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Treaure Mallory is a self-taught Handbag Designer. She learned to sew in Fashion Design School but taught herself how to sew/make handbags. Her company Nikki&Mallory specializes in custom leather goods; specifically handbags, accessories and (soon) home decor

Find Treasure and Nikki+Mallory on Instagram @nikkiandmallory  and Her website 

And learn more about her work  in this article Seamwork Magazine “Sharing the Art of Leathercraft”

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Lisa Woolfork 0:00

Welcome to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth generation sewing enthusiast, with more than twenty years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together.

Lisa Woolfork 0:25

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Stitch Please podcast. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. And I'm coming to you from Charlottesville, Virginia and I am speaking today with Treasure Mallory, a handbag designer and entrepreneur based in California. We are talking today about all sorts of really great things, including, "what do you do when you hit rock bottom?" So Treasure Mallory, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for being with us today.

Treasure Mallory 0:53

Hey Lisa! Thank you for having me.

Lisa Woolfork 0:57

I am so excited! I think I heard you speak a couple of years ago on another podcast, maybe was it "Coffee with Makers" Maybe?

Treasure Mallory 1:05

Yeah, yeah, it was.

Lisa Woolfork 1:07

Yeah! And it was like I just was, I felt, "oh, wow, this is great! I found a new friend on the internet who doesn't even know me."

Lisa Woolfork 1:13

[crosstalk]

Treasure Mallory 1:13

And that's what I want people to get. Every time they hear me talk, I want them to know I am that person that could be your friend.

Lisa Woolfork 1:21

Wonderful. And [indistinct] we have had many conversations in my head about all sorts of topics so [laughter] we are close! [indistinct] We are [indistinct] talking to me for the first time.

Lisa Woolfork 1:31

[crosstalk, laughter]

Lisa Woolfork 1:32

So, let's get started with just talking a bit about your sewing story. How did you get started with sewing? Like how do you imagine the roots or origins of your sewing life?

Treasure Mallory 1:42

Honestly, you know what, my grandmother used to sew way back in the day when I was younger. And she honestly didn't take it too serious. So it was nothing that I took too serious. But I would notice that she would create sporadic little garments here and there. And it was interesting. Then, from that point, I did teach myself how to hand stitch. But that was pretty much the extent of like my sewing experience. It really wasn't until I went to fashion design school, where I actually learned the construction and techniques and all of that. And that's pretty much where my sewing background originated from.

Lisa Woolfork 2:19

So you didn't come to this from, like, someone who like grew up sewing next to their mother or grandmother or something like this. That you entered this as a professional. Like...

Treasure Mallory 2:29

Yeah.

Lisa Woolfork 2:29

You basically started, your sewing journey begins, uh, with some ancestral background because your grandmother did it. But the way that it became formalized was through a type of fashion education itself.

Treasure Mallory 2:43

Yeah.

Lisa Woolfork 2:43

So I always find that so fascinating. Maybe it's because I am in education as well. But I'm just -- not 'just' -- I'm a college professor, and so I teach literature, and so I'm used to thinking about teaching and learning all the time. But whenever I hear "fashion school" or "fashion design school..." I don't know if you remember that show Fame from back in the day. I don't know if, not, it might...

Treasure Mallory 3:06

I do. I used to love Fame

Lisa Woolfork 3:07

[Laughter]

Lisa Woolfork 3:07

And so [laughter] whenever I hear somebody say this "fashion school," I imagine that it's like Fame [laughter]. But with sewing [laughter]. And if y'all are in the cafeteria, and everyone's throwing bolts of fabric around, and dancing on the tables, and sharing, interfacing. This is, this is what I imagined. I'm pretty sure this is nothing at all what it is like.

Treasure Mallory 3:29

Oh, [laughter, crosstalk] its the total opposite. Not even. That would have been nice. But no, it was not like that at all.

Lisa Woolfork 3:36

No one was dancing? There was no dancing on the tables? There was no [laughter, rosstalk] hot lunch in the cafeteria [laughter]. You guys are making the aprons for the waitstaff? [Laughter, crosstalk] What were some of your memorable experiences? And I guess I'm asking because maybe it's because I would be very interested, for example, in taking a class in something like -- maybe not pattern drafting, because I don't draw -- but something like learning to alter and change patterns based on body shape. That's something that's very interesting and attractive to me. And so I imagine that you learn all of this kind of, maybe, anatomy that helps you to shape this. I don't know, what were some of the highlights for you from your fashion education?

Treasure Mallory 4:15

To be honest, the highlight for me really was just saying that I'm in fashion design school, because it was something that was always in the back of my mind. I just never thought that it could be a reality. I think me hitting rock bottom is what pushed me into that realm, because prior to that, I don't think I would have ever just done it on my own. So that was the first highlight just being able to say, this is something that I'm doing because I'm just not in fear anymore. It's just something that I know I need to do. Having that as something. Having that actually as a title on my resume or whatever was, like, honestly the most exciting for me because when I first started it was literally to figure out what the next step was. It wasn't because, "oh I'm excited to make clothes!" I knew I wanted to do that. I had been doing that on my own, just making little side projects, not necessarily sewing.

