Fashion / Shopping

California Entrepreneur Behind Luxury Customization and Monogramming Craze Moves Her Company to Houston

Where Fashion, Art and Design Meet

BY // 05.26.21

With clients including Lady Gaga, Steven Spielberg, the Kardashians and John Mayer on the books, recent Houston transplant Tara Martin might be expected to settle back and take a breather on growing DTLAcustom, the luxury hand-painted customization business that she launched in Los Angeles in early 2015. But there is no slowing down this hyper-energized entrepreneur who also counts Louis Vuitton, Goop and Cartier in her heavyweight client roster.

Houston appears to be fertile ground for her company, which Martin describes as “at the intersection of fashion, art, and design.” And as DTLA’s website boasts, “We will take any design you want and hand paint it on any item you would like.”

Luggage tags, valet trays, earphones, sneakers, Rimowa luggage and Jimmy Choo pumps — little has escaped the hands of Martin’s stable of Los Angeles-based artists.

A native of California and a graduate of USC, Martin had taken her headquarters to New York a few years ago but when COVID hit, she decided to get out of town. Houston’s vivid art community, its reputation for open doors and the entrepreneur spirit drew her to the city.

“I had heard so many great things about Houston,” Martin tells PaperCity. Although she arrived in March of 2020, Martin addds, “But I really feel like I’ve been here only three months. I feel like I’ve just arrived.”

A High-Powered Startup

After having seen Kim Kardashian in Los Angeles with a Birkin bag decorated with a piece of her daughter’s artwork, Martin was inspired. So when in Paris shortly thereafter, she visited the Louis Vuitton flagship and asked about a customized work.

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It could be done with initials and stripes only. It would take up to 10 weeks to receive and you had to purchase the bag at the time of the order. No toting in your previously purchased LV Run Away sneaker or Pochette Coussin and asking for a monogram.

“As a consumer, you couldn’t just go in and get this done. So I decided to launch,” Martin says.

Today, Martin’s clients can have anything and everything painted on their products be the images of dogs, florals, family portraits, horses, etc. Martin deals directly with her customers, walking them through the process of selecting a design for their preferred product. DTLA’s Instagram account and catalog are filled with possible renderings while clients can send photos or images of their choice. The artists then create a mock-up that is sent to clients for any necessary revisions before the work begins.

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Western boots, sneakers and other fancy footwear are customized by DTLAcustom.

Martin employs a stable of 10 freelance graphic artists who use proprietary customized paints that can be applied to leather, suede, patent leather, glass, PVC and nylon.

The company’s creds are impressive. In recent years, Louis Vuitton tapped DTLAcustom to embellish a bag for Elton John for his 70th birthday bash at Yankee Stadium. During a Jimmy Choo and Vogue summer party in The Hamptons, guests were invited to select a pair of shoes which Martin’s artist then customized on the spot. For the opening of Marc Jacobs’ flagship store on Madison Avenue, Martin provided artists to dress up purchased items.

DTLA’s New Home Base

DTLA is already expanding across the Bayou City as it continues to grow throughout the country. Martin has signed up several local retailers and corporations and has more in the works. When Houston-based Cotton Holdings celebrates its 25th anniversary in June, the Post Oak Hotel ballroom will be filled with Moet & Chandon bottles monogramed for the occasion.

This would not be a first for DTLAcustom as Martin has supplied monogramed Dom Perignon bottles for the Vanity Fair Oscar parties.

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Dogs are among the most popular customizations requested of DLTAcustom.

Cityboots is working with Martin on decorative additions to its line of coveted western footwear. She is also working with Zadok Jewelers and the Farm at Wellville in Round Top. In addition, a local family has commissioned artwork for 28 pairs of Alexander McQueen sneakers for a summer wedding.

Martin deals with customers personally and encourages anyone interested (corporate, private or personal) to reach out to her directly via email, or via phone at 310-617-2672.

Costs range from $250 or $300 for something as simple as a Christmas ornament up to $7,500 or beyond for a highly-decorated trunk with travel posters and detailed artwork.

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