Burning the Midnight Oil

We’re continually surprised by what Metropolis Coffee Company employees do in their “downtime.”

Their creativity and drive overflows; the latest iteration of this is a venture by our customer service guy, Tristan Coulter. He’s been receiving recognition (and contracts) for the upcycled and recycled bags created by he and his partners at Winter Session, a design collaborative including Tanya Fleisher and Roy Katz (right).

This recent piece from ‘TimeOut Chicago’ makes it clear he and his textile-crafting mates are onto something.

Loosely inspired by the Americana movement, form follows function and co-exists with it. Most of Winter Session’s hand-made pieces (bags, aprons) begin with a sketch, then undergo a collaborative back-and-forth. It’s tweaked, made, and then judged by both aesthetically and functionally. “There’s a craft to taking something made for one reason, then finding a completely different way to use it,” says Coulter.

“Everything we’re using is grown and woven in the United States, and comes from an eco-tech company that sweeps up leftovers at textile mills and other places, then redistributes them for other uses. Now and then, it’s more glamorous than that,” he continues. “Sometimes we get lucky and find something that works and has a story, like we found a giant, old Montgomery Ward tent.”

Like so many good things, it began without much more than enthusiasm and open minds. “We started refining the aesthetic about a year ago, then launched,” in September, 2010, at Chicago’s Renegade Craft Fair,” says Coulter. “We did well at the show and landed a good wholesale account, Post 27, thanks to owner Angela Finny.”

From there, it’s one thing leads to another: “Getting into Post 27 got us a feature in the web version of ‘Lucky’ magazine, which got us a couple more accounts. We got invited to the Hideout Holiday Sale where we did well and got to know a lot of very cool people,” continues Coulter.

Then, the ‘TimeOut Chicago’ piece hit; then another one from ‘Daily Candy’. Winter Session went from selling a bag a week to multiple orders daily and much interest in their brand. We like it because it’s honest, they make a product, tell you where it came from, what they did with it and sell it at a fair price.

What’s up next? Leather goods. “We’re going to use Horween Leather, one of Chicago’s original leather tanneries,” says Coulter. “It’s still in the family and is regarded as one of the best tanneries in the world. Winter Session is also now being carried at Tack & Jibe in Michigan, which carries all products made by people surrounding the Great Lakes.

Now the question we had to ask our guy: How do you do all this AND keep our clients so happy? “We all three have full-time jobs outside of Winter Session, so it’s a hectic schedule,” says Coulter. “I love the job at Metropolis and I love this Winter Session thing. The nice thing about my job is that I’m out in the world, talking and interacting with people.”

Visit the Winter Session website for more info. Offline, visit Post 27 or the Renegade Handmade on West Division Street; also being carried at Specific Merchandise in Los Angeles.

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