Urstadt.Swan — you may not know the name, but there is a good chance that you’ve seen the work of the East Village’s Lauren Urstadt and Shari Swan.
Madonna wears their custom made gloves in concert. Stevie Nicks sported them on the cover of Rolling Stone, and Drew Barrymore shows off their chain metal cuffs on the front of ELLE magazine.
Add to that list Lizzo, J-Lo, Billie Eilish, Grimes and Jennifer Lawrence, and you’ve got a pretty impressive clientele for two women who run their business and make many of the items in their East Village studio.
Urstadt and Swan describe their work as “luxury handmade and custom accessories and apparel for retail along with a wide variety of music and film clients.”
Though they had a popup shop in SoHo for a year and a sizable studio/showroom for four years in Tribeca — which they lost when the building turned condo — they are back to working on their brand in a smaller East Village design studio, but the lack of space does not mean there’s a lack of inspiration.
They’ve created custom pieces for “Star Trek” and Angelina Jolie’s action flick “Salt,” as well as designing a costume head-to-toe for the main character in the video game “Thief.”
“One of the best jobs we ever had!” exclaims Swan. “When we brought the finished piece to their office one of the guys put on the costume and 50 people gave us a standing ovation!”
Another great day was the one that they spent with Stevie Nicks, going over ideas for her pieces. “Coolest day of our lives,” comments Urstadt.
Swan, who is also a painter and a graphic designer (she created their website), brainstorms with Urstadt on the ideas and does some of the cutting, but leaves the sewing to her partner.
“It’s my passion,” admits Urstadt. “I love working with my hands.”
Which was a good thing during the two weeks that she had to produce 200 pairs of gloves. “I didn’t get much sleep,” she recalls.
The pair met 15 years ago, introduced by Urstadt’s cousin. Their romantic relationship became a business venture a few years later and 12 years on they show no signs of any of the liabilities that occur in couples who work together, for a variety of reasons.
“We have different talents,” Urstadt begins to explain.
“And we respect each others opinions,” notes Swan, adding, “We have to have fun too… it can’t be all work and no play.”
“Yes,” agrees Urstadt, “we laugh a lot!”
While vending over the years to Henri Bendel, designing for other labels such as Club Monaco and selling to specialty boutiques as far away as Germany and Japan, they have strived to “focus on new luxe innovative materials with a utilitarian edge” while holding onto what they call “a New York City urban edge.”
Their style has been noted and has graced the pages of Vogue, Marie Claire, Interview, W and Elle, among others. While their most popular item is the chain mesh cuff that has been seen on a variety of bold face names and they love to create accessories such as gloves, scarves, handbags and neckties, they hope that their apparel will get as much notice – and hopefully by the film industry.
“Our major thing is making custom products here and not a lot of people are doing that. We’d love to work more for movies – those are really such creative projects,” they say. “At the end of the day, it comes down to the aesthetic — what we’re doing is different.”