The Understated Beauty That is Jennifer Kassell’s Brand

Understated Leather has been a friend of Free People’s for years… Learn how Jennifer’s brand came to be, and see just how brightly this Austin artist shines.

Your zodiac sign:


Tell us about the birth of Understated Leather

Understated Leather unearthed from my Aussie upbringing and transition into the Texan lifestyle. 

The brand evolved from an initial creative outlet where I reworked vintage leather jackets. It quickly gained a lot of traction when For Love And Lemons and Free People chose to support me at the onset. 

As a company, we stand for the belief that style and quality should speak for Understated, and not the other way around. Our DNA stems from designs of the past, with a nod to country western fused with a little motorcycle culture. This combo is iconically Austin, and we are continually inspired by our city. We are collectors of timeless details and are inspired by vintage designs, classic films, and music that spans many eras. Travel is a huge part of Understated Leather, as our brand is built on Sydney, New York, Los Angeles and Austin — a fusion of all of my previous (and current) homes. Our humble intention for Understated Leather is to focus on the wearer — understated but unforgettable. 

What lured you from Australia to Austin? 

Well, Austin did not happen right away. I first moved to New York to run a boutique showroom which specialized in representing Australian brands for the US market, while also buying US brands for the Australian market. Then I was off to LA to work as Fashion Director of Planet Blue, and THEN I moved to Austin to marry my boyfriend — over 4 years ago now. Every time I ever visited Austin, I felt like I was home. I can’t explain it… It bears a unique feeling, a place where life just flows effortlessly and the city and people are innovative, inspiring and kind. It always felt like a breath of fresh air to be here. Ego seems to have no place in Austin. 

5 Must-See’s in Austin: 

Hamilton Pool. Hike the Greenbelt and then swim at Barton Springs. Watch live music (Antone’s is a great spot). Vintage shop (Feathers, Charmed School Vintage and Blue Velvet are some of my favorites). Eat breakfast at Josephine House.  

Your friendship with Free People. How did it start?

Free People has had such a massive impact on my business, and my life. I am honored to work so closely with them on a regular basis. The buyers have become like family… we text, we make each other laugh, I annoy them with baby spam — it’s a real friendship. 

You and our shoe team definitely had a lot of fun creating the Southern Star and Lady Luck boots, but there was also a great deal of strategy in developing their details. Tell us about that, especially that amazing horseshoe harness!

Kat and Rachel — part of FP’s shoe team –met me in Austin to develop the concept around these boots. We wanted to create a mini-capsule boot collection in a range of colors, a modern take on classic western shapes.The buckle was conceived from a hand drawing commissioned by Brooklyn artist Jen Mussari for our handbags (you can see them exclusively on our website).

It took us about a year to convert that sketch into a physical buckle, but that’s exactly why they are so special — so much so that they’ve become the signature of our brand. 

The Lady Luck is a classic Chelsea boot with a western squared-off toe, and easy to dance in heel height — perfect for concerts and festivals.

Feeling really strongly about a tall slouch boot this season, we gave the Southern Star a higher western heel, creating a style perfect for wearing all day and into the night. The perfect finishing touch came in the form of tiny studded on stars on the pull tabs, as well as the embossed details on the sole of both boots.

What does the horseshoe symbolize to you?

To me, the horseshoe is iconic Texas, and universally recognized. Traditionally it symbolizes protection and good luck — who doesn’t need a bit of that in their lives? I like to think that this positivity shines over all of our UL community.  

Your most rewarding experience:

My most rewarding experience was the recent birth of my son, Sway, 3 1/2 months ago. He is the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen. I am so honored that he is my son. His little laugh warms my heart every single day. I love him with every ounce of my being and I hope this crazy world will be kind to him as he grows up in it. 

5 songs that best represent you:

John Lennon’s “Imagine,” David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” Dire Straits’ “Why Worry,” Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” and the Beatles’ “Let It Be.”

+ Check out everything Understated here.


Lady Luck photo by Lucinda Taffs. Model: Nora O’Neil. Stylist: Elly McGaw.