Treasure Mallory 5:12

But I knew that I needed to figure out the next steps of life for me. Because it had gotten so dark for me that I didn't know whether I was going right or left. Being the fact that I took that step, enrolled myself in fashion design school with no freaking money, I didn't know what I was doing. I was really there to figure it out and kill some time.

Treasure Mallory 5:34

And then the first, I'd say like the first year and a half, is really going back to any college. You're just learning, like, the basic prerequisites of everything. You have to take these stupid classes that don't have [laughter] anything to do with fashion. And I'm like, "wait, what am I doing here?" I really just want to learn [laughter] so I can be a stylist and move on. But once I got into the meat of my design program, I think the most interesting part for me was the art classes and drawing and illustrating these naked models. That was really interesting to me. And then I kind of tie that into now I'm making these garments that have to fit on these types of models.

Treasure Mallory 6:18

And I hated the technical classes, like pattern making. All of that stuff was not me. Really underneath it all, for me, I am a creative, I am an artist. I just wanted to do all the fun stuff. So [crosstalk], all the stitching classes, all the illustrating classes, those were the classes that really showed me, you know, who I was as an individual and that I could hone in on this and actually turn this into something creative, a business, which is not what people are teaching you growing up.

Lisa Woolfork 6:51

That's right. It's so interesting, too, the way that you talked about enrolling in fashion school as a as an opportunity of, for discovery, an opportunity for discovery. Because when you said that you were hitting rock bottom that you had, prior to fashion school, you had been working for a television company, you were acting, you were just doing [indistinct], which was like you said like your dream job. And yet that didn't work out. It was like layoffs and furloughs and all of these things and you found yourself losing your dream job.

Treasure Mallory 7:25

Yeah.

Lisa Woolfork 7:25

And then you had to find something else. And that something else was fashion school. But the way I say it as if it's two sentences, really does not honor the process and all the work you had to do between losing your dream job and finding a new dream. Can you talk a little bit about that process? And what you learned from that process between those two events?

Treasure Mallory 7:51

Yes, definitely. And I'm glad you, you put it in that light. For you, it's speaking two sentences. For me it was do or die. It was literally, like, you have hit this place in your life where you did all this work to get your dream job, you lose your dream job, you don't know what the heck to do. Because all your life you've been taught, go to school, get a, get a degree, graduate, [cough] excuse me, land a good job, work there until retirement, die. That's essentially the journey. This good job should carry you [crosstalk] until the rest of your life. Until you're sixty, seventy, eighty, whatever [crosstalk], this is thing that should fulfill you. Once I lost that I was like, "okay, this cannot be life." LIke, this is it. [Laughter] So yeah, for somebody else, looking from the outside, it's just, it's a two, two sentence explanation.

Treasure Mallory 8:48

For me. It's like, I'm now in this dark space. Yes, I have hit the ground running because essentially, I was at Sony and I was losing it. I knew I was a creative. I just didn't know how to pursue that. But once I got laid off, I definitely hit the ground running. I pursued everything under the sun because that was my goal. I get out of this position cause I didn't know how I was getting out of that. I just knew something would happen. Got laid off, I hit the ground running. I started pursuing everything that was in my mind or in my in my capability to pursue. Acting, modeling, ads. Went back to dance for a little bit, because I danced growing up in high school.

Lisa Woolfork 9:32

Oh. okay, cool.

Treasure Mallory 9:32

Doing choreography and all type of stuff. So I was doing everything Lisa, but then, even with that, it was like, "this cannot be life." Because, here I am hustling, trying to pursue all these different things. But I have rent. I have bills.

Lisa Woolfork 9:49

Yes, yes.

Treasure Mallory 9:50

I have student loans to pay back. So that means I'm pursuing these things, but I also have to make ends meet. So I have to be realistic in a sense and...

Lisa Woolfork 10:00

Of course.

Treasure Mallory 10:01

work. So now I'm working five, six different jobs. Odd-end jobs. I'm going to these auditions, busting my ass. Like, it was so overwhelming that, it took a toll on me it took a toll on my mental.

Lisa Woolfork 10:18

Of course!

Treasure Mallory 10:18

And so after I auditioned my butt off, finally started to book little things here and there. I had booked a movie, really thought that movie would be the turning point in my acting career. And it wasn't. It was like, one day, I had a star wagon with my name on the outside, and I'm shooting this movie. And then I'm going back home to electricity turned off, and I barely have food in the refrigerator. So no, it wasn't that fluid. It wasn't that easy, just to transition from having this great job, amazing credit, money in the bank, to not having anything. So for me, I had to really tap in to myself and tap in to what it was that would fulfill me.

Treasure Mallory 11:05

And at that time, I was going through depression, like crazy. Having to figure out everything on my own, and make ends meet and just try to live a happy, decent life. It took a lot out of me. And so I had to tap in really, and just sit with myself. And I've said this on previous podcasts and interviews and stuff. But I had that one friend who was like, "hey, when you're down to nothing, you got to get innovative." So for me, it was like, "Yeah, I hear what you're saying. But, literally, I need to figure out what's next." Because if I don't figure out what's next, I'm done, essentially, with this life. I was in that dark place.

