A chat with Rosa Halpern the designer behind By The Namesake
A handmade second skin to highlight the most human thing possible: the feeling of wearing smth made just for you.
By The Namesake is a Toronto-based brand that works with a full leather jacket state of mind. With the customized handmade pieces by designer Rosa Halpern — intent goes into every step from selecting the cut to the finishing touches of the leather to adding (or not) hand-painted work —, they value the individual behind every selection like no other. And that value goes into every aspect,even in the naming of each design.
Every By The Namesake piece is named after a woman or man who has left a powerful imprint on the 🌎, so you can carry their stories wherever. Just like you'll carry the story of a jacket that is made to be worn, "scarred from adventure" & able to pass on whenever you feel like it.
The cherry on top is a zero-waste type of production, which def makes sense united with jackets that are made-to-order in an atelier that only receives leather and supplies if there's a destination already set.
In honor of the name behind these great jackets, we had a chat with the designer Rosa Halpern who made the goal of uniquely-tailored pieces a reality.
Besides the meaning behind your name, what inspired you to build a brand that praises the stories of strong women?
More than just praising the stories of strong women throughout history, I wanted to build a brand that encourages our customers to feel like strong women today. That’s really at the core of everything we do — empowering today’s people to be the By The Namesakes of tomorrow. The best, baddest versions of themselves, emboldened to do good for the world.
For you, what does it mean to reinvent iconic shapes that were born in the male wardrobe from a female perspective?
It is true that the perfecto style moto was born from menswear, but, through generations of fashion designers, it has been equally claimed by women. I don’t claim the ingenuity of putting the perfecto on women for the first time, but I do for doing so in a way that is size and body inclusive.
And how do you manage to stay true to the feminist message behind By The Namesake now that you’re crafting pieces for men?
In selecting the names of our men’s icons we were cognizant of only recognizing men who had left a legacy of advocating for female empowerment. In this way, we feel confident that our men's By The Namesakes are consistent with our brand ethos of empowering women. We are also first and foremost a female-centered brand, as it is what comes most naturally to us and, clearly, it translates through to our customers. Interestingly, since launching our menswear collection we have found that we have sold as many men's styles to our female-identifying customers as to our male customers.
Since fashion has always had such an influence on culture, in what way is crafting leather jackets that empower women also a way to enable a more equal society?
Any time we have an empowered group of women we are one step closer to a more equal society. Empowerment can come in many forms, the sort of empowerment we are in the business of is through the power of creatingclothing that embraces all body types and makes you feel like your best self.We have had customers come to us who have never ever been able to zip up a jacket before; where society has made them feel like something is wrong with their body, we embrace and celebrate all body forms. And trust me, it’s an empowering moment when that woman can zip a jacket over her beautiful curves for the first time!
In what ways does your analogy between leather jackets & having a second skin relate to the inclusive sizes of your custom-made work?
This is a simple one: being size inclusive is about as fundamental to our brand as any other aspect. If we are custom, we need to be for all sizes.
Speaking of custom-made, why was it important for you to involve your audience in every step of your work thru this unique digital creative process?
The customization options are what separate us from other leather brands, as well as what ensures that our customers will walk away with a jacket that makes them feel like the best version of themselves. There is still so much of the custom process you experience in a studio that we are trying to figure out a way to make digital, it’s hard as leather carries such a tactile experience. You can’t (yet!) convey smell and touch through a screen!
Besides collaboration, movement & revolution are concepts that inspired your collections but seem to inspire By The Namesake as a whole. How do you apply these guidelines from your creative process to your leatherwork?
All of the namesakes we pay homage to have contributed to the world in a meaningful way... whether that be an artistic movement or through political revolution. We want to encourage our customers to make the same sort of meaningful changes in the world (all while wearing a badass leather jacket). This is steeped into our brand ethos as we have broken the traditional retail/retailer model by actively involving our customers in the design process and inviting them into our studio with full transparency of how each jacket is constructed — this is our own small revolution within the quickly spinning world of fast-fashion.
Apart from the power & diversity it naturally carries, what other characteristics of leather did you make sure to engrave into By The Namesake’s ethos?
Leather is a malleable and living material. We must also be malleable and adaptable to the world we live in. The last few months of navigating through business ownership in the face of COVID-19 is just one example of that.
What are the main aspects of your leather of choice that make this material the perfect match for By The Namesake’s commitment to combine custom-made with sustainability?
Leather itself, if selected carefully, is a sustainable material. 100% of the leather we use at By The Namesake is a direct by-product of the food industry and is processed and tanned in countries with strict environmental and labor laws — we want to ensure the leather we are buying has the least amount of environmental impact as possible. As a natural material, leather will eventually biodegrade and become one with the Earth again (in contrast,many leather substitutes are made from PVC, which creates dioxins and leeches over time with sun exposure and requires toxic phthalates additives to create its flexibility — these faux leathers will never biodegrade but remain in landfills forever).
In addition to the material itself, the custom nature of our business allows for sustainability. Each jacket we produce is made-to-order, meaning that we purchase the necessary supplies for that jacket only, with little to no waste. Any waste we do have is used for our small leather goods collection. We support sustainable manufacturing by producing every piece in Canada at our own studio where we invite our customers to drop by on our open hangout days to see how our jackets are made.
Your business was fully digital even before social distancing. What processes of By The Namesake will you keep and what changes will you apply to your practice from the lessons you’ve learned in these crazy times we are living in?
Our first foray into melding the digital and bespoke world was the launch of our Try-At-Home Kit and our new digital custom builder. We saw a massive uptick in interest for our Try-At-Home kits during COVID lockdown and we'recertainly thankful that we had that in place. Looking into the future, we are going to be continuing our growth into the digital world both through increasing awareness of our Try-At-Home kits and by launching a brand new website which will make the digital customization process even easier! Despite the growth within the digital world, it is our sincere hope that we continue to meet and fit customers in person at our brand new showroom in Toronto (which we’re aiming to open in the fall), as well as at our pop-ups worldwide... nothing is better than meeting our inspirational customers in real life and seeing how they transform when they slip into their second skin!
Did you notice that no-waste leather designs always end up being badass? We did.
If you wanna know more about creating a By The Namesake leather jacket (or pants!) of your own & their range of designs, head to our article about it & dive into more [𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐚 𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐥𝐬] magic here.