Off Duty: Lyndsey Butler, Founder & Designer, Veda NYC

Written By James Kicinski-McCoy

Photography by: The Bleu

I first met 30-something Lyndsey Butler, whose friends call her Lazer (the coolest nickname!), last year when she invited me to visit her studio during a trip to NYC. Upon meeting, I instantly felt a connection to her and sensed that we were very similar, personality-wise. I find it so interesting how we as humans can pick up on these things almost instantaneously. Fast forward to a couple of months ago, when we met again, this time in her fifth-floor walk up apartment in Chinatown for this interview. As soon as I set foot inside, it was interior love at first sight. Lyndsay’s place is sheer New York City-dream perfection. Open floor plan, towering ceilings, giant windows that fill every room with light, exposed brick and beams, not to mention her taste for art and furnishings is excellent and everything just flows effortlessly. It’s a beautiful and thoughtfully pieced together space. Lyndsay’s mother (such a lovely woman) was in town visiting for a few days and it was so awesome to see their bond and get to know Lyndsey more in the process. We talked all about life, marriage, running a business with bare hands, fashion, friends, and a shared love for really good food.

Now, if you are unfamiliar with Lyndsey, I am sure you are very familiar with her cult-favorite clothing brand Veda, which is known for its superbly constructed, buttery soft leather jackets, and a brilliant nod to the ’90s with this past season’s color-blocking and tie-dye — I personally can’t get enough and am counting down the days until those snakeskin print pants are released (you’ll see what I’m talking about below). So now that I’ve paired the brand to the face, I’ll waste no more time and jump right into the interview. I do hope you enjoy!

Belize Button Down by Veda. Milano Leather Shorts by Veda. Sharp Pumps by Celine.
Belize Button Down by Veda. Milano Leather Shorts by Veda. Sharp Pumps by Celine.

What’s the story behind your home, and how long have you lived there?  “I got my apartment a little over five years ago. It was such an adult moment to purchase an apartment in Manhattan; it was something I had dreamed about since I moved to the city. So, for that reason, I am very attached to the space. It is a fifth floor walk-up in Chinatown, and it feels like a very quintessential downtown New York apartment. It is quirky and old, and it used to be a factory or a warehouse. We only renovated the bedrooms before we moved in. I really want to redo the bathroom and kitchen in the (hopefully near) future.”

What are a few favorite things you cherish in your home?  “Our dining table and chairs, plants, and windows.”

The living room.
The living room.
Soft Places by Harold Ancart.
Soft Places by Harold Ancart.

Where do you find / shop for home decor? Coming Soon is my neighborhood go-to for decor, gifts, and now furniture. They just expanded and opened a furniture showroom.”

What time do you usually rise? How many times do you hit snooze?  “I am all over the place, but I usually wake up between 7 – 7:30 a.m. I often hit snooze.”

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? “Put the kettle on (first step in coffee-making), drink a glass of water, finish making coffee, drink coffee, and slowly wake up.”

How do you typically spend a day off when the work can wait?  “If my husband is in town (he lives in Los Angeles part time), then we will hang out and probably eat good food, kiss, and maybe see some art or a movie.”

What’s on your bedside table?  “Several glasses of water, my glasses, and a stack of books.”

Any must-reads?  “Lucia Berlin.”

Anything good you’re watching lately?  “I just finished watching Fleabag on Amazon Prime and loved it.”

Do you listen to podcasts? Have any you recommend?  “I am pretty obsessed with politics podcasts, which at this point, almost feel like a bigger waste of time than Instagram. I listen to several podcasts from Crooked Media — Pod Save America, Pod Save the World, etc. I also listen to Fiasco (from Leon Neyfakh, the host of Slow Burn series), Trumpcast, and The Rachel Maddow Show. If it’s not politics, it is business and fashion — How I Built This, WorkLife with Adam Grant, and Business of Fashion. Oh, and I just listened to The Shrink Next Door. It is fascinating, I would definitely recommend it!”

Coffee table books and magazines you love?  “I love art books. A few of my current favorites are photography books, one from Shaniqwa Jarvis and another Ikebana Albums from Ana Kras. They are both female photographers with distinct personal styles. Both are super evocative. I also recently picked up Riding Through Compton. Melodie McDaniel’s beautiful black and white photos document the Compton Junior Posse, a non-profit equestrian program in Compton, California. For magazines, I love Gossamer and The New Yorker.