Lisa Woolfork 11:46

Mm hmm.

Treasure Mallory 11:47

Yeah, it's easy for anybody to recite. But for me, living in that space, it takes a lot. It takes a lot to dig yourself out of that dark hole, and then literally have to start life completely over. So me going to fashion design school, I had no money. I had no money, I was still working these odd-end jobs. I was losing my apartment. So at that point, I was like, "You know what, I'm gonna just move back in with family," which is crazy embarrassing coming from having achieved and acquired all these different things, to now having to start over. Yeah, that fashion design was my turning point to figure out what I was gonna do next. And yeah, just so much amazing things came from it. But I didn't know that starting out.

Lisa Woolfork 12:34

Exactly. You don't know that. At the time, you don't know that what you are doing, you don't know where you are in the journey. Are you at the end? Are you at the middle? Are you at the beginning? You don't know.

Treasure Mallory 12:46

Exactly.

Lisa Woolfork 12:46

And I do, I just want to honor, you know, what it means to be in an emotionally dark and stressful place. And something that I noticed from all of the work that you were describing -- acting or modeling and choreography -- is that you were still harnessing your creative energies.

Treasure Mallory 13:06

Yes.

Lisa Woolfork 13:06

You didn't, like, stop and just get a job and, like, "I'm just gonna give up my creative pursuits totally, and instead do something completely and totally different." It was like, you were still leading yourself toward the things that made you happy and satisfied, and were honoring your own energy. And I don't know, I just feel like we don't spend enough time talking about the way that Black women experience depression, the way that the society in which we live helps to generate that. And so there's so much that's in your story that I find so beautiful, but I think I really appreciate the words of wisdom that you are offering for those of us who have indeed found ourselves feeling like you're at the bottom of a well, you know.

Treasure Mallory 13:54

Right, that's exactly.

Lisa Woolfork 13:54

Like not feeling like "I can't get out of this." But you did. You had friends that could [inaudible]. And also, it's something that you have to do yourself. That's the thing that also makes it so powerful, but also so difficult, right? Because your friend gave you the words of wisdom, but you had to listen to them and take them to heart and create a real action plan.

Treasure Mallory 14:15

Definitely.

Lisa Woolfork 14:15

Which can be hard to do when you're emotionally depleted, you know?

Treasure Mallory 14:19

Exactly.

Lisa Woolfork 14:21

So I just want to celebrate that and just recognize that it is indeed difficult to dig yourself out of an emotionally dark place.

Lisa Woolfork 14:31

I was also thinking a lot about the work that you were doing in terms of what, you know, you said that you were grinding and grinding and, like, it wasn't getting anywhere. And I just want to take a note like for me. Grind culture, the culture that we're in now about hustle and grind and hustle and grind. That is not that's not what life is supposed to be.

Treasure Mallory 14:52

Mm hmm.

Lisa Woolfork 14:52

In my opinion. It's just like what you were saying before: that you're supposed to go to college, get your job, stay at that job for fifty years, retire and die. And that is hopefully not anybody's autobiography. [Laughter] I would hope that its not. So, like, that is not what I want from my life. But, there's also this notion of grinding as thinking it's a positive thing, when in fact, grinding is by definition, a process of extraction and destruction. Like that's how you, you don't get white sugar out of a green plant without some type of destruction and transformation through that, you know?

Treasure Mallory 15:31

Mm hmm.

Lisa Woolfork 15:31

And so this idea that some folks are like, "I just -- I love grinding. I love grinding." And if you love struggle sis?

Treasure Mallory 15:37

We love struggle, and that's exactly. You see, that is. Lisa, you really just hit that. Because, yeah, in the process of me grinding, I thought that was the greatest thing ever. It was not until I came out of that space where I was like, "look, this is not okay! I am depleting myself, little by little, doing a thousand things at once." Like it's not conducive to the life that I want to live.

Lisa Woolfork 16:06

Exactly. And helping us to remember that these things are within our choice.

Treasure Mallory 16:10

Yes

Lisa Woolfork 16:11

That's the hard part. At least for me, when I get down in that it makes it hard for me to, to think clearly. But to remind myself that I've done difficult things before, whatever. When the depression starts talking to you, it's hard. It's hard. It's hard not to answer back and say "you're right, you're right!"

Treasure Mallory 16:31

Yeah. Yeah [inaudible].

Lisa Woolfork 16:33

It's not right. That's not right. That's not the truth. But it feels that way, when you're feeling really bad.

Treasure Mallory 16:38

Exactly.

Lisa Woolfork 16:39

And so you've landed at fashion school, as almost, I guess, as a landing space for you to calculate and figure out what you were going to do next. And so then you lean into doing that work, even for the classes you didn't love, the classes that didn't appeal to you in the same way as illustration, for example. And so I remember reading about the collection that you did, I guess everyone was supposed to do a fashion collection at the end. And you were like, "nah, sis, I'm doing something different."

Treasure Mallory 17:10

[Laughter] I have this rebellious nature, yes.

Lisa Woolfork 17:14

So, tell me about that. So everyone else is working, they're sewing their garments, like you're in the back of the class, drawing handbags, up here.

