Smoking accessories get a luxury makeover thanks to lifestyle brand Tetra.
It’s no secret that cannabis culture is experiencing a major renaissance. From beauty to healthcare, cannabis is increasingly going mainstream with widespread acceptance and a plethora of creative new brands offering CBD, Cannabis and Hemp fueled products in every form for hip urban audiences.
Fashion and style writer Eviana Hartman is one key start-up pioneer in the Cannabis space. Disappointed with the smoking accessories available for pot smokers, Hartman recently saw an opportunity to bring high design items to fashion-conscious users. Her answer was Tetra; an online retail shop and lifestyle brand selling architectural pipes and ashtrays that can double as home decor. The mission was to create Cannabis-oriented accessories that consumers could easily pair with other designer items, without raising an eyebrow.
Tetra aims to refine the ritual of smoking by providing “an opportunity to sit down, relax, and be present — an antidote to the harried, tech-obsessed pace of modern life.” Hartman caught up with the Innovation Group about the creative vision for Tetra, it’s public reception, and how she hopes the brand will transform the smoking lifestyle.
How and why was Tetra founded?
Our background is primarily as journalists and editors in the design and fashion realm. I still work as an editor of Vogue part-time, whereas my co-founder Monica has a platform called Sight Unseen, which is a hub for contemporary merging design. I was formerly at T Magazine, where I was more involved with design and not just fashion. There was a moment when we were using a really ugly pipe and talking about how ugly it was, and it just occurred to us that we knew a lot of designers that could make something better. We decided to create a platform for that to happen. It was about seeing this culture as something that was stigmatized that didn’t need to be, and that could be an interesting niche for good design.
Do you have any standards for what you look for in the products that you feature?
It has to look good. We’re very picky about how things look and function is also important. We do have our own line of products, so that’s something we’re expanding. A balance of form and function, as cliché as that might sound. We look for objects that you wouldn’t be ashamed to have out at home. There are certain instances when we want something to fill a specific need, like air-tight storage, which was something that our customers were asking for. We were looking for something that was technically going to work and, as we continue, we’re starting to get more specific with that. Within this industry, there are many degrees of how nerdy and how picky people are about their gear. We’re not targeting the person who’s a complete professional at this who does this all day every day, but there are companies out there that make extremely high-tech, expensive, elaborate, and very ugly devices to serve them, but we’re actually looking to bring more people into it by making it less ugly and scary.
Do you find more options or people who want to work with you now than when you started?
Since we started, people come along and reach out to us on a pretty regular basis. I think that there might be a little less pushback now from some people. Most people, at this point, are not scandalized by the idea of being associated to it. At the beginning, it was mixed. Some people thought it was great and others didn’t want to. At the beginning, we had more fashion products and that was where I saw more resistance, when we tried to have fashion designers get involved. That’s definitely changed in the fashion world, but we’re less about selling fashion with leaves on it than we are with actual objects that you can use for this purpose.
Do you know anything about who your typical shoppers are?
The majority of them live in major cities and seem to be in more creative class enclaves, but we do get all sorts of orders from everywhere. The majority would be creative people in NY, LA, Chicago, Portland, Austin, Philly, but we’ll also get orders from small towns in red states sometimes, and we’re totally fine with that. Those customers might be more focused on price and function, but I’d say that most of our customers are clued into what’s happening and what’s new – people who make purchasing decisions based on aesthetics and not just price comparisons and getting the job done as quickly as possible.
Is there any gender balance?
I’d say it’s about even. I look at the orders as they come in to imagine who these people are. You might think it’d skew female, but it’s actually pretty balanced. We try to make our purchasing decisions to accommodate that and have options for everyone.
Did you launch in 2015?
How has the reaction been since then?
It’s been pretty good. Right off the bat, people responded to what we were doing, appreciated it, and said that it was about time. We’ve done different pop-ups before, but in 2016, we set up a display at Sight Unseen, an offsite that is a design fair. In that case, I was working the booth. When we’ve done holiday pop-ups and markets, we don’t usually talk to the customers all day for a period of time, but in that case, I was and that was really interesting. I think that most people giggled or couldn’t believe that we were doing this, but appreciated it. I think that some people were a little scandalized and said that they don’t do this anymore or only did it in college, but in general, it’s more out in the open than it was when we launched in terms of the broader culture and laws continue to change. Shows like High Maintenance and Broad City have come out, so it’s definitely being talked about more than it was.
In Tetra’s own products, was there anything that you pulled inspiration from?
We have our products where we work directly with designers and they’re credited with us. That’s the pipe that we have now – it’s sold out, but it’s coming back in October. We also have another style coming out before the holidays and something called the Bob Pin, which is a picking and packing tool. We have those, but we also sell items that we source that are a little more basic, like simple lighters and stuff like that. There’s a moment mid-century period in the 70s when there were glamorous smoking accessories designed by some of the most avant-garde designers, so we’ve always talked about that as a general reference point. We wanted to take the idea of that niche and expand it, in terms of specific items and what they were inspired by. We want things to be streamlined so they’re not so literal, but I think we are design obsessives and have our preferred moments in that history. There are certain designers that we like to mention, like Enzo Mari, who has done ashtrays, and it’s mostly been ashtrays in the past. Monica and I are into things that are 70s, Italian, and french, but we also want it to be pretty clean and contemporary.
Anything new on the horizon?
We’ll be introducing some new products for holiday. We’ve started an arm that has a creative studio, so if there are brands that want us to consult, creative direct, or do projects for them in this space, we’ve set up an entity for that with an art director, and that is called Grass Studio. That’s a separate thing that we’re doing, but it grew out of Tetra and people who saw what we were doing and kind of wanted to do something similar with a different product. Some of it is the actual substance, but oddly enough, we ended up taking on another botanical product. We can do consulting or brand work, because we’ve spent so much time researching this market, and because we do content creation and branding and that kind of thing. We have a sensibility, so we’ve been doing some of that as well. Otherwise, for the holiday, we have a couple of new products that we are introducing. I think that someday, a brick-and-mortar store would be amazing. We’ll see when that happens but we like that idea and these objects really shine when you see them in person. We’ll have a physical presence at at least a couple of different holiday markets or pop-ups in New York and elsewhere, but we’re still finalizing all of that, but we will be introducing a second Tetra glass pipe for the holidays, if all goes as planned, and it’s a cool one.