Dreamcatcher: Annie the Handbag Designer

Dreamcatcher Series 
Installment 3: Annie Bukhman aka Gift Shop Brooklyn

Meet Annie: She invented the leather hair tie and has an obsession with clogs. I discovered her brand on Etsy back in 2014 when I fell in love with this pretty rad tote. The next thing you know, I was at her apartment picking up my purchase, seven blocks from my apartment in Park Slope. We instantly hit it off and have been friends ever since.

I went to visit Annie at her brand new studio (yay, Annie!) where she was busy packing up orders. We had a chance to catch up and I left feeling super inspired as always. Read on to hear more about our latest Dreamcatcher. 

Name: Annie Bukhman
Current Location: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation: Designer and founder of
Gift Shop Brooklyn.

So tell us about Gift Shop Brooklyn. How did it all start? I was working in fashion industry in New York City, growing very restless at my desk job - simply executing other designer's ideas. I decided to quit my job without knowing what the next step would be or what I would do; but I had the sheer motivation of wanting to be my own boss, and not returning to a corporate job, to figure something out and make it work.

Are you originally from Brooklyn? I'm originally from Massachusetts. My good friend from childhood had moved to New York and talked me into visiting her one summer and to stay for a month, which turned into the whole summer, which turned into "Ok, I need to find a job because I am clearly staying here".  After living with my friend for about one year, I moved to the Upper East Side, which was fantastic at first, especially for a young 20-something gallivanting around the city (it was really so fun, but I'm glad its over ;).  Ultimately, I grew out of the space, and moved to Brooklyn when I got married. I have been in Brooklyn for six years now, and still absolutely love it.

What's the most challenging part of your job? The most challenging part of my job is the unforeseen, minute tasks that I'm forced to deal with daily; for instance, I'm sent the wrong fabric, or a material I always order is now out of stock and I have orders pending. All these little fires that I have to put out daily take away from time I would love to spend designing something new or getting orders completed.

On a more personal level, I struggle with delegating tasks even though I do realize I can't do everything myself. I know my brand can be bigger, and I want it to be bigger, but I can't seem to wrap my head around how to make that happen while keeping the brand still feel small, unique, and personal to the customer. I have been taking baby steps in this direction of getting help in some areas so the business can grow comfortably and organically. 

Describe a typical day for you. The first thing I do after I wake up is check and respond to emails, order any materials I need, send invoices, etc. If I don't do these tasks right in the morning, they probably won't get done that day. Once I start sewing and working on orders, which requires a lot of concentration, it’s hard to focus on anything else. 

After email tasks, I shower and get ready; I'm much more productive after I've gotten "ready for a work day." Just a few weeks ago, I moved into a studio after working from home for almost five years. It is a welcome change I was ready for, but all those years working from home I always got dressed in real clothes and shoes. It made me feel professional and thus act professional throughout my work day (even thought most days no one even saw me).

A lot of people have the mindset that working from home means starting late and working in your pajamas, both of which I've never done.

The majority of my day is spent actually sewing orders, only breaking occasionally to snap a pic for a future Instagram post. At around six or seven I wrap up my sewing, and move onto edit some photos or work on my website until my husband convinces me to call it a day and to eat something.

Where do you find your inspiration? I find most of my inspiration from a specific need or want that I, myself, have in an accessory, i.e. shape, size, style, color. When I get a shape that I love or that customers really respond to, I will introduce new colors, or try different and unexpected color combinations creating fresh variations for the well-performing style. I used to always try to 'reinvent the wheel' while designing and now I let the customers tell my what they want, by focusing on and elaborating on the styles that are selling. I've always used different textures and finishes such as embroidered fabrics and metallic leathers. I love adding uniqueness while keeping a clean aesthetic.

What would like to accomplish in your career over the next five years? If I want to sustain this business, I know that I have to begin outsourcing more of my responsibilities, but it's important to me to keep the small, local, handmade feel of the brand. 

So, we totally backstalked you on Instagram and saw you recently visited Industry City. What's this cool place all about? Industry City is amazing! There are so many small, but incredibly successful businesses there. More and more business are moving in daily, Brooklyn Flea is there on the weekends, and they have a great food hall. 

Who are some of your favorite makers? To name a few: 

Jewelry Evidence Jewelry / Black Springs Folk Art / Everli Jewelry / Claus Jewelry / ikcha

Clothing  Lauren Winter / Noemiah / Local Parity Goods

Home Herbivore Botanicals / Light Texture  / Portland Apron Company / Colette Bream

When you're not behind the sewing machine, what do you like to do? Apart from sewing, I try to take trips to the city now and then to get a look at what types of bags people are using, and how they are dressing (not that this isn't technically working). Even though I am always checking social media and pinterest, etc. there’s something so raw and inspiring about real street style. 

I also love frequenting thrift stores to find one of a kind treasures; shopping online discovering awesome, local indie designers; going to the diner for breakfast on a work day; the occasional happy hour; and of course just staying at home being married, and hanging out with our two cats.