I grew up in Two Harbors, Minnesota, which is 20 miles north of Duluth. It’s a tiny little town—like 3,000 people—on Lake Superior. I guess I come from small-town America. Small towns can be good sometimes. It’s good to have that sense of community. My parents are really amazing. They still live there today, and they’re super supportive. They’ve always let me do my thing, which I’m so thankful for.
Looking back, it was also a bit of a difficult place to grow up in. Not much culture, everybody’s white. Let’s just say I’m glad to be in New York now.
We technically started our relationship a month before we moved in together.
My partner Tanner, who owns the company with me, is from the Midwest as well. We met at the University of Minnesota. We were freshman roommates, actually. It’s kind of a funny story. There was a Facebook page to find your roommate, and you’d make a little post, like, “This is when I get up in the morning”-type stuff. So I posted mine and he messaged me, and there was this instant connection. We messaged back and forth constantly. We went on a few of what we called “roommate dates” to make sure we were compatible to live together. Then it ended up becoming more. We started hanging out every weekend. We lived two hours apart, so we would always go somewhere new and stay in a hotel.
We technically started our relationship a month before we moved in together, which was scary. Our parents were super worried. And Tanner wasn’t even out at the time. He came out to his parents, moved away from home, moved in with his boyfriend, and started college all at the same time. My list was a little shorter, but still, it was a lot. We always say it could have been a really good thing or a really bad thing.
We lived in a dorm room together for a year, and then we ended up getting an apartment off campus. I got a job at a local boutique. Tanner also needed a job, so I recommended him and we ended up working there at the same time. That’s where we both learned of a lot of the new designers and about the fashion industry from the ground up.
If I think about it now, I’m like, Oh, I had access to practically nothing. When I was in middle school, even high school, I didn’t really even know of any of the big designers. I probably didn’t know of Gucci until the middle of high school. The brands that were available to me were Hollister, American Eagle—your typical mall stores. I somehow figured out how to shop there, but still style myself in a way that was different from everybody else.
I dressed a little funky, at least for the area. I was inspired by vintage movies because they were accessible to me. I’d watch old Hollywood films, like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Auntie Mame. I remember one time I bought a bunch of chino pants in every color from I don’t know where, probably American Eagle. I hemmed them all and made these little Bermuda shorts out of them. I remember my mom was like, “What are you doing? I spent money on these. You’re going to ruin these pants.” I ended up wearing them all summer. That’s the way I did it. Scrappy and crafty.
My creativity in terms of design really started to form later in high school and into college. While we were working at the boutique in Minneapolis, we moved to New York to intern for a summer. We both knew this was the place for us. After our internships ended, we moved back to Minnesota long enough to pack our things and get out of our lease. Then we moved to New York officially.
In a way, we created Tanner Fletcher around ourselves—our own aesthetic, the things that we were never able to find or buy.
When the pandemic hit, I was interning at Saint Laurent and Tanner was working for a staging company. On that dreaded March 14th, or whenever it was, we both fled the city and went home. We were freaked out. We didn’t know what was going to happen, if we were going to have jobs. I had been interviewing at a few places, and then that all went down the drain because of COVID. It was scary.
In the meantime, we started making these tote bags. Tanner knows how to make bags by hand. And we were able to actually sell some to six stockists in the U.S. It started as just a side thing. We never thought anything would come of it. Then we were like, “Wow, people are actually buying these. We should try to do something more.” That’s when we shifted to what Tanner Fletcher is today. Our first official collection was Spring/Summer 22, and we got picked up by SSENSE right away.
In a way, we created Tanner Fletcher around ourselves—our own aesthetic, the things that we were never able to find or buy. We knew we wanted the brand to be genderless right away. We started with that bad feeling that came from growing up in a small town, being judged for wearing more feminine clothes or shopping in the women’s department. We didn’t like that feeling. We made it genderless so that we could avoid that at all costs. We really want to be a leader and influence other brands to also take away the gender labels.
My mom and my grandma are the two leaders in my life. They’re very creative, but they would never admit it. But I definitely get my creativity from them. For our Tanner Fletcher collections, I often draw a lot of inspiration from my grandma’s house. Everybody in my family says it needs to be remodeled, and that it’s the ugliest and most outdated thing. She probably hasn’t touched it in 30 years. It’s so mid-century modern, and I bring that into our collections a lot as well. One of our tapestry materials is the same pattern as her wallpaper.
