Person You Should Know: Tony Leo of Proclamation Goods

Updated: Apr 01, 2023 11:43
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We’re so lucky to be surrounded by so many talented people in The Bay Area. A few months ago, my friend and I met up at Urban Putt in the mission and nearly the exact moment she arrived she told me of someone I needed to know, Tony Leo. My friend’s enthusiasm about meeting Tony had me intrigued and after meeting him, I really feel like you’d all love with him, too.

Tony Leo in the mission – photo owned by Tony himself

As the story goes, on my friend’s way over to our happy hour, she stopped in at a small cookware store on Valencia she hadn’t seen before, Proclamation Goods. Inside was co-owner Tony Leo. Dressed in a bold graphic blazer, he walked my friend around his store for a short tour of what they had to offer. His electric personality was so captivating she snatched up his card to give to me moments later. 

A couple weeks passed and I finally decided to reach out to Tony for an interview. I had heard he had previously worked at Pottery Barn’s corporate headquarters (as did I) and I thought it would minimally be an interesting conversation. What I learned is Tony is more than just a guy with the gift of gab. His grit, positivity and connections to San Francisco’s creative community is inspiring and a story worth sharing.

Tony Leo is a storyteller and you’ll love getting to know him in my interview below:

To be successful in The Bay Area as an artist is part talent, part community and all drive. He’s an artist who designs functional art. Tony has an enthusiasm that has guided him from being a creative kid to being a creative inspiration in SF. He talks about how each piece of his life has helped to influence where he is now.

Tony Leo with the pans he designed for Proclamation Goods – photo owned by Tony himself

“As early as I could hold a crayon (as my mother tells me) I was meant to be a creative type. I was born in Pittsburgh, raised in Staten Island and schooled in Brooklyn. I studied Industrial Design at University of the Arts in Philadelphia. My folks are artists in their own right: Mom is a painter and was a muckety-muck VP of City Planning in Staten Island, Dad was an English Lit major with a masters in finance who went on to work on Wall Street.

In school, I thought I was for sure going to be a painter and a sculptor…but as I sculpted, all my projects always ended up with a utilitarian function of some sort, which led me to industrial design. It was the perfect mix of business and artistry and I took to it immediately. I had amazing professors (Peter Stathis of Cranbrook fame, and Karim Rashid of Karim Rashid fame) and they always challenged me. I had no interest in designing cars or medical equipment, I was fascinated by all that was low-tech and high-touch. I’m obsessed by objects we use in everyday life.

After I graduated, I dragged my feet for a bit but then resolved to find work doing what I was trained—and loved—to do. I picked up the B2B yellow pages (the information superhighway of the day), went to the “Industrial Design” section and resolved to apply to every business starting with the letter A. If I got to Z with no job, then I was not meant to be an industrial designer. My first interview was with a company called Ancona 2. I went in, showed my portfolio, and got the job on the spot. First interview, first job. 

At this shop I dove into the world of housewares and I loved it. Cutlery for Sabatier, tools and gadgets for Ekco, tea kettles, spice racks, novelty and industry! It was fascinating. A few years later, I got a call about an open position for a designer… at Pottery Barn in San Francisco. There was no contract, no interview, no application…I had never been to Cali, but I was promised a job and a gratis plane ticket. That was enough for me! I packed up my few belongings from my shared (teeny) apartment in Nolita and hopped on a plane.

Over the next 10 years, I sketched my way to oblivion, and was proud to develop products across a multitude of categories and materials. I traveled the world to design products for one of the most covetable home brands around; I’ve blown glass in India and thrown pottery in Portugal. 

When I lost my job at Pottery Barn, my network and experience allowed me to continue traveling and consulting. It was during that time I was approached by [Proclamation Goods CEO] Chris Burrage, who was looking for someone to unlock a cookware concept. We met at his dining room table, began napkin sketching, mind-mapping, dreaming. We consulted with and employed a spectacular group of people along the way (it takes a village, you know), explored myriad materials, 3D prototyping and manufacturing techniques and arrived at a design that fit the bill for The Proclamation Duo: minimalist, durable, versatile, sexy, and sturdy,” says Tony.

It was the Proclamation Duo that my friend nearly snatched off the shelf on her way to meet me at Urban Putt that day. It’s truly beautiful. The only thing that kept her from buying it was she wasn’t sure where she’d put it while playing a competitive game of put put.

A Dedication to US Made

One of the most impressive things about the cookware, to me, is that they are made in the U.S. I’ve worked in retail nearly all of my own career as a graphic and web designer. It’s not easy to find somewhere in the US to make goods. However, this wasn’t going to stop Tony and his team.

“Beautiful, well-crafted things are made all over the world, and it would not be difficult to offshore this design. But: production of such things are not as well-regulated as they are here in the States. We stand for equal pay and worker’s rights, and believe that American craftsmanship is the best around.

We felt, and still feel, that committing to “Made in the USA” matters, and we’re excited to continue that with new designs moving forward. From an emotional perspective, my grandfather worked in the steel mills outside of Pittsburgh, so my father likes to say I have steel in my blood. It feels good to make durable goods as part of a time-tested legacy like that,” explains Tony.