Favorite candles?  “I am not a crazy candle loyalist, but lately I have been loving Otherland’s Kindling and my friends at Halcyon Hotel made us a custom candle called ‘Girl in a Leather Jacket’, which I am obsessed with.”

What are your hobbies?  “Does work count?! When I am not at work, I like to travel, look at art, read, and eat delicious food.”

Night in or night out? How do you spend it?  “Night in 90% of the time, but a fun night out for me is a celebratory cocktail (times two or three) and oysters.”

What do you do for fun?  “I am very lucky, my life is pretty fun.”

Song on repeat?  “Gerry Rafferty’s Right Down the Line, Mustard & Migos’s Pure Water, Sturgill Simpson’s Brace For Impact, and T.Rex’s entire album Electric Warrior.

Spritz Dress by Veda. Olympia Wedge by Maryam Nazzir Zadeh.
Spritz Dress by Veda. Olympia Wedge by Maryam Nazzir Zadeh.

Describe your personal style / style philosophy.  “Mix it up!”

What’s the one thing in your closet you would save in a fire?  “Vintage Harley Davidson motorcycle jacket that fits me like a glove.”

Your first fashion splurge? Details please.  “I can’t confirm this was the first, but I have these mid-calf black leather Prada boots with a square toe from like 2001. I just started wearing them again!”

What’s one trend that’s reappearing that you’re glad is making a comeback?  “Tie-dye and color. I love color and print-mixing, so both of these make me very happy.”

What do you wear when you’re spending the day comfortable, at home, and off duty?  “Oversized men’s button-down and cotton, high-waisted underwear.”

Who, what, where inspires your style the most?  “Chinatown, my neighborhood in NYC is endlessly inspiring. But, I also retain a lot of my Texan roots, so I am always pulling inspiration from my first home.”

What are three things on your want list?  “A glass heart necklace by Alexa De La Cruz, an Online Ceramics tie-dye sweatshirt, a Bottega Venetta bag, and Slow and Steady Wins the Race slides.”

Your five wardrobe staples, go…  “Vintage Levi’s, leather jackets, cowboy boots, and a statement coat.”

Very favorite online shop?  “I love indie online boutiques like Maimoun, EitherAnd, and Joan.”

Favorite shop in The City?  “I love the new Forty Five Ten and 4510/Six stores at Hudson Yards.”

If you could raid one person’s closet (dead or alive), who’s would it be and why?  “Stevie Ray Vaughn.”

Best vintage clothing stores in NYC? Narnia.”

Dresses or jeans?  “Jeans.”

Heels or flats?  “Cowboy boots.”

Vintage or new?  “A mix of both.”

Breakfast / brunch of choice?  “I love breakfast. I dream about Texas breakfast tacos, but since I can’t have those all the time, I have some NYC favorites. We do a whole Sunday bagel spread. Alex, my husband, makes homemade Gravlax, then we have specific spots for everything: bagels from Davidovich in Essex Market, bialys and cream cheese from Kossar’s, and Stumptown coffee.”

Coffee or tea? How do you take it?  “Hot coffee with half and half, or iced coffee black.”

Favorite local cup?  “Office Coffee.”

Fave cookbooks?  “Homesick Texan.”

Your go-to dinner recipe when at home?  “My husband does most of the cooking.”

Favorite local restaurant and your go-to order? Uncle Boons. Everything on the menu is amazing, but if I have to pick: Tamarind Margarita, Green Mango Salad, Massaman Neuh (or for a veggie curry, do the Khao Soi), Crab Fried Rice, a side of Roti, and then save room for the Coconut Sundae.”

Regular Postmates / takeout order?  “A large Rubirosa supreme pizza and an arugula salad.”

Any supplements you take / magic elixirs you make or swear by?  “I’ve been making celery juice lately. I like how healthy it tastes. Dimes has a pH tonic on their menu that I love and attempt to approximate at home (apple cider vinegar, turmeric, a splash of soda water). I am definitely into the idea of CBD, but have found some to be way more effective than others. I really like Gossamer’s Dusk.”

Any most-loved kitchen gadgets?  “Clever coffee maker and Le Creuset dutch oven.”