Tanner comes from an interior design background and I’m a big fan of interiors. That’s part of why we get along so well. We knew that this would come into the collection aesthetically. We use a lot of interior fabrics, or like that tapestry with my grandma’s wallpaper print on it. We knew we wanted the brand to feel nostalgic, or to have that homey feeling, and for people to feel really comfortable in a Tanner Fletcher outfit.
We actually funded the start of the business by thrifting, by buying and reselling clothes.
Tanner Fletcher is kind of our hobbies developed into work. It’s really everything we love the most. We love to antique shop and find treasures and get inspired by them. So it’s fun that we get to do that in our work. We actually funded the start of the business by thrifting, by buying and reselling clothes. We still thrift all the time. My whole closet—I don’t think I have anything new in my closet besides Tanner Fletcher. Same with Tanner.
We have endless ideas. We’re always brainstorming—where’s it going to go? What is it going to do? We want to have products available for a customer in every aspect of their lifestyle, including home. Our Bric-A-Brac collection is made up of the actual pieces that we were inspired by for our ready to wear. Eventually, we’d like to have our own home products. Soon we’ll be expanding into handbags—hopefully within the next year. One day we’ll do shoes. We’re just slowly building it from there.
When I tell people from my hometown that we can just get our weed delivered, they’re like, ‘I have to track down some teenager to buy it.’
I used to intern at Barneys and they had this section that they started right before they closed called the High End. It was all weed-related products. They had really beautiful pipes and everything you could want. That’s been in the back of my mind as something to add to Tanner Fletcher one day. We might add ashtrays next season. Not new ones, but found vintage ones. Slowly, especially when we have the customer for it, we would definitely be open to doing something similar to what Barneys did, a luxury collection of weed accessories.
The first time I probably tried weed was with our neighbor. Tanner and I had never really experimented with it much before, but he told us about a delivery service that delivers to our apartment. We were like, “How do you do this? What do you recommend?” We had no idea what we were doing, but let’s just say we’re now active customers.
When I tell people from my hometown that we can just get our weed delivered, they’re like, “I have to track down some teenager to buy it.” I was taught that it was terrible, that it was something to stay away from. I remember in middle school some kid was smoking weed and I was almost scared. That’s a little dramatic, but it was probably my first impression. Obviously now my opinion is different.
I think I have it figured out now. In the beginning, I started slow—you don’t want to overdo it. I worked my way into knowing what was right for me. I like a classic joint, or an edible every once in a while. Sometimes both. But our delivery service is like, “You can get a smoothie mix, you can have coffee.” They have everything. We tried their shrooms one time, but it was not our favorite.
Weed gives me a lot of creativity, or it puts me into a mindset where I can let go of the stressors, you know? Because the whole business side gets a little stressful, especially for creatives. It’s helpful to be able to let that wall down and not be so worried about the business stuff when we want to be creative. It allows us to let ideas flow. We will come up with the craziest ideas and edit them down, and one will end up in the collection. I like sativa best for creativity, but if I’m just going to relax, then indica is better for me. It depends on the day.
I bought this book just last weekend while we were thrifting upstate. It’s The Official Handbook for Marijuana Users from 1969. It says in the beginning, “Warning, this is not a good book to hollow out and hide pot in.” There’s a diagram in here of how to make a bong, and it says “Pick a groovy bottle.” I love that kind of hippie language. Those are the types of objects we’re inspired by.
I very much like to go to different time periods for inspiration. I’m always looking to the ’60s and ’70s and I really try to put myself in that era. I think there’s a relationship between that time period and what’s happening right now with movements like BLM and Pride. It feels like we’re, I don’t know, on the cusp of all these revolutions happening in our world today. I think that’s why I often go back.
Right now we’re most excited for our resort collection to launch. We feel like it’s our best collection yet. Other than that, we’re just proud to have the brand in general. Neither of us came from wealthy backgrounds or had connections in the city. We’re so passionate and the brand really stems from that passion. We truly built it from the ground up, and we’re proud to have done that without a bunch of resources.
There’s nobody else I’d rather do this with. It’s a little crazy. A little bit of a roller coaster. We usually get along well, and we’ve developed a way to deal with our creative differences so that there’s no bickering. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. We’re kind of like conjoined twins at times. Stuck to each other at the hip, but it works for us.