Treasure Mallory 17:20

[Laughter] I mean, essentially, that's what it was. Of course, in order to graduate, everybody has to showcase this line of whatever. But it had to be garment, some type of garment. I know that one of my friends did aprons. Another one of my friends did like a whole line. And for me, I had known the moment that I found myself making clothes, I was like, "this is not it. This is not it for me." And I really wanted to be a stylist. I did not want to make clothes per se, for people. I just wanted to learn the aesthetics of how to sew. So, throughout the course of getting my degree, I was just like, "this is not what I want to do." Once I figured out handbags was my niche, that's what I was focusing on.

Treasure Mallory 18:09

We would have these assignments where you have to make this garment, you know, this week and this shirt that week, and every time I would make those things. But I would also make a bag to go with it. So I knew that graduating, I'm not about to present what everybody else is presenting. I've always been the outcast of the group. I like to do my own thing. I hate to do what everybody else is doing. Needless to say, I probably should have followed the rules, but I don't really [indistinct] so I was like [indistinct]

Lisa Woolfork 18:37

[Crosstalk, laughter] These are just suggestions. [Indistinct] ask you real quick before you talk about the handbag line. When you were making these clothes you didn't really [inaudible]. Did you turn and turn in some Gordon Gartrelle outfits? [Laughter] I just want to be, I just want to know if you was dropping [inaudible], "look, here's your little sewing, here."

Treasure Mallory 18:52

[Laughter] Pretty much! That's what it felt like. "Alright, let me pick this ugly little fabric and make you what you asked for me to make you but [laughter] not what I'm interested in." Nothing was ever fancy. I think the only class that was fancy for me was draping and that had nothing to do with sewing or anything. But yeah, I was really like, "ugh, let me just make this so they could be quiet." That was pretty much [laughter] my attitude with everything. Nothing ever came out to be like a masterpiece like my classmates. So for me, my masterpiece was making this bag that's supposed to go with his ugly shirt that I just created for you. That was pretty much it towards the end of the, my second year there. They had to sit you down and discuss your project with you, the counselors, president everybody of that nature. And they asked about my line and I was like "mm, I don't have clothes." [Laughter] They were like we're like, "so, what have you been doing this whole time," and I said "I've been making bags." And literally everybody's face was like ghosts, like in a row just looking at a row of ghosts.

Lisa Woolfork 20:00

[Crosstalk] Really?

Treasure Mallory 20:02

[Crosstalk] They were that blown.

Lisa Woolfork 20:03

[Crosstalk] Wow. So when you describe that, were they shocked? Were they impressed? Were they worried? Were they like confused? What were...

Treasure Mallory 20:12

They were shocked, turned off because I wasn't following protocol. And for me, I was excited. And it wasn't until they said, "well you were supposed to present a line of clothes." And I was like, "okay." But I didn't want to. I have some stuff you guys can see, that I can bring to the showcase. But my calling is bags, and that's what I did. Of course, after all this deliberation and meetings, they were like, "okay, Treasure, let us see your stuff. And we'll have to determine if you can showcase this. And if you'll graduate." It was literally one of those like, "this girl, really just did her own thing. We did not tell her to do this." But, yeah.

Lisa Woolfork 20:58

It surprises me. And maybe it's because I still have that idea in my mind that fashion school is like Fame for sewing machines. But like you have this -- this is like actual gatekeeping.

Treasure Mallory 21:09

Exactly.

Lisa Woolfork 21:10

What you're describing [inaudible] is a classic example. You have a committee that's going to decide whether you can advance past this point or not. Like, it is an actual gate that is closed to you. And they will decide if it will be open to you.

Treasure Mallory 21:25

Yes! Yeah.

Lisa Woolfork 21:25

So I find that so surprising for an industry that's supposedly about creativity, and artistic vision.

Treasure Mallory 21:30

And that was my whole thing. [Crosstalk] I am an artist. You should be advocating for me to just create whatever is in my heart. But yeah, it was like deliberation moment: "Are you guys serious?" So it wasn't until I showed them what I was doing, that changed their energy. It went from dissatisfied to, "whoa, you've been doing [inaudible] this whole time?" And I'm like, "yeah, I thought that was the objective. Like, this is fashion design school, let's be serious." After they saw my stuff, they were like, "okay, we'll let you present your line of bags. But you do have to bring some garments along with the [inaudible]." I said, "fine. I'll bring what I've made, I'll maybe make a couple other pieces. But this is it." They pretty much wanted me to tie my bags into the garment. I literally [inaudible] like, "you have to present not only physical things, but you have to present like this book of illustrations." And I stayed up like twenty-four hours, just trying to incorporate the two together, so it just made sense for them.

Lisa Woolfork 22:34

Mm hmm.

Treasure Mallory 22:35

And, of course, the day of showcase, instead of people just walking by, [indistinct] industry professionals that are coming out to hire, looking for young fashion designers to hire. And I got a ton of a bunch of offers. But the one thing that blew my mind and everybody else's mind was that people were coming by to see my work, but they were also lining up and asking if I was selling these bags. And from that moment, I was like that's it, this is my business. I had already been brainstorming what type of business I would do for myself because I hate working for people. So, I mean, granted, I don't down talk it, I don't downplay it. It is a part of what we have to do as far as survival. But I do believe we all have these different creative desires and gifts. And whether we're working for somebody for the rest of our life or not, we should embark on what feeds our soul. And so that was it for me. I said, I'm turning this into a business.