How do you stay active?  “I walk a lot (at least two miles a day) and I go to the gym several times a week. When I am in a good routine, I will go four or five days a week. And, when things are crazy at work or I am traveling, it looks more one to two times a week.”

What does self-care look like for you when you’re off duty? “I just love to be at home with zero social obligations.”

You decide to treat yourself, how do you indulge?  “A massage!”

Texas tee from Feather in Austin. New season Eclipse Jeans in Snake from Veda — coming soon.
Texas tee from Feather in Austin. New season Eclipse Jeans in Snake from Veda — coming soon.

Tell us a bit about what you do.  “I run a small business, so I wear a lot of hats.”

Was it always fashion design?  “It was always more about starting and running a business. But, I love the fashion part and having the creative aspect to balance all the other stuff is really important for me.”

Who / what has been your biggest inspiration?  “Growing up, my parents really showed what running a small business looked like. I spent weekends and summers at their office and I loved it. Then, my former boss and original Veda business partner — Yael Aflalo, the founder of Reformation — taught me everything about the fashion business, manufacturing, and how to work tirelessly and still have fun. And, she is still trying to get me to take more risks and push things further. I should probably listen to her!”

Jayne Jacket by Veda.
Jayne Jacket by Veda.

What does a typical work day look like?  “If my husband is in town, we wake up, have coffee together, and spend the first 20 – 30 minutes of the day just talking and hanging. Then, I get dressed and race over to the office and dive right in. I typically arrive between 9 – 9:30 a.m. I try and spend my first five to ten minutes at the office mentally preparing for the day (reviewing my to-do list, prioritizing and psyching myself up to take on the day). Then, it is probably emails for 20 – 30 minutes, an hour or so of work on a bigger project or two (trying not to get distracted) like planning out the email marketing for the week or reviewing our cash forecast, some internal meetings (sales, e-comm, marketing or production), a couple of phone calls and maybe a quick shoot for social media, and then usually a one to two hour design meeting in the afternoon. The design meetings usually run long, so once we wrap depending on the time, I will answer some more emails and get setup for the next day. If we aren’t in a crazy time at work (like Fashion Week / market) I will try and leave at a decent hour like 6:30 – 7 p.m.”

Typical work lunch?  “Hummus and pretzel chips or a salad from Sweetgreen during the warmer months, or a soup from Smile-To-Go during the Winter. I don’t eat too much during the work day, otherwise I get sleepy.”

In such a competitive industry, how do you keep up with the Jonses?  “I think it is actually super important to try and block out a lot of the noise. Of course, you should know what is going on in the industry and pay attention to what stores are carrying and women are wearing, but not too much attention. What makes a brand relevant is their unique point of view and that can get lost if you are always trying to ‘keep up.'”

Your keys to productivity?  “Lists and a fun colored pen to cross out completed tasks (very satisfying), a quick a.m. and p.m. meditation to set intentions and learning how to turn off at night, so that you can get up and do it all over again.”

Veda has been going strong for over 10 years, what do you think attributes to your success?  “I am very hard-working and thoughtful. I tend to move slowly, which can be frustrating or confusing for people around me, but I like to take my time and understand a situation fully. I think it has helped me stay in business this long.”

The best piece of advice you ever received about launching your own label?  “Be known for something.”

Can you tell us how you remedy being in a creative funk? What puts you back on track?  “Getting out of my routine is really important for finding inspiration. Even if it is just an afternoon at a museum when I would normally be staring at my computer screen that can be enough of a shake-up. Or, getting out of NYC for a few days.”

Advice to others looking to break into the biz?  “Have a plan, but remain flexible. Don’t try and be everything to everyone.”

What’s next for you and Veda?  “Great question! We have some big things in the works for 2020. We have seen tremendous growth on our own site over the last 12 months and specifically with our exclusive Capsule V. (for Veda) which is a collection of classic leather pieces that are made in our NYC and retail for under $500. So, this is something we want to grow and expand on as we move forward. It will be important for us to tell our story more and show people how and why we make the things we do.”

Written by: James Kicinski-McCoy

James Kicinski-McCoy is the 40-something Founder and Editor-In-Chief of The Bleu. She likes tequila, picks fights with her husband so she can have the bed to herself, and is trying to figure out that work / life balance.

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