Tony doesn’t do anything halfway. He makes a commitment and stands by it. Being part of the community within San Francisco is also extremely important to Tony. While I chatted with him on the phone, he was interrupted a couple times as he waved at neighborhood friends and chatted up folks who came in the store. You can nearly see his smile when you hear him talking to people.

Where does Tony get his fashion inspiration?

It’s not just his personality that shines. Tony Leo is unmistakable when you see him walking the streets of San Francisco. His bold graphic blazers are his signature and yet another way that he inspires people around him. 

“I love this question. My father is my biggest inspiration. He knows all within the sartorial lexicon, including what to do and what not to do. I’ve broken those rules so many times I’d never be able to count. (The biggest violation: wearing a flat bill hat or hooked up Adidas with a blazer.)

As teens, my father would let me and my brother go into his closet and pick a suit out of his wardrobe to wear each year for Thanksgiving. We LOVED that. We thought we were so cool. That started everything for me. I love a suit. I love to overdress. I also grew up in the 80’s/90’s, so streetwear was my bubble bath…name belts, Cazal sunglasses, track suits. Burning Man is also a place of inspiration for me. The absolute lack of need for restraint when it comes to personal expression really opened my eyes.

Whatever you imagine could be, can be. When I travel, I shop. I always look at people, check their style and mimic bits and pieces of what I see to create my own look. A lot of my pieces are custom made with tailors I’ve visited when traveling. Many are made with local and found textiles from Discount Fabric Warehouse here in SF. It turns out that the cut-and-sew is the least expensive part of having a suit made, so I bring my own fabrics to keep the cost down!

I do everything I can to stay away from Al’s Attire in North Beach because I will spend all of my money there. His stuff is BEAUTIFUL! Beyond that, I’m a dumpster diver by nature, so a lot of my clothes come from secondhand shops and flea markets. I’ve also gotten great pieces from Goodbyes on Sacramento Street,” says Tony.

Photo of Tony from his Instagram

3 people in SF/The Bay Area that inspire Tony:

Tony is an inspiration for sure himself – inspiring us all to put in the work, be unapologetically ourselves and spread positivity. As inspiring as he is, I did want to know who inspires him. Fun to see a person I’ve interviewed before – Stephanie Shipman over at Seaport Studios!

  • Juanita More. She is 1000000% fabulous and looks out, engages, and supports our Bay Area community tirelessly and with “loads of love!”
  • Steph Curry. What can I say? The youth need good role models in sports and I feel that Steph conducts himself with self-respect and respect for others. I always feel good when I hear him speak, and wish that more public sports figures conducted themselves in the same way.
  • La Cocina. Not necessarily a person, but I love La Cocina’s mission in helping those who have all the right stuff, and all the ability, but are under-resourced to break through and share their delicious vision with the world. I admire the thankless spirit of education and support for people to help formalize their business and be part of the local economy.
  • Stephanie Shipman. Steph is a local business owner, overall hustler, and builder. She teaches classes for beginners on the basics of woodworking and construction. Outspoken, tenacious, and hard working, her business (“…AND I BUILT IT WITH MY VAGINA!!!”) is designed around women teaching other women woodworking basics. I definitely think that Steph is a Bay Area person you should know! 

Stephanie Shipman and Katy laugh  at Seaport Studios – photo by Ronny Preciado

So, lastly, I asked Tony…What’s next for Proclamation Goods?

“First we are finishing the initial vision! We have three different sizes of our workhorse cookware, designed for different lifestyles and life stages, from first apartments and solo cooking to starting a family and more. We are working to get the newest additions tooled up and complete. After that, it’s onward to additional categories, likely adjacent to cooking and entertaining. We listen to our proclaimers (our users, evangelists and supporters) for cues on what’s next and where we can go.

Additionally, we’re building out the Proclamation Goods Shop, our physical manifestation of the vision that supports artists, makers, and community builders. We’re proud to offer well-made, honest designs and provisions,” says Tony.

I’m telling us all about Tony so that we can remember that not all artists are gone in San Francisco. Some artists are making things that aren’t paintings or large art installations. Creativity comes in many forms. For Tony, creativity comes in the form of designing goods we use every day. When I walked away from my talk with Tony, I was electrified by his energy and enthusiasm. I could see why my friend was feeling so intent on telling me about him. Talking with him for just a couple hours made me so happy to live in a place where people like Tony exist.

View outside of Proclamation Goods – photo courtesy of Tony Leo and Proclamation Goods

Hours and Address for Proclamation Goods:

717 Valencia Street
Visit Tony during many of their shop hours: Thurs.- Saturday 1pm-6pm PST OR by appointment.

Where can folks find you and Proclamation Goods online?


IG: @tonyjacuzzi
Twitter: @tonyjacuzzi

Note: ALL Photos are courtesy of Tony Leo

Inside Tony’s shop, Proclamation Goods – photo courtesy of Tony Leo and Proclamation Goods

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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy has lived in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.