Lisa Woolfork 23:34

That is perfect! And that's a perfect place for us to take a quick break everybody. I am talking today with Treasure Mallory from Nikki&Mallory handbags. And this has just been so great. And it's gonna continue, we're just gonna take a quick short break. And when we come back, we'll talk about how Nikki&Mallory got started. We'll talk about the name Nikki&Mallory because I'm very curious about that. And we'll talk about what do you do to keep yourself motivated when things get hard. Because as Treasure has explained to us, she has really triumphed and overcome. And she has such beautiful lessons for us. So stay tuned and come back after the break.

Lisa Woolfork 24:13

Stitch Please podcast is really growing. I want to thank you for listening to the podcast and ask a favor. If you are listening to this podcast on a medium that allows you to rate it or review it, for example, Apple podcasts or iTunes, please do so. If you're enjoying the podcast, if you could drop me a five-star rating. If you have something to say about the podcast, and you want it to include that -- a couple sentences in the review box of Apple -- makes a really big difference in how the podcast is evaluated by Apple, how it becomes more visible. It really is a way to lean into the algorithm that helps to rank podcasts. So if you had time to do that, to drop a little line in the review feature of the podcast, that would be really appreciated and would help us to grow even further and faster.

Lisa Woolfork 25:08

We are back everyone. Welcome back to the Stitch Please podcast, and I'm talking with Treasure Mallory of Nikki&Mallory. So I love your name Nikki&Mallory, I think it's incredibly cute. Can you tell me more about Nikki&Mallory and where that name comes from?

Treasure Mallory 25:22

So Nikki is my family nickname. My full name is Treasure Nicole Mallory and my family, or people closest to me, call me Nikki. And for a couple of years prior to starting my business, my mom would always just randomly call me, she's like, "hey, Nikki Mallory!" And I would say "please don't call me -- that sounds like a stripper's name," like I don't like that.

Lisa Woolfork 25:45

Oh my God.

Treasure Mallory 25:46

You know, just please call me Nikki. Don't do the whole "Nikki Mallory." And then when I was, when I decided to start a business, I went through like a month of just, in my head, trying to figure out what I was going to call the business, racking my brain, stressing myself out. And the same day my mom called me again. "Hey, Nikki Mallory!" And I thought, "wait, that could actually be a great business name." Because my family knows me as Nikki, this real quirky individual. I'm off the wall to some people. I'm not like this with everybody. But I'm real off the wall, very eclectic, very artsy. And Mallory has always been what people in the professional world would call me, because nobody ever took Treasure serious enough to say, "this is actually her name." I would get so many people asking me "is that your real name? Is that your like nickname?" [Indistinct, crosstalk]

Lisa Woolfork 26:43

Oh my gosh.

Treasure Mallory 26:44

So yeah, a lot of people would just say "Mallory," and I would have to correct them. And I thought the two are really dynamic character. Nikki is a character. Mallory is her own individual. Mallory is more of the sophisticated, like minimalist, very professional, and Nikki is the Bohemian, the off-the-wall free spirit. And I said, "that's it! Nicki&Mallory." Because when it comes to my style, I try to incorporate a little bit of both. Like I want clean, sleek designs, but also have this free spirit in me that wants to just throw some animal print on it or something that'll make it a signature piece. So that's pretty much where the name came from.

Lisa Woolfork 27:29

I really love that. Because, again, it goes back to some of the most compelling elements of your story, that this is rooted in you. It's rooted in your family. It's rooted in your own identity. That you basically had the answers you needed all along.

Lisa Woolfork 27:46

All along.

Lisa Woolfork 27:47

And it just took you a while. It just took some thinking to arrive there. Because I think that the "&" is somehow so inspired. I don't know, there's something about the plus sign, the plus sign in there between "Nikki" and "Mallory" for me, I don't know what it is. But I think the idea of holding two distinct identities in conjunction is what I find so fascinating about it. And I just can't -- I can believe the harassment that you received over your actual name.

Treasure Mallory 28:18

Oh yeah I get it all the time.

Lisa Woolfork 28:19

I just I wrote maybe three or four years ago, I wrote an article on Black women's names. And it talks about some of the contention that Black women's names receive as a form of just anti-Black racism, and misogynoir. Because there's just yeah, that just becomes, I don't know, a thing. And you know, this is just a person's name. And if we can and should respect what people want to be called. Why, yeah, I don't know, the idea of turning someone's name into something that is not to be taken seriously. I had a friend that had the same issue. Her name is Keisha, and she will never [indistinct]. She told me this. So we were back in grad school about how she had [indistinct] a teacher or somebody who was like, "I'm going to call you something else, because I just can't take the name Keisha seriously."

Lisa Woolfork 29:05

Wow.

Lisa Woolfork 29:06

And I was like, Oh, that's just racism. That's all. [Crosstalk] That's just racism.

