from finance to fashion: a q&a with curtis calder
Finance to fashion is an unlikely leap but Curtis Calder, co-founder of Anson Calder, has found success all the same. While his background is in investment banking instead of textile design, his past and life experiences serve him well. We sat down with him to chat about all things Anson Calder, life transitions, and starting a business. Here's what we learned.
Finance to fashion seems like a big leap. How did you make the transition?
It was fairly gradual. Designing started as a fun hobby while I was on medical leave from work and the transition happened from there. Probably the biggest leap was not having to wear a suit every day. Being able to dress however I wanted let me define my own sense of style. And that was actually how I found Rhone. Truth be told, I’m much happier wearing my Element Tee and Street Joggers than my old banking uniform.
How did you come up with the name?
My wife and I brainstormed so many names for our business. We wanted to communicate quality and function through a name that represented both of us. Anson, our eldest son, is actually named after my great-great-grandfather. From the perspective of our business, it represents a merging of the tried-and-true, old-world craftsmanship with new-world technology and innovative design.
You have a unique, patented design. How did you come up with it and why is it great?
I couldn’t find a minimal, functional wallet, but I was sure it could be done, so I tried. Even the first wallet I made out of paper met my needs better than all the wallets I’d used before. My wife and I then started making improvements as a fun hobby, with the wallet evolving over time, and in the end, we ended up with something incredibly unique. We did the same thing with our bag. Most bags are either beautiful or functional. Ours are both. From the outside, they are striking, but once you open them up and see how all of the cases work together to keep everything accessible and organized, that’s where the magic happens. Steve Jobs once said, “[Design] is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” We’ve adopted that same ethos at Anson Calder, the idea that design and function are inseparable.
Curt Calder wearing the Reign Long Sleeve
You were diagnosed with Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy in 2013. How did this play a role (if any) in the formation of Anson Calder?
It played a huge role. In fact, it was the catalyst for this entire business. In 2014 my health was spiraling out of control. The day-to-day pain was pretty unbearable and it forced me to take a medical leave from work. My doctor advised me to moderate my physical activity and encouraged me to work with my hands to keep my muscles from atrophying. The confluence of the extra time and a need to stay somewhat active left me thinking a lot about design. Because I still hadn’t found just the right wallet to meet my needs, designing and prototyping became a hobby with my wife to meet the doctor’s recommendations. Throughout the process, I also developed a lot of design enhancements that helped me, personally, by carrying things more efficiently to decrease physical strain--something that continues to become more and more important as my disease progresses.
How do you cope with the impacts (if any) of FSHD on building a business today?
To be honest, it isn’t easy. As any entrepreneur will tell you, there’s a ton of work that goes into building a business. The physical demands can be debilitating to anyone, especially someone with my condition. It’s been a ride with a lot of ups and downs, and sometimes I realize that I need to be taking better care of my body. Having an ergonomic chair and standing workstation helps. And my wife and co-workers do a good job reminding me that I need to take breaks more often.
Starting a business isn’t easy. What piece of advice would you give to those considering the entrepreneurial route?
Starting a business has been a lot harder than I ever imagined. At the same time, it’s also been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I recommend starting by looking at yourself introspectively. What sets you apart from your peers? What core competencies do you bring to the table? If you couple this with your passions, you’ll have a great start. As your business grows, you’ll be able to keep your focus on what you do best and look for the right team to meet the other key areas of your growing business. Learn from your peers and surround yourself with others who inspire you. You’ll find their advice to be essential. And then buckle up because it’s going to be quite a ride.
You are a family man. How have you learned to balance growing a business and family?
That is something I’m learning on a continual basis. Balance can be challenging, especially with a growing business. Making priorities and boundaries is a good place to start. I’m constantly trying to find creative ways to spend time with my wife and kids. Sometimes this means I’ll take my family with me on a business trip. I’ll plan out specific times to be in meetings or at the factory so the rest of the trip can be with my family.
Favorite item of Rhone clothing?
This is the hardest question you’ve given me. I can never answer this when someone asks me about my own products. But as far as Rhone goes, the Element Tee and Street Jogger are regular staples, and when I get home at night, I practically live in my Nylon Tactel Trackpants and long-sleeved Reign shirts.
If someone could pick only one item from Anson Calder, what would you recommend?
The Cash Wallet. It is our most versatile wallet with a very thin profile. We have customers using it for only a few cards and some cash and I’ve also seen it loaded with as many as 16 cards. It’s the one I’m currently using, so I always have my essentials with me but can also load it up for a cash-only restaurant in the evening. It’s something you’re going to use every day. And the longer you use it, the more you’ll realize you can’t live without it.
To see more from Curt and Anson Calder, follow them on Instagram: @ansoncalder