“If you asked someone else what I was going to do, they’d say oh, she’s going to be an artist.” That’s because Lisa Anderson Shaffer grew up in a family in which making, drawing, and constructing were commonplace. “When I was seven, my dad taught me how to compound wax a car.” Probably not the type of arts and crafts that resonated with her peers, but a useful life skill nonetheless. When it came to Zelma Rose though, Lisa took the long way around, picking up from her childhood home in New York and moving to the Bay Area for college. Three years into her degree, she decided to earn her BFA at the San Francisco Art Institute and later became an artist-in-residence at the UCSF Mt. Zion Cancer Center. After a six-year detour practicing psychotherapy, she came back to her passion for creation, founding the company in 2010. And that name? It’s a tribute to her two artistic grandmothers and their very appropriate first names.
The first menswear product Lisa crafted was a one-off request: a customer enjoyed a custom-commissioned necklace for his wife so much that he needed a matching pocket square. To be more specific, this was not a man who merely flirted with pocket squares here and there – this was someone who needed it to stand up to the bright lights and judgmental eyes of the red carpet. Lisa knew they weren’t difficult to make, so she upped the ante. “I said ‘I’ll do it but I have to make my own pattern and it has to be different. Give me a couple weeks.’” So she came up with a pattern for a double-sided design – one that could handle photography – with a certain weight, a certain thickness, and of course, no exposed seams.“ He was so pleased that he wanted more of them for friends. And their immediate question? “When are you making bowties?’”