Tête-à-Tête with Amber Seagraves: Owner and Creator of Lasso Abode
Amber Seagraves is the creator and designer of the accessories brand Lasso Abode. Handmade in Los Angeles, it’s a collection of beautifully bohemian fringed pillows and bags inspired by what Amber calls “Nordic Western” style. I met Amber at a business conferences for marketers and creatives, Unique CAMP. Her story is fantastic: it’s a cross-country journey with well-established brands at her back and her own entrepreneurial adventures ahead. Amber was incredibly kind to take time to share her story and offer up her expertise with All + Sundry. Please enjoy and sign up for Lasso Abode’s newsletter to see the new products that pop up and the occasional sale codes!
Elizabeth: Why Nordic? And then… why Western? What is it about these two style sensibilities that calls to you?
Amber: I grew up in Missouri and always had a fascination for Jesse James, cowboys, and Little House on the Prairie, so I’ve always had a natural Western aesthetic in my sense of style. I’m such a tomboy; I’ve always worn double denim, plaid shirts, cowboy boots, and sported well-crafted men’s leather goods. It’s simply what I gravitate to. Ralph Lauren [Amber’s former company] and particularly RRL has a vintage/western aesthetic that really led me to hone in on my love of craftsmanship and Americana.
I’ve always had a fascination with Scandinavia and their sense of cozy simplicity. I’ve been to Iceland, Denmark and Sweden several times. I’ve always loved Scandinavian style. Yes, I love their modernism, but more so their traditional patterns and craftsmanship – the use of elk, bone, and horn details which I have picked up in my buttons and toggles. I would like to add some furry and cashmere pillows into the line this year too…
Some of my favorite bands are sporting Lasso Abode style. They have the Nordic Western vibe … can we say First Aid Kit or Dennis Lyxzén from Refused!!! It’s a thing. 😉
Elizabeth: Will you tell me about your background? You were living in New York working for Ralph Lauren. What was your role there? Was it also accessories and that’s what gave you the background and the confidence boost to go out on your own?
Amber: I moved to New York City in 1999 after a year living abroad in London and traveling Europe. My first year in NYC was mostly spent doing freelance styling for magazines and music videos. In 2000, I landed a position as an assistant menswear designer for J.Crew. I loved it; I worked with such wonderful people that I still keep in touch with today. Then after quite a few years at smaller contemporary brands, I designed Women’s Blue Label for Ralph Lauren, focusing on Knits and Soft Wovens from 2006-2013. Part of my role there was heading up the Polo Shirt division, so every year I designed new ways to re-invent the iconic polo player on the shirts. We created crystal polo players, leather polo players, dye polo players, etc. It was the most valuable design position I’ve ever had. It really taught me how to reinvent something iconic and to focus on detail and craftsmanship.
Elizabeth: What was it that inspired you to pick up and leave New York and embrace an L.A. life? How have the two lifestyles differed?
Amber: WINTER! I’d had the itch to move to L.A. for about 3 years. Friends and co-workers always told me how much more Cali I am, that my vibe is West Coast, and that I should live in California! For years! I was actually relocated here to head up the Active department for Guess Jeans but was laid off with in the year due to budgeting reasons. But by that point I loved L.A. so much that I decided to stay and finally start my own company.
Elizabeth: Here’s the part that I’m curious about for myself: you were working for some major, well-respected corporate brands. What made you rebel, break ranks, and decide to be your own boss? How did you even know where to start?
Amber: I did the corporate design route for 16 years and throughout most of it, I had wanted to do my own thing. I was very fortunate and worked for unbelievable brands and with amazing, talented people. But I love working on my own brand. I’m also at an age where I want to have something of my own. I turned 40 this year and it really motivated me to get going and be my own boss and an entrepreneur.
L.A.’s makers movement has really motivated me to go for it. L.A. is so inspiring – it seems like everyone is starting their own creative businesses. I once heard somewhere that “In New York you make it and in L.A. you make things.” Haha, it’s true! I really do love the makers community here and especially Sonja Rasula of Unique Markets and Unique Space. She is such a boss lady and just very lovely and smart. She inspires me so much!
Elizabeth: You source all your materials from the USA. This is something that few companies can boast. Did that mission make it harder to get your production off the ground?
Amber: Not at all; in fact, it’s much easier for me to source and make here. I work with a factory located in DTLA [downtown L.A. for us non-Californians] that handmakes everything. I also source leather and suedes in Los Angeles though they are imported Italian hides. The buttons and toggles are from a supplier I worked with at Ralph Lauren that’s based in Malibu. It’s really nice to work with everyone locally instead of overseas, which I’ve had to do at past companies. I love that my line is Made in America!
Elizabeth: You were inspired at CAMP from your macrame workshop to make keychains, and in no time at all, boom, there were keychains available as the latest Lasso Abode accessory [above]. What’s the process for making a brand new product from scratch?
Amber: Wasn’t CAMP the most magical experience?! I loved all the people I met and Sonja [the kickass founder] is so inspiring. I’ve really implemented the skills I learned in the workshops into my everyday life. And all the CAMPers were so fantastic – it was a magical experience being with everyone in Big Bear for 4 days with no cell phone. 😉
My background has been designing for iconic heritage brands so that’s how I naturally approach my own brand – I really use the same thought process. If a new idea doesn’t come out right then I simply don’t create it. Luckily, since all my products are made in California, it’s a pretty quick turnaround for samples and production.
Elizabeth: How are you marketing yourself? Any cool small business marketing tips that you are employing from CAMP or that you’ve come up with on your own?
Amber: Starting Lasso Abode helped me realize that I have a natural knack for marketing, social media, and branding. Instagram has been huge for me! It’s where most of my sales come from. And I’ve recently started a blog and a newsletter that I love working on, so I’m getting back into writing. I’ve now expanded my business to help other companies with their own branding and marketing and it’s been great to have a new skill set along with design.
Thank you, Amber, for being an awesome CAMPer and newfound friend, and for sharing your gorgeous handmade designs with All + Sundry!