There are a few different ways you get a sense for a brand, but none beat getting to meet one of the founders. We had the pleasure of speaking with Daniel Feldman, one half of the Brooklyn based brand Feltraiger. We caught up with Daniel at Feltraiger’s LA office as he shares personal stories of how he got into clothing, tradeshows, opening up a store and what it has been like to run his own brand. Below you can find our conversation and some of the things we learned about Feltraiger.
Hey Daniel, thanks for meeting with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the beginnings of the brand?
Prior to starting the brand in 2010, I was booking bands and I was totally bored at the time and wanted to do something creative. I was in bands for a long time and starting a brand of my own was the only interesting thing I wanted to pursue. To do that I started taking classes at Parson and interning for brands like What Goes Around Comes Around, UNIS and Mishka. I was learning how to put tech packs together, assembling and releasing collections, and creating graphics.
How did your classes at Parsons and your time with these brands prepare you to start your own brand?
I learned a lot from these internships and decided to see what would happen if I started to do things on my own. I bought my own fabrics and tried to make my own clothes. I put together a five piece collection and shot it on the roof of my house with my buddy. We sent it to a bunch of magazines and it ended up being picked up by Timeout New York and Antenna. I took that as a sign to run with it and start the brand. I didn’t really want to work for anybody else and I guess it was a good time to start the brand.
What were your next steps in going from creating a test run to an actual brand?
At the time my grandmother passed away and she left me $10,000 to start the brand. I called up my brother who lived in South Florida and went to school for interior design and shot professionally for a few magazines. I told him I’m doing this for real and I asked him to come help out with design and photography and to start this brand with me. He has been shooting all of our collections and that was the start of the brand.
So we are assuming the next steps are to debut your collections at a tradeshow?
Correct, we brought our collections to the tradeshow to show it to the buyers in hopes of getting orders. We were bummed out about how the process went and we were really proud of what we showed, but the buyers would only ask for certain products in low quantities. As a new company you just say yes to everything and realize that is a huge problem when you go into production and can’t deliver. We left the tradeshow feeling defeated and decided that’s not how we wanted to start our brand and it felt structured and outdated. Instead, we changed our strategy and opened up a retail store and built the brand ourselves.
What was it like opening up your own retail store?
We found a spot in the Lower East Side next to Reed Space and my brother called me from the front of the store and told me this is the place we should get. We got a store up and running and went to the next show and while the buyers expressed interest, we told them we weren’t selling which generated even more buzz about the brand. We had our store in the LES for about 2 years and after that area started to die out and Williamsburg got bigger and bigger, we moved to Brooklyn and just celebrated our 2nd anniversary.
Congratulations on your anniversary, you can start doing things your way right?
Going the tradeshow route didn’t feel right and we wanted to do things our way. And now we a store in Brooklyn and having an office in LA has allowed us to do things we weren’t able to do in New York with all of the resources at your disposal like denim and knits.
It seems like you now have a lot more creative freedom by running your own store instead of having to rely on retailers who often play it safe by not stocking unique products. Can you elaborate?
We can now stock our store with whatever we want to produce. We’ve seen stores have the same shirts, denim, etc. But we would carry products that would sell out in weeks and people would ask where they could get more of it. Just like other industries and the help of the Internet and social media we can now be on our own and do things independently and sell directly to the consumer. We can use high quality products and charge less because there is no middleman. The stigma is that if it is more expensive its better made and we’re trying to show people that’s not always right.
How would you define or describe the brand to someone who isn’t familiar with it?
It is hard to define what we are or who Feltraiger is because we come from a diverse background and are not your typical heritage brand. I grew up skating and into all the streetwear brands and that was our introduction to fashion. We like incorporate our background into our brand were not trying to be forced to be a heritage brand because we are American made. That’s not how we dress and doesn’t feel natural or modern. While we are into the heritage look and vibe, we still kept some of the essence of streetwear. Our tagline for the brand is “New American Classic” and we are taking these nods from different men’s styles and modernizing it for today’s guy. We believe in still being able to wear a nice pair of selvage jeans, but throwing in a funny graphic tee with a fedora and a denim jacket.
What’s next for the brand?
We are looking to open up a store in Los Angeles and working on a second location in Brooklyn. We also just added a barbershop in our retail store and now expanding into apothecary items with polmades, shampoo, beard balms and soap. For today’s guy we also envision a home good’s line that they can add to their house like candles and decorative pieces. We are continuing to branch out and even discussing a record label. We like having these cool concepts stores that everything has something different to it. We are going to keep expanding what we are doing and doing more collaborations. We just started our podcasts where interview artists, hot rod builders or people who work at brands and talking about what they do.