Treasure Mallory 29:12

So tacky. [Crosstalk]

Lisa Woolfork 29:13

Isn't it though? And I'm like [crosstalk]

Treasure Mallory 29:15

So tacky.

Lisa Woolfork 29:15

It's so bad, it's so bad. So I want to transition to talk a bit about some of the classes that you're doing. And so I have to tell everybody, I told Treasure this earlier. One of the reasons that I'm doing this interview, well not one of the reasons. I've always wanted to do this interview for quite a long time. But I wanted to sign up for a class that Treasure was teaching. And my friend dropped the link into our group chat and was like, "hey, y'all, Nikki&Mallory's having a leather bag class." And I was like, "oh, yeah, that's good. You know what, let me go do a couple, two, three things. And after I get them two or three things done, then I'll hop on the internet. I'll hop on Beyoncé's internet and sign up for this class." [Laughter]

Lisa Woolfork 29:57

I'm telling y'all I said I wanted to do a couple, two or three things. By the time I got the letters "couple" -- the letters c-o-u out of the word "couple" -- that in that class was gone.

Treasure Mallory 30:07

Gone. [Laughter]

Lisa Woolfork 30:08

That class was full, [laughter] that class was like, "you don't put this at the end of your list miss, you put this at the start."

Lisa Woolfork 30:14

[Laughter] Yeah.

Lisa Woolfork 30:15

So, this is the closest thing I'm going to get apparently, at least at the end of this year, of some classes. So tell me about what some of the classes you're teaching. And also, let me ask you this. There are some folks who sell bags, who would not also sell the techniques to make them. And I'm wondering if you could talk a bit more about how your resolution to make, design and sell these bags are not threatened by and maybe even enhanced by the fact that you also sell classes for people to learn.

Treasure Mallory 30:49

I think for me, starting out, I knew, I just wanted to create. It was never really -- I wanted to create, and I wanted my own business. Granted, yes, the money has been amazing. But it's not about just the money for me. I am a creative at the end of the day, and I just want to create, and I think that's what pushed me. Okay, so Nikki&Mallory just turned five, which I'm very proud of.

Lisa Woolfork 31:15

Congratulations! Congratulations. Happy birthday.

Treasure Mallory 31:18

Thank you. Thank you. So in turning five or prior to turning five, I knew that. I don't want to sit here and make bags all day long. Because it literally takes up all of my time. I don't have time to do anything else. Like I said, I'm a creative. So there's other things that I want to work on or other projects I want to dive into. But I'm not able to because I don't have this space to just create the way I want to, not until I get a team. So for me, I was like, "you know what, at some point, if I keep doing this, I'm going to burn myself out." Because I'm literally sitting on orders and orders at a time. Like I barely have time to eat. So, I don't want to keep doing this. And I don't want to burn out from it. So how can I pivot this business to where I could still bring income in and still able to utilize my creative side?

Treasure Mallory 32:15

And I had started to get a lot of inquiries from people just asking, "do you think you would ever teach? Would you ever teach?" So of course that started to play on my brain. And at the time, I was working for the Walt Disney Company, and I knew -- I'm slaving away at Disney, but then I'm coming home to slave over bags. And I'm just like, "this is too much." I have to find some type of balance, and a way to pivot this business because I cannot turn five going into it with this mindset that I might have to shut down because I'm tired now. Knowing I wanted to leave Disney and really wanted to just close the chapter on working for people, I got a request to teach at some workshop space in the Anaheim area in California, without any knowledge of how to teach what to teach, nothing. I just figured it out. I came up with a plan. And I was like, you know, I'm just gonna try it because it has been in the back of my mind and I keep getting these signs. Maybe this is a confirmation that I need to do it. I pushed forward with it, let them know, yes, I'll teach this one Saturday, it was really supposed to just be a one Saturday thing for me.

Lisa Woolfork 33:32

And then, what had happened was...! [Laughter]

Treasure Mallory 33:35

And then what happened was that one class sold out. That one class brought me more revenue than I would make at Disney in two weeks. And I said "you know what? That's it. Maybe I should really try this out." People have been flying in for the class. It was like kind of crazy. I did the class, got amazing feedback from it. And I just found myself really fulfilled leaving the class and being able to teach all these different strangers how to make this one freakin bag. And so that was it, for me. That was my answer, as far as teaching. And in my mind I also knew, this is not knowledge that I want to keep to myself. Like I'm a creative. And the money is cute. That will play out after a while and here I'll still be sitting burned out until I get my team of people.

Treasure Mallory 34:31

So let me do this. Let me refocus my idea of how I want to run this business. So now I'm going to go back to making bags for fun because I missed that. And I want to make things that people probably won't buy because they'll be so outside-of-the-box but great. I can use my creativity here, showcase that. Teach people how to make these bags here, and then launch something else that'll appease everybody, which is something that I'm working on currently. But that was the headspace for me. Like, I don't want to do this forever. And if I do, I need a team of people. And for me, I need that time to build my team. So let me fall back on creating on demand, and focus on just teaching people.

