Jon is a second generation Native entrepreneur. His mom, Rose Olney Sampson, owns Rose’s Native Designs in Toppenish, Washington, and has learned a lot from watching her for 30 years.
Native Anthro is a business that specializes in providing customers with personalized pieces of wearable history. The company sells shirts, hoodies, shoes, phone cases, scarves, bandanas, and a variety of other things.
In addition to designing and artwork, Jon also hand-makes leather purses, bags, belts, and other accessories, which is a tradition going back three generations to his grandfather.
“Everything I do in my business is inspired by my hero and my late grandfather Peter Olney, and influenced by my family including my mom, uncles, wife and kids,” Jon said.
Native Anthro is very much a family-oriented business in that there is nothing that happens without Jon’s family.
His late grandmother, Marie Olney, who was obsessed with bags, is always on his mind when he designs or creates because he’s trying to create a brand she would love and want to wear.
Ultimately, leather work is Jon’s creative passion, maybe even an obsession, and he hopes to expand into a luxury brand someday.
Many years ago, his uncle Marcel Olney gave him his first leather tools hoping to persuade him in a creative direction, until he finally took the plunge in 2019. Immediately, Jon fell in love with it and has been an adamant student of leather work for four years.
“I have failed so many times and went through so much leather trying to strengthen my skills and knowledge,” Jon said. “Many tears have been shed but those failures are used as teachable moments to build from and do better the next time.”
Building a brand is not easy, and Jon said building a brand that stands out is even more challenging. However, he has reinvested a lot into his business to build his own leather shop and create a recognizable brand.
There are several leather artisans he looks to for inspiration. Those artisans include: Mila Jito, Yoon Sung-yong of Unblown Made leather, Peter Nitz, Hemlock and Hide, Odin Leather, and Tony Gonzalez of Painted in Blue.
What makes the leather working community unique is that everyone helps each other out, Jon said.
“One would think it would be hyper-competitive in this niche of the fashion industry, but we all get along and share tips and hints perhaps because we are all suffering from the same obsession,” he said.
For Natives, Jon said the fashion industry can be very daunting and at times discouraging. There are large barriers to entry along with the fact that rural reservation communities are so far-removed from the urban-based fashion centers.
“Every place that a Native takes in the fashion industry, has been carved out against insurmountable odds,” he said. “With that in mind, we need more spaces and we need to remove barriers to entry for future Native artists and designers.”
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