie Rofman collection at ABC—a variety of leather clutches detailed with a strap showcasing Julie’s eye-catching beadwork. We connected with the dynamic duo to chat about ABC and their one-of-a-kind bohemian yet modern collection.
ABC REVEAL: Congratulations on your new collection! What sparked the collaboration?
Julie: I met Tracey in New York at the New York International Gift Fair. She had seen my pieces, and after becoming friends we decided it might be fun to collaborate on a series of clutches fusing our designs. You can slip your hand through the beaded portion of the clutches, so it’s like wearing one of my bracelets across the hand.
Tracey: The collaboration was very organic. I met Julie during a trade show and had been a fan of her stuff before meeting her. As it turned out, she said the same about my line. We ended up going for dinner and I can’t remember who said it to whom, but we decided that it would be awesome to collaborate.
ABCR: Describe the process that went into starting this collection.
J: We started out skyping and sketching. Eventually when I was back in Brooklyn, I went to Tracey’s studio to decide on colorways that were classic and fun. I would say we wanted one muted piece (matte black leather with my darker triangular beaded piece called Ibiza), one with silver-grey leather and a punch of color (using the Galapagos bracelet) and one with a bohemian feel (a warm brown leather with the bronzes, coppers, aquamarine and turquoise of the Morocco bracelet).
T: As far as shape, we went with the shapes that made the most sense for this type of item. We did do a new size of the Fatty and introduced the Cleo (named after my dog). We wanted to do at least one style that was exclusive to the collaboration.
Shop the Tracey Tanner/Julie Rofman collection below
1. Fatty clutch
2. Coco wallet
3. Cleo clutch
ABCR: Why do you think your work complements one another so well?
J: Tracey really knows what she’s doing with leather—she sews each piece in her studio in Brooklyn. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to contrast my colorful beadwork with the clean lines and rich soft leathers she uses.
T: Julie has the best color sense of anyone I know and I loved the idea of adding something so bright and clean to the bags. We have a very similar aesthetic and seem to be inspired by a lot of the same things.
ABCR: Any secrets you wish you had known in regards to building a small business?
J: In retrospect I am thrilled with how things have worked out with my business. But if had the chance to tap myself on the shoulder at the beginning and dole out some advice to myself, I would have to say that it is crucial to have a good team—no matter how big or small—to help you along the way. Learning you can’t control everything and letting go of trying to do everything yourself is important; it’s impossible and much too stressful.
ABCR: Julie, when we spoke last, you mentioned you were working on men’s-focused jewelry. Is that still the case?
J: I am! I just completed a large width cuff named Cape that has all matte beads, a double wrap with matte beads and two smaller sized bracelets that can be for men or women. Both have the words “Let Go” spelled out on them with beads—something we all need to remember to do from time to time.
ABCR: Have you made the move to the East Coast?
J: I just got back from Kauai and I am tempted to move there. But I am still in Northern California for the time being. I see New York in my future. My travels have influenced the colorways and designs in my work, from the food, architecture, vegetation, textiles and light in each place I name my jewelry after.
ABCR: Tracey, we recently got your picks, but we would love to hear from you, Julie—when wandering ABC, what are you doing, buying or exploring?
J: I’d be checking out the latest by Gary Graham and definitely having lunch at ABC Kitchen—triple yum! Oh, and I definitely would want to see and run my hand across the color reform and antique vintage rug collections!