Meet the Maker is a new blog series on The Dapple featuring Q&As with small businesses, creatives, and makers who are crafting unique products for dogs and dog lovers. Know someone we should include? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today on Meet the Maker, we're thrilled to be chatting with Carlin Traxler of TRAX TIES. Carlin creates her fashion-forward dog-wear out of her studio in West Hollywood with the help of her pugs, Mo and Ophelia. We quizzed her on the inspiration behind her chic designs, her background in menswear, and the challenges of working from home.
Tell us what you make.
I make on-trend neckwear (bow ties, neckties, bandanas, collars & leashes) for the modern mammal. Each piece is individually handcrafted in my home studio.
What led you to create TRAX TIES?
To be honest, the inception of TRAX TIES was by no means intentional. After teaching myself how to sew via YouTube tutorials, I began making men’s accessories (bow ties, neckties, and pocket squares) as a hobby.
Months later, I opened up an Etsy shop and began generating sales—my initial goal was just to make a few extra bucks month, nothing serious. It wasn’t too long after that I began receiving custom requests from friends, family and Etsy customers for matching doggie ties. I was a bit hesitant at first, but began fulfilling orders without any serious thought of expanding the neckwear clientele. After a year or so of making menswear, I decided to fully commit to the idea of dogwear. This is where the story of my journey truly begins—almost three years later, I’m experiencing success I never thought possible. The idea of pet fashion was still quite new to the market when I first began dabbling, so I’ve grown with it as much as it’s grown with me.
How does your background in menswear influence your designs?
My background in menswear not only influences my intricate production process, but also the style silhouettes and fabric selections. When I started experimenting in dogwear, I instinctually reworked my men’s sewing patterns to create an authentic, pet-friendly version—without sacrificing style or quality. I never thought to cut corners because it was for an animal; I just made what I knew with a few small adjustments. I’m also heavily inspired by menswear trends—this inspiration helps guide my choice of fabrics for every collection. When I look at fabric, I always ask myself, “Is this wearable fashion?” rather than “Is this pet appropriate?” I think that’s an important distinction of TRAX TIES—I want the owner to see their personal style paired perfectly with their dog(s).
What's your process for creating a new piece?
When I begin conceiving a new style, the first step is to create a sewing pattern. This process can take days, weeks, months… I may even halt a project to get a little space and come back at it with fresh eyes.
Once I’m able to draft the precise proportions, I’ll make a few samples and see if anything needs tweaking. If you can’t already tell, I’m a bit OCD with my work. After the sewing pattern is perfected, I’ll set it aside and move to fabric selections, which is definitely my favorite part of the design process. I spend hours and hours sifting through thousands of fabric listings until something pops out at me. When I find one or two fabrics that inspire me, I’ll be able to conceive a color story that fits my collection inspiration. My goal is to find colors to subtly compliment each other so customers can mix and match different prints easily.
After my fabrics are finalized (weeks/months later), I instinctually pair hardware finishes and begin making samples. I do think a lot of these decisions are based on a gut instinct—and to be completely honest I’m never 100% confident my choices will be well received. I guess that’s the risk of creation… you throw something you believe in out into the universe and hope it sticks. I enjoy taking risks, and so far they’ve worked out for me.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
For me, inspiration is swift and unexpected. Whether I’m working on orders or walking my dogs, I sometimes begin to space out and an idea slaps me in the face. When I’m planning a new collection, for example, it’s usually a key word that comes to me - then from there my mind starts racing with print and color stories. Finding inspiration is such an important step in the design process, but the hardest part is making these fleeting visions come to life through fabric. If inspiration is one word, I have to tell it through eight to twelve fabrics.
What's your favorite place to work?
Although some may not believe it (particularly my wholesalers), I make everything from my home studio in West Hollywood, CA. I’ll admit, working from home can be quite the challenge—the clutter, chaos and piles of packaging—but I love being close to my dogs and located in my neighborhood. Office space in Los Angeles is insanely expensive, and the commute can take hours. I’d much rather be at home with a few cups of tea and the (not so occasional) puppy breaks.
Any exciting upcoming plans for TRAX TIES?
I’m currently in the process of creating the first-ever TRAX TIES apparel (for dogs, of course). I told myself I just wanted to just stick with neckwear, but I’m up for a new challenge and believe my customers are ready for this new addition. A button down and raglan tee design will be available online in the upcoming months!
What's the most rewarding part of your work?
TRAX TIES has rewarded me with so much—I’ve not only gained incredibly useful skillsets, but also an Instagram family that supports my work and worth as a person. Receiving holidays cards and well-wishes from my customers is so special to me, and makes my work that much more enjoyable.