Austin Branson and Peter Carter, the needlepoint maestros behind Smathers & Branson, specialize in colorful men’s belts, wallets, hats, and many other accessories that combine pops of color with a lot of personality. As they looked to The Met collection, it wasn’t hard for the duo to stitch together a few ideas for some new products. We asked them a few questions about their business and our newest partnership.
Smathers & Branson has collaborated with Major League Baseball, the NFL, Ivy League universities, and other high-profile partners. Why does The Met belong on that list?
Through all of our licensing agreements we have been able to take people’s interests and turn them into a product that they are proud to showcase. Working with The Met has allowed us to create unique pieces that represent history and creativity.
Describe the Smathers & Branson customer.
Someone who appreciates traditional style, but who also has an eye for bold and colorful designs. We have been able to bridge the gap between classic style and self-expression by creating designs that have been worn by everyone from US presidents to high-school students. Since all of our products are entirely hand-stitched, they allow the customer to find something that complements their personal style.
Your artisans stitch each needlepoint belt, key fob, luggage tag, and flask by hand. Can people really notice the difference?
Yes, you can tell a difference when a product is hand-stitched. We select skilled artisans who take the time to precisely stitch a belt or accessory. The element of hand-stitching allows for every product to be truly one of a kind.
Your first gifts for The Met Store are based on the heraldic flags in the Arms and Armor Court (always a favorite of visitors to The Met). What other Met artworks or motifs would look good in needlepoint?
We have found that our needlepoint design has been able to successfully convey all variations of art, from biblical imagery to abstract patterns. With the launch of our framed needlepoint art, we think any canvas painting from the Renaissance and beyond could be beautifully replicated in needlepoint.
You started with a few belts, and now produce everything from flasks to flip flops. What’s the next product category to conquer?
Thus far, we have found that needlepoint is far more versatile than we would have initially thought. We are constantly working on multiple product categories, including accessories you can find anywhere from your office desk to the golf course. We love communicating directly with our customers to get a sense of products that they would use daily. Our bottle openers (launched earlier this year) have had a wonderful response and we have a few more home goods coming out in the coming months.
Shop more needlepoint items and other men’s accessories at store.metmuseum.org.