Treasure Mallory 35:16

And I have found so much fulfillment in just educating people on the art of leather craft. Because one, there's not even a lot of Black leather craft women out there. Great, I have an avenue for me to do this and inspire people. But two, people are asking for this. So you have to pay attention to what your audience is requesting.

Lisa Woolfork 35:39

And what I like about what you've said so far, is that in saving yourself, in saving your sanity, you also saved and grew your business. This idea of having to like -- and I know, I've talked to other entrepreneurs who feel like they're working more than one job. They work the job that pays the bills. And then they do that from eight-to-five, or eight-to-six, and then they go home. And then they might eat like a fistful of Pringles or something. And then they sew or work from 6 p.m. till two o'clock in the morning and do it all over again. [Crosstalk] And so it becomes difficult to try to do -- to handle. It's like you're burning the candle at both ends.

Treasure Mallory 36:20

Mm hmm. That's exactly what it is. It's a lot. It's too much. And I love this business too much to where I just, I can't just let it go like that. I can't go out like that. I've worked way too hard to build my brand and my business and the following that I have to just go out like that. Because there's been so many days, so many weeks where I'm like, "I'm done." I would just go back to work for somebody, I'm done, I gave it a try. But I feel like if I did, that would be me thinking of this business as a surface-level business. And I've never wanted it to just remain a surface-level business, I want to continue to grow it and expand it as much as I can. But still make sure that I'm healthy and whole, in the midst of it all.

Lisa Woolfork 37:10

Yes! I love that "healthy and whole in the midst of it all." I think that is such a beautiful phrase. And it's what we should be doing in order to live full whole lives. We're not meant to just work until we drop dead. You know. That in terms of having a whole and complete self, means that there's that you're getting energy from a lot of directions. You get energy from work life. You get energy from your friends. You get energy from family. And what you were describing before was this kind of constant process of work.

Lisa Woolfork 37:40

And what you, and I also liked your comment that you don't want this to be a surface-level business, you want this to be something that is sustainable, and not just sustainable financially, but also, you don't want to be driving yourself so hard that you don't have any type of energy for anything that's going to feed and nourish you personally or spiritually or professionally or whatever. You don't want to shut it down because you just worked yourself too hard.

Treasure Mallory 38:09

Exactly.

Lisa Woolfork 38:11

Yeah. And so I think that's really important. As we start to wrap up, Treasure, can you talk a little bit about your future classes? And maybe before that, how do you stay inspired? I guess that's one other question I have is like, how do you stay inspired? It feels like you are evolving and growing your business in so many interesting ways. And that some of the great developments that you've had have been so that you can maintain a certain style of personal life, that you are able to what they say work smarter, not harder. And you've been able to do that really effectively. How do you keep that kind of creative energy going? How do you stay inspired when you're feeling, like, exhausted? Or do you use exhaustion as a warning to yourself that things need to change?

Treasure Mallory 38:57

I think you put it perfectly. I do now, I didn't before. I use exhausting, being exhausted as my means of "you need to fall back you need to take a break." Granted, it is not that easy for me. I am a bit of a workaholic. And I think me being a workaholic is what inspires me. When I'm sitting for too long, I get bored. I get bored. I kind of need to be doing something. Like, granted, I love my days off. I love my time to just bask in peace and stillness. I love going to the beach and just vibing out. I would love to do more traveling. But it's really only those little things that keep me inspired.

Treasure Mallory 39:42

Me kind of tapping in to other realms of my creativity is what inspires me to keep going, and part of that is just staying busy, and not staying busy just for the hell of it. Like I don't, I really don't ever want to go back to doing that. But because I really love it. I love to create. It inspires me, it motivates me. It just opens up my mind to like the possibilities of what we can be and become. And because it's not so much about the money for me, I just, I really just love creating. So that is really the only thing that keeps me inspired.

Lisa Woolfork 40:22

And what advice would you have for someone who is at, you know, one of those low or frustrating stages where you found yourself now, not now, where you found yourself before? I feel like listening to your story, right now it sounds like this is a dream come true. You found another dream job. You're able to set your hours to a certain extent, you can say "I will do this, I will not do that." You're able to make a lot more of your own choices about your work life in the ways that some other folks aren't yet able to do. What kind of advice do you have for people who are at either that just really that point of despair, that point of frustration? What advice do you have to help someone lift themselves out of it or to get support to get lifted out of it?

Treasure Mallory 41:06

You know what? It is a little challenging to offer that type of advice, only because I've been there and I know what that place looks like. I know how it feels to have to dig yourself out of that space. It takes so much strength that it's honestly, like no words can really help somebody out of that space. For me, I would say: take some time to yourself and take yourself out of the world for a minute mentally and emotionally. And I say that because the world comes with all these different rules and comparisons. And if there's just too much energy you really have to tune yourself out. And be realistic about what you want your next step to look like.

Treasure Mallory 41:54

Because we can manifest anything we want. Literally everything I've done, up until this point I have manifested. And when I say manifest, that just means you have to believe in yourself so much, then nobody can deny you. It's not about anybody else. It is really about you at the end of the day. You cannot look so down on yourself to think you cannot -- you're not capable of accomplishing something. You can accomplish anything. You can have anything. You can create the atmosphere and the life that you want. But you have to believe in yourself. So you just have to not just believe in yourself, but be realistic about what the next steps may be, whether that is to work at this job I don't like for the next couple months. But create a plan for yourself, create an exit strategy. If you want to start your own business, if you want to do something creative on the side, you just have to be realistic.

