Celebrities turn to Texan entrepreneur for hand-painted Birkins and LVs
In the glittering world of luxury, limited edition pieces and bespoke items are essential status symbols. Yet for that extra opulence, it’s all about personalizing the most coveted merchandise.
Few people in the country have followed this trend like Texas’ Tara Martin, who started his hand-painted luxury personalization business, DTLApersonalized, in 2015 out of pure necessity.
Since then, the Houston resident has become a celebrity customizer: her famous clients include Lady Gaga, Madonna, the Kardashians, Elton John, Gwyneth Paltrow (and her company, Goop) and John Mayer.
Thanks to DTLAcustom (which stands for Design Team LA), no items are banned – a waitlisted $ 30,000 Birkin handbag, Louis Vuitton luggage, sneakers, boots, hats, even items. everyday housewares – can be hand painted with initials, personalized images (pets are a favorite), logos, slogans, alma maters, and more.
Business is booming: Martin, who made Houston his corporate headquarters, has a statewide customer base – Dallas and Austin count as large markets – as well as national and global reach .
Bags of wealth
As with so many successful entrepreneurs, the story of the origins of Martin’s business begins with sheer need. The USC graduate (she studied international relations) has worked in high-end women’s fashion, cultivating brands and learning all aspects of the industry. A random trip to an LA Trader Joe’s led to her being scolded for not bringing her own bags.
“No really, she yelled at me,” Martin laughs now, remembering the moment. Slightly embarrassed, Martin went in search of tote bags with a certain style. Frustrated and finding none, she launched My Other Bag, a line of trendy, eco-friendly handbags, in 2011. Soon My Other Bag could be found in 60 countries, with 15 showrooms around the world.
Years later, Martin spotted a woman carrying a Louis Vuitton bag personalized with stripes and initials with the interior dyed. “I saw that and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to do this to my bag,’” says Martin. A friend informed her that the LV personalization in the Beverly Hills store was not easy and could take 10 weeks – and included ordering a brand new bag from the brand.
It didn’t suit the serial entrepreneur. The great global traveler quickly found herself in Paris, at the headquarters of Louis Vuitton, where she was once again stranded. Her quick Google search for luxury customization turned up nothing, so industrious Martin was on a mission.
Martin found herself furiously scribbling the business plan for her new venture on cocktail napkins at the chic bar at the iconic Hotel George V in Paris. She returned home to Los Angeles, where the business idea haunted her “for a whole year”, and launched DTLAcustom on January 1, 2015.
The personal touch
Personalization is everywhere now, from Adidas and Nike shoes to Jimmy Choos. This was not the case in 2015 when Martin was launched. “When I started I was even scared,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘Who’s just painting on a $ 30,000 Birkin bag?’ Even my artists would tell me ‘What !?’ ”
Faced with the problem of delicate painting on exquisite – and extremely expensive – products, Martin realized that the best artists would be tattoo artists. But even his team of craftsmen were intimidated. Martin calmed artists’ nerves by testing designs on his entire Vuitton travel bag and a Goyard bag. She posted the works on social media and they immediately sold.
Perhaps his most prized work is for the legendary Elton John. Louis Vuitton commissioned DTLAcustom to make a hand-painted trunk for the Rocketman in honor of his 70th birthday, the full-dress representative of the Los Angeles Dodgers in front of an adoring crowd at Dodgers Stadium.
DTLAcustom is inundated with requests for customization of all kinds of luxury and designer goods. The 10 artists’ boutique in LA hand painted on all kinds of clothing, shoes and accessories, but also valet trays, pillows, ottomans, bar trays, decorative trunks, jewelry cases, cases cosmetics, hat boxes, mirrors, party supplies and champagne bottles.
Martin guides customers through the design of their favorite product, though she is quick to point out that she is not an artist herself. “When I give a Post-It to my artists, they tell me: ‘What is this sketch? She laughs. “I run the business – thank goodness I have talented people doing the rest.”
Customers can choose from DTLAcustom’s impressive stable of renderings and options via Instagram or submit photos or images of their choice. Artists return a mockup to start the process, which can take an average of two to four weeks, depending on the type of work and the workload of the studio. The next day’s items are available – for an urgent fee, of course. Customers ship or ship items or order products online and ship them directly to the DTLAcustom store.
Prices start at around $ 250 for small items and can go over $ 7,500 for larger, more complex, and more detailed jobs.
A-List stars and everyday fashionistas aside, DTLAcustom has been inundated with corporate inquiries – many of which are cold calls. Herbalife regularly requests hundreds of items for its employees. Luxury brands such as Jimmy Choo, Vogue, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, Neiman Marcus, Stanley Korshak, Nordstrom and Far Fetch use his store. Martin and DTLAcustom work in glamorous businesses such as a Jimmy Choo and Vogue summer party in the Hamptons and aVanity Show Oscar party.
Live painting of luxury items, Martin notes, is especially popular – for luxury-style homes that draw discerning shoppers to stores for special events and private affairs. A generous personal customer took his teenage daughter and friends from New York City to the Beverly Hills Hotel for a private, live personalization of the lucky group’s Nike sneakers. (Dad of the year, indeed.)
“When you get that customer who has it all, it’s the next level of luxury,” says Martin. That’s how I’ve always seen him. “
So what’s the hottest luxury personalization this year? Easy, says Martin: dogs. She jokes that her business is now a “dog art studio”. Customers can’t wait to splash their furry baby’s face on their luxuries. (Who wouldn’t want their Golden Retriever’s smiley face on a clutch or wallet?) Monograms and stripes are also important, as are certain brand logos and branding.
Custom sneakers are also all the rage and “are definitely spending their time,” Martin says, creating an intersection where “luxury meets the street”. A surprise market is for men, who are happy to make gifts for their wives and daughters, but also happy to create their own boots, wallets, briefcases, golf equipment, etc.
Martin will not refuse any customization order, even if it is not a normal service. DTLAcustom has worked on bike helmets, headphones, mirrors, and bedroom walls.
His dream custom job? “A plane,” she replies happily without missing a beat. “I’m going to totally cheat your plane – or your yacht.”