Origami and Handbags, UNL/NDE
UNL/NDE was born way before it became UNL/NDE. The brand takes shape from the need to create a common denominator among the ideas, concepts and shapes created from paper, cardboard or any material on hand and aimed to explain what has ignited, inspired by surrounding daily stimuli. María Flores, trained as fashion accessories designer at the IED in Madrid, multidisciplinary in her daily life, sensitive and pragmatic, started tracing a first draft of the brand concept up in her mind. Mateo Fernández-Muro, architect, restless and compulsive designer, moves the team to NY to study a graduate program at Parsons School of Design and gives shape to Maria’s first sketches. It is in New York where UNL/NDE first comes to light in 2015. All of our designs arise in our little atelier in Harlem -where we also handcraft the jewellery pieces - to be finely handmade in Spain under a responsible production. Inspired by art, architecture and organic lines in nature, we try to achieve beauty, functionality and simplicity through the wisest handcrafts tradition. We understand our design practice as an experimentation and exploration of the edges arising between disciplines, ideas, spaces, shapes and objects.
How did you get into fashion?
I have always loved creating things with my own hands. When I was a kid I could spend hours cutting and pasting pieces of paper and rejoicing from the many unexpected shapes that came out. Even today I keep making collages in my free time. Nevertheless, my background has nothing to do with design. When I first went to college I studied Environmental Science, which of course has shaped my approach to design, but did not directly influenced my decision to turn my eyes into fashion. It was only a few years after I finished my undergraduate studies, and perhaps also influenced by some personal experiences, when I took the decision to make a 180 degrees shift and go back to school to earn a graduate degree in design. I first studied a design course at Istituto Europeo di Design in Madrid in 2012 and after its completion I got a scholarship to study a Master in Fashion Accessories Design the following year. That helped me to be much more involved in the fashion scene in Spain and well aware of the latest tendencies around me. Right after that I moved to New York with my husband and I decided to start my own concept with very few jewelry pieces and some small leather items that I crafted myself in my little studio in Harlem. That’s how UNLINDE was born.
Is there Spanish influence in your work?
I don’t think I can explicitly associate any of the things that inspire me with a specific country. I get my inspiration from the everyday life, from the most ordinary objects around me, no matter the country I am in. Yet actually, if I had to mention a country whose design I find most interesting I would pick Japan, because of the amazing combination of simplicity, functionality and boldness of their designs. However, there’s a much more subtle and deep level of influence in my work that I believe comes from my spanish culture and traditions, no doubt. I think this is concealed, implicit, deep in my roots, and emerges with every decision and gesture I make in the design process. Besides, in Spain we have a huge and extended leather craftsmanship tradition long since, which I’m pretty sure made me focus on leather goods at first. That’s fair to say. This tradition has evolved and gained even more reputation in recent years, which made not only Spanish fashion designers but also well-known international brands come to Spain to manufacture their products. I feel honored to come from a country with such re-known tradition and I think it’s no-brainer to be part of this new craftsmanship movement and support it and contribute to it to the extent possible.
One could say your bags bear allusions to origami - is this intentional?
Absolutely! As I’ve just mentioned, I love Japanese culture and the way it has been fearlessly reinterpreted by contemporary designers such as Rei Kawakubo or Issey Miyake. When I designed the Tetrabag, not only did I want to design a bag but I also wanted to conceive a special object that you could play and interact with. It feels like one of these toys I usually made out of folding paper when I was a kid, changing color and shape every other minute. In this sense the TETR4BAG is so playful, but also so functional. You can make it bigger if you need it, you can change its predominant color whenever you want. Instead of having just one bag, it feels like having four of them at the same time.
What inspired the TETR4BAG collection?
It’s actually a fun story, and it’s related to what I just tried to explain earlier. The design of the TETR4BAG, as its name implies, emerges from a reinterpretation of the classic milk box, whose technical name is Tetrapak. One of the most ordinary objects in our lives, one that can go totally unnoticed, happened to inspire our most beloved design! Later on, the design process has been undoubtedly infused with Japanese aesthetics and swayed by Spanish tradition, but the trigger was an ordinary milk carton during an usual breakfast of a common Sunday morning.
Do you have a favourite design in this collection?
The TETR4BAG is the crown Jewel of UNLINDE, and it’s one of the most successful designs so far. If I had to choose among the different color combinations we offer, I would say my favourite one is the Burgundy/Turquoise from our latest collection. It’s classy and elegant yet fresh and youthful at the same time. I also love the Nude/Red model, perhaps because it was one of the first models we produced and the first one who made it to the red carpet in Cannes!
What can we expect from UNL/NDE over the next few seasons?
I am very excited because we moved our main production to the south of Spain, which not only means working with highly experienced craftsmen but also being in contact with the best leather and fabric suppliers. This is allowing us to expand the range of our products and be able to offer new color combinations and sizes. Working closely with leather artisans with top notch technology at reach is also helping us to develop new models and patterns following the same origami aesthetic that gave rise to our TETR4BAG. We are working on a Tote bag that can be enlarged or even converted in a backpack, and we are also developing a flexible clutch that changes its size depending of the items you put in. In the end, it’s all about playing!