Treasure Mallory 42:50

And you have to find a way to truly love yourself and hone in on what's inside of you, without the opinions or criticism or objectiveness of others. Like it is solely about you. And for me, I knew nobody else can make my dreams come true. Nobody else can do this for me. Nobody else can start this business. So I have to shut everybody up in my mind first so that I can tap in to the fullest part of me to become whole and complete, and this full being. It takes a lot. It's a whole lot of work. But it is so very possible.

Lisa Woolfork 43:29

Oh my gosh Treasure that is a word. You really did leave us with a word. I am going to ask you now about future classes because I don't want to ask you any more questions because [laughter] you just answered all of everything! Because I'm like, "oh my gosh, she's talking about me! She's talking about me!"

Lisa Woolfork 43:44

And I hope that your words reach other people as well to encourage them, because so much of what we manifest, so much of what we see in the world now, was manifested by someone who maybe wasn't sure they could do it. And even like for me having a podcast, even me creating Black Women Stitch I did not think that I could do it.

Treasure Mallory 44:02

Right.

Lisa Woolfork 44:03

I did not think I could have retreats. I did not think that I could have an organization. I did not think that I could have [inaudible]. All of these things were like, "do you really want to do this? Are you sure? Are you sure?" And I've done it and I am so happy.

Treasure Mallory 44:15

Right?

Lisa Woolfork 44:16

I am just so happy!

Treasure Mallory 44:18

I'm telling you it will change your whole outlook on life. Once you accomplish that one thing, and I don't know how it's become that people just allow fear to consume them. But once you get around that corner of fear, oh my gosh! The possibilities. What? Like you can't tell me anything.

Lisa Woolfork 44:39

Girl, yes! Honestly. [Laughter] Seriously. Now, tell me about the classes you have coming up, because I am going to do a much better job this time. [Laughter] And you will actually see my name and payment information under the registered students section and not the sad section of people who are like low-key mad at her friend that she got to take the class and I didn't.

Treasure Mallory 45:04

Okay, so I do plan -- and this is also a work in progress because I have a lot of things that I'm launching in the new year. But towards the end of January, I do plan to reopen virtual classes and hopefully do a little bit more in-person classes out here in California. But I've been working with these two or three styles for the majority of the year, or teaching these two or three styles. So I'm ready to rev it up a little bit and incorporate some new designs. Like I want people to literally learn how to make bags that they can carry for months to come. Not just these rinky-dink little projects that I'm charging you arm and a leg for that you can't do anything with. Like that's not helping us. So yeah, I will have some new classes coming January 2021. And of course the months thereafter.

Lisa Woolfork 45:57

That is fantastic. Treasure Mallory, this has been such an honor and delight to speak with you. I really feel like talking with you about how one moves from a dark place into a place of fulfillment of vision, and how you don't let -- how you were able to, I don't know. "Let" is the wrong word. Because it's not about letting or not letting, it's really about doing the work. And the work that you did to develop a firm belief in yourself, regardless of outside circumstances is a hard thing to do.

Lisa Woolfork 46:32

So in addition to like working with leather, which I always find very hard and unforgiving because once you sew it and then you unsew [inaudible] it the holes are still staring at you, [laughter], rebuking you for your errors. But you can do hard things. And I think sharing your story, which is so beautiful, with us, has inspired us. At least it has inspired me and reminded me that I can do hard things too.

Treasure Mallory 46:57

Definitely.

Lisa Woolfork 46:57

So Treasure Mallory, thank you so much for this. It's been beautiful. Where can folks find you on the socials? And I'll be sure to include all those links in the show notes.

Treasure Mallory 47:05

Definitely. And thank you. Before I even get into that, I truly appreciate you. I appreciate anybody that is creating a space for artists and creatives to use our voice. So thank you for this opportunity. You can find me at nikkiandmallory, which is just n-i-k-k-i-and-mallory at Instagram, and then my website, www.nikkiandmallory.com.

Lisa Woolfork 47:32

Fantastic. Thank you again so much.

Treasure Mallory 47:35

Thank you.

Lisa Woolfork 47:37

You've been listening to the Stitch Please podcast, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. We appreciate you supporting us by listening to the podcast. If you'd like to reach out to us with questions, you can contact us at BlackWomenStitch@gmail.com. If you'd like to support us financially, you can do that by supporting us on Patreon, p-a-t-r-e-o-n. And you can find Black Woman Stitch there in the Patreon directory. And for as little as two dollars a month you can help support the project with things like editing, transcripts and other things to strengthen the podcast. And finally, if financial support is not something you can do right now, you can really help the podcast by rating it and reviewing it anywhere you listen to podcasts that allows you to review them. So I know that not all podcast directories or services allow for reviews. But for those who do for those that have a star rating or just ask for a few comments, if you could share those comments and say nice things about us and the Stitch Please podcast. That is incredibly helpful. Thank you so much. Come back next week and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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