In 2020, mid-pandemic, Tanner Richie and Fletcher Kasell launched their fantasy-fueled genderless fashion brand, Tanner Fletcher. In the three years following, the brand gained much industry respect, becoming a CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund finalist and nominee for the CFDA’s Emerging Designer of the Year award in 2023.
In this New York Fashion Week edition of the Glossy Podcast, Kasell talks about the highs and lows of being a young brand founder, the state of the genderless fashion category, and Tanner Fletcher’s off-runway plans for debuting its fall 2024 collection. Highlights from the conversation, below, have been lightly edited for clarity.
Starting the brand
“It started as a side project. We were bored during the pandemic; we had our unemployment money, and we didn’t have anything to do. So we were making little handbags and pouches — home-making everything. We were painting canvas, we were hand-embroidering. Tanner used to do his own handbag and pouch line in middle school in high school, so we were like, ‘Let’s just do this together. It would be fun.’ So we pitched that little line to small neighborhood boutiques in Brooklyn, and people actually picked it up. We were pleasantly surprised. I didn’t expect anything to come out of it. So we saw this happening, and we were like, ‘Wow, we could actually maybe do something for real.’ So it was then that we decided to take the turn and create Tanner Fletcher as it is today. We thought about what we wanted personally in a fashion brand. And we thought about what was lacking when we went into department stores and went shopping. We really sat down and created this fantasy world of Tanner Fletcher.”
Carving out a new fashion category
“We had always shopped in department stores between the men’s and the women’s departments. We really didn’t see these gendered boundaries. So we wanted to do a brand that just ignored labels. We didn’t want to make something that was this new category — we didn’t want to make a brand that sat alone, that was not in the women’s [department] or not in the men’s. But we wanted to ignore the labels altogether and wanted our customer to feel completely open, no matter who they are, to be able to shop Tanner Fletcher. … We just wanted to tear those walls down and create an open pathway for anybody to shop. I feel like everybody has a different level of masculinity and femininity, no matter what your gender identity is or your sexuality. So it’s just nice to kind of go on that scale and not [have to conform to] these traditional [ideas of]: ‘These are women’s pants,’ and ‘These are men’s pants.'”
The importance of funding
“I think [funding] is absolutely necessary for fashion brands. We’ve been self-funded, practically, up to now — we’ve had help here and there, wherever we can get it, but it’s practically been self-funded. We’re luckily starting conversations with investors, and I think the brand is now getting to a place where it looks good to investors; it’s something that people are interested in. So, for us, it’s necessary. We have a very broad vision; we know exactly what we want to do with the brand, and we know that that takes a lot of funds. It’s different for everybody — some people like the slower way of just supporting themselves always, and that’s totally cool, too. But for us, we know we need some more cash.”