It’s not often that an item can be described as “rugged” and “unisex.” But, both words definitely do apply to the exquisitely crafted woolens from newly launched accessory brand Symmetry. Some other apt descriptors: expertly made, wholly unique, and effing gorgeous. Founded by husband and wife team Ted Byrnes and Gena Tuso, the Los Angeles based label offers an assortment of 100% wool scarves, each with its own unique toggled hardware component (sort of like a bracelet or necklace, but with a T shaped piece of metal on each end instead of a clasp). The components, which are all custom-made by hand, connect to leather-backed metal grommets that are located at key points along the scarves’ edges, allowing for each scarf to be fastened into a variety of different shapes (clever, no?).
Every step of the scarves’ fabrication, from cutting, to sewing, to the fashioning of the grommets and toggle-chains, is carried out in the Los Angeles area, while all of the wools are sourced either domestically (American-loomed Woolrich) or from Japan. By keeping the production close, and the materials top-grade, Byrnes and Tuso are able to ensure that their products are as high-quality as they can to get them, an outcome they take very seriously. Since the brand’s inception, the couple has put as great an emphasis on the durability of their goods, as on their goods’ design and functionality – they want the items to last, and they want their label to be(come) synonymous with dependable, hardwearing gear. Judging from their just-made-available first collection, it looks as though they’re already well on their way to achieving that goal.
Co-founder Ted Byrnes recently took some time out to answer a few questions through email. Here’s what he had to say.
Business is good. We just launched this season (Fall 2010) and we are very pleased with how everything is progressing thus far. Honestly, we are almost more concerned with creating things that we think are worthwhile as ‘products,’ than we are with the business side of it. We think if we’re going to be creating things / items in the cultural climate right now, they better have a pretty specific viewpoint.
How would you describe Symmetry’s code of ethics?
It’s pretty simple actually – to do things fairly and treat others fairly. The whole ethos of the brand is really to create products that are true, and how they are created is part of that. All of our production (cutting and sewing / hardware casting / hardware production) takes place only a few miles from our home, and in terms of fabrics we have worked with American mills (Woolrich specifically) and Japanese mills. It is important to us that what we are working with is not only high quality, but is also produced in a country that has business practices we are comfortable with. Obviously, as you and your readers know, America and Japan have long textile histories. We can tell you with absolute certainty that our collection will always be cut and sewn in America with quality fabrics / materials. That is very important to us.
How is Symmetry able to maintain its code of ethics while producing affordable goods?
Well first and foremost it’s about the product. Frankly, it does cost more as a producer to make things in the best possible way without cutting corners. It’s simply inevitable. Our margins are much slimmer than a lot of bigger manufacturers for that reason. But, we would rather have our customer get something impeccably made at a price they feel is fair, than skimp on production and widen our profit margin. We are less concerned about immediate profit and more concerned with our longevity as a brand and our customer’s satisfaction.
Why do you think bigger companies can’t (or won’t) do the same?
As above, really; it’s more expensive and as a producer you stand to make less money. It is antithetical to the traditional way of doing business. However, we think that the way business is being done is changing, and has to change. Look at what the majority of big businesses in this country have done to our environment, our economy, and even our bodies. It is inspiring that there are so many food co-ops, organic farms, craft breweries, independent record labels, small clothing manufacturers, artisan furniture makers (I could go on and on) – all of these things are born from people wanting things that are true and real and created honestly with the idea of humanity being more important than profit.
Do you think Symmetry’s code of ethics has helped to attract customers, or play any other role in the success of the company?
We think it’s only natural for people to gravitate to things that they relate too, both on an aesthetic level and an ideological one.
Are there any specific new ways Symmetry is currently working to increase its level of social responsibility? If yes, what are they?
Yes. We are looking to become more involved charitably. There are quite a few issues we are passionate about, and we are looking for organizations to align / work with. In the ongoing in terms of the actual business, it’s really about streamlining and trying to be more efficient. We are very fortunate that there is a lot of garment production that takes place in our backyard (Los Angeles), so really, for us, it’s about continuing to do things right. For next Spring we also started working with organic cottons, which we are excited about. The reality for all of us is that we all need to be conscientious as businesses moving forward, and for a lot of us that means evolving and doing things better on a daily basis. As human beings and business owners we learn something new every day, and apply these lessons to how we run the business.
On a personal level, do you think the growing demand for socially responsible products is a fad, or, representative of some sort of larger shift in consumer culture?
I think it IS an actual shift in consumer culture. A lot of folks like to classify it as a trend, but, honestly, anything that leads people to eating locally and well, wearing ethically made clothes by manufacturers they trust, and generally investing in this economy right now is a good thing. What is bothersome, is the large companies taking influence from the aesthetic of ‘Americana’ and then producing their collections elsewhere for cheap. Those sorts of actions are what turn it into a ‘trend.’ Then when something else becomes ‘trendy’ those companies will shift to that, leaving the businesses that actually started the whole movement in the lurch. But, I think that those of us that think and live this way, we can positively make change, and I think people really are following suit. The shift is happening, and that might even be independent of what is happening aesthetically, but on a human level. That is our hope, anyway.
For price and purchase information, visit Symmetry.