Sigal de Mayo and her husband, Fabio Otalora, have been selling her wildly popular leather fashion accessories in all the pop-up shops around town for over 16 years. The company they built together is Insiders1. It manufactures all their leather products in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. “We manufacture here so we can have quality control,” says de Mayo.
De Mayo, who began her career as a graphic designer, prints her artfully altered photo images on high-quality Italian leather that she makes into totes, wallets, gloves, shirts, books, belts, luggage tags and art patches and she recently added a line of silk scarves. Prices range from $25 to $375. The scarves are sewn and printed in London. Images on her bags and scarves are of New York City: street signs, graffiti art, bridges, and iconic landmarks such as the Coney Island Cyclones and the elegiac Imagine tile mosaic that is dedicated to John Lennon in Central Park. De Mayo photoshops the images with extra layers of colors and vintage patinas. They work as high-fashion products for locals and as quality souvenirs for discerning travelers.
De Mayo’s entrepreneurial spirit brought her to the U.S. in 1997 from Israel. “I was working as a graphic designer in the city and I got involved with the underground art movement,” she says. She thought a great way to make some extra money was to give underground art tours for tourists. She and her friends printed brochures and gave them out to hotel concierges around town. She shepherded tourists all over Brooklyn and the Lower East Side, visiting edgy but under-the-radar galleries and artists’ parties. “Of course, everywhere I went I took the camera with me.” Soon she was photoshoping these images onto promotional tee shirts and selling them to her clients. “I found out people didn’t want to pay more than twenty dollars for a tee shirt no matter how artistic it was; that’s when I came up with the idea of printing the images on leather.”
She says it was rough going at first, the leather didn’t take the ink well and they wasted a lot of expensive material. “We were also working out of our home, and that wasn’t easy on our life or our marriage,” she laughs, remembering those early hair-raising days.
But through trial and error, her husband mastered the printing process. “The ink stays on the leather forever,” de Mayo says. She showed a bag she has been carrying for nine years, “See, it looks the same, and the leather got even softer.”
Today, the business is thriving. Insiders1 employs many workers for its manufacturing factory and its numerous retailing outlets. The company now does retail and wholesale, and custom design products for corporate clients; among them Cirque de Soleil, MTA, and Cola-Cola. The shop in Williamsburg is her first brick and mortar store.
Insiders1 is located at 231 Grand Street, Williamsburg
Open everyday from Noon to 8 pm