The first time I met Patti she was wearing black rim glasses and a big smile. My first impression: sweet, humble, and ridiculously talented.
Her booth stood out at the Frenchmen Art Market amongst a group of handmade artisans and local jewelry makers. While her bags and backpacks for Tchoup Industries are hand-sewn in New Orleans, they sport a sophisticated precision that you would expect to find from a corporate outdoor chain. But with 10 years of experience in product design with companies like Coleman, Abbott, and LEGO, you can expect high-quality products made from beautiful materials that are built to last.
I got to know Patti even better while planning the Frontier pop-up shop and was excited to feature her as an INVADER of the week. Read about her creative journey, her inspirations, and her product line in the interview that follows.
Name: Patti Dunn
Name of Project: Tchoup Industries
Tell me more about Tchoup Industries?
Tchoup Industries is a bag brand that marries fashion and function to create great looking and long lasting products. Our tag line says it all …. “For city and swamp.” After designing bags and luggage for other bag brands in the outdoor industry – for 10+ years – I finally felt ready to create a collection of my own and put a lot of emphasis on local, natural and ecologically sustainable business and product choices. All our bags are made in our workshop in the French Quarter.
I’m personally really inspired by the level of quality for your designs. What lead you to becoming a product designer?
I thought I wanted to become an architect just like my Dad. I’ve always loved art and creative projects. But when I arrived at NC State University and learned about product design, I never gave architecture a second look. I love the scale of product design, and the constant interaction throughout your day with products good and bad. Quality is really important, if your bag can last 10 years instead of 10 months, that’s less bags you have to buy and less stuff in a landfill.
What person would you say you are currently inspired by?
At first I was inspired by more experienced design gurus like Dana Gleason of Mystery Ranch, but lately I’ve been so inspired by my friends, their local outdoor adventures, their style.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
What makes a job really bad or really good is the people you work with. My most challenging experience was working for a small family company with a boss that didn’t fully understand the necessity of professionalism. He had a bad temper and yelled often, brought an old dog to work that would bite people. One time he marched into my office with a handwritten list of the fanciest local restaurants. He said, “If the guy you’re dating can’t take you to these restaurants you shouldn’t be with him.” Thanks for the advice, but I’ll pass.
As a child, what were your favorite things to do?
I think coloring and playing in the woods next to my house were my top two favorite activities. We lived In a very rural part of eastern NC, so my sisters and I made a lot of our own fun.
What is challenging about being a creative entrepreneur?
I have been well trained and experienced in creative problem solving, implementation and aesthetic vision, but I never took a single class about business. The first year was so overwhelming having to catch myself up on marketing, sales, accounting, production efficiencies, etc. Sales was the most challenging hurdle, I hate the idea of persuading people to part with their money, it’s much easier to just tell the story about a great product.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self?
Don’t worry so much, AND you won’t be homeless if you turn down that corporate job in Kansas.
What do you like to listen to while you work?
A lot of internet radio…. I go between streaming KEXP, WWOZ and a few pandora stations
What are your favorites?
Place to be Inspired: Bayou Savauge
Bar to Chill out: Doesn’t happen as often as I’d like
Clothing Store: I’m a sucker for a treasure hunt … 2nd hand is usually my favorite shopping experience
Restaurant: Juan’s, Casa Borrega and El Gato Negro are my usual go-tos. I have a thing for Mexican food… Especially guacamole and margaritas
Artist/Designer: Andy Goldsworthy
Favorite Blog/Website: Guilty pleasure revealed….. Mrkate.com
Any upcoming events or fairs?
We’ll be at Freret Street Market this weekend, Bayou Boogaloo next weekend and Frenchmen Art Market usually one night a week