When Kate Huling first started Breton, a line of leather goods and garments created from the hides and wool of the sheep, pigs and cows whose meat is served at her and her husband Andrew Tarlow’s local restaurants (Roman’s, Marlow & Sons, Reynard, Diner and Achilles Heel), opening her own retail space wasn’t part of the plan.
Instead, like several independent designers these days, she opened an online shop, Marlow Goods, which housed her collection alongside products from other lines with similar, sustainable sensibilities. She sold signature items, like sheepskin rugs and leather bags, to local shops like French Garment Cleaners in Fort Greene and at the Wythe Hotel; and cleared some room for her creations on the shelves of Marlow & Sons’ general store. Her grass-fed fashion line is growing however, and with its expansion comes a new venture–a retail space upstairs from Marlow & Sons that opened in July.
“It was hard to tell the story of everything when we just had that little space,” Huling says. “Now that we have this space up here, we can go in different directions. People come in looking for a bag and we can pull everything out. People can choose. The grain of every single bag is different depending on whether its’ the butt or whether it’s more the shoulder. The shoulder leather has all this crackly stuff and these lines. The butt is going to be a lot smoother. People can pull them all out and pick exactly what they want.”
The shop is open from noon to 6pm, Tuesday through Sunday, as well as by appointment. You can find Huling (and oftentimes Tarlow) there most days surrounded by items of her own design, as well as old milk crates from Marlow & Daughters butcher shop that are filled with cookbooks from chefs who’ve prepared meals for the supper club, Dinner With Friends, at the Wythe Hotel, and house-ware items like Staub cast iron cocottes, Duralex glasses, ceramics by Cassie and Jessica Aniello and Spanish knives from Pallares.
The window sills are lined with incense from Astier de Villate, brass-handled scissors, small notebooks and knickknacks that used to reside a floor below. Kantha blankets from India, made from recycled saris, sit in stacks by a setee striped with purple and white fabric Huling brought from her home in Fort Greene.
Ring the big brass bell outside to gain entry, or like me, ask a manager behind the counter at Marlow & Sons to show you the way. The studio sits above the restaurant and is accessed through a pair of French doors that separate it from the pastry kitchen.
With more space to display her designs, Huling has been expanding upon her collection, creating a wider range of leather purses to compliment her original, made-to-order carryalls. New styles range in price from $275-$725 and include totes, satchels, cross-body bags and a travel purse inspired by, and named after, a close friend, Britten, who was looking for something that could easily transition from day to night and be big enough to hold a book, as well as her essentials.
“So much of it is listening to people,” Huling says. “Everyone comes in here with different ideas about things that they want or need out of a bag. Then I more or less have shapes that I really am drawn to, so when they come in and talk about what they’re looking for, I then start sketching. Most of these are pretty classic, horsey styles, that are meant to be simple, useful and functional.”
While each bag is still stitched by the same man in Union City, New Jersey, who has been constructing Huling’s leather goods from the beginning, Huling says she and Tarlow have recently switched tanners; a move that will allow them to introduce more colors into the collection, like azure blue, yellow, light grey and burgundy.
“It’s a family run business,” says Huling of the new tannery, located in Montgomery, N.Y. “These guys manage all their own waste water themselves–it’s a 100% natural process. They’re all going to get chestnut tanned. At the end of the day, we’ve going to have a natural, local leather from farms that we work with. It’s going to be a really rewarding relationship.”