In the never-ending stream of accessories that fly straight to our consciousness, it’s getting harder and harder to decipher what is actually the good quality stuff. With all the hype, shapes, and heavy marketing out there, we have everything from great no-name wonders to cool it bags that will catapult you to the zeitgeist at brunch. On the other end of the spectrum, there are poorly crafted bags with a designer label tossed on or worse, painstakingly crafted pieces with horrible, I-can’t-even-look-at-it design. It’s hard not to get jaded by all the options. There are moments where the most expensive it bag stares you dead in the eye, taunting you with the truth: a night out with it requires accepting the potential that your perfect bag might get banged up with drunken regret.
Recently, a friend gifted me a Graf and Lantz bag. At first, I was just thankful for the prospect of a new cool bag to rock for the week, but soon there was a more powerful bond to the bag that I couldn’t really explain. The best way to describe it is like the scene from Avatar when the characters bonded with the beast. As the bag became my daily go-to, I realized its structure and quality was something I hadn’t seen in a long time. Here was the perfectly priced accessory I had been searching for: a bag that was understatedly chic, well-crafted, and actually made here in L.A. I wanted to investigate further, and after some door-knocking, I got the chance to visit the duo’s L.A. studio.
Stepping into their factory felt wonderful because it wasn’t a soulless machine – there was warmth and creativity filling the space. Originally a corner store market, the location was converted into a factory, workshop and living space. At the heart of this accessories wonderland is Holger Gräf, who has a background in structural engineering, and Daniel Lantz, who lived for years working out of Japan. Founded in 2009, the duo first started of out of their West Hollywood apartment to fill a demand in the then untapped market. “We just by default became the “made in USA thing,” because we couldn’t find anybody that made stuff like how we wanted it to be made. So we started making it ourselves and taught ourselves and now we have a team of 15 people,” explains Lantz.
With hides sourced from all over North America, South America, and Italy, as well as felted German merino wool, these sculptural modernist bags aren’t just for show – the quality is also presented in touch and durability. With the onsite factory, they are able to sample a variety of shapes and fabrics. More recently their work has begun to seamlessly drift into the home goods world with leather sculpted trays. This experimentation has also lead to a selection of men’s accessories that are constructed from dead stock army fabrics and denim in an array of in-house washes.
For Fall 2016, Gräf and Lantz have collaborated with OAK NYC on a range of distressed denim bags that work perfectly as an all-around-town bag that transitions easily from work to night. The collection bridges the gap between the city goth aesthetic OAK has captured so well and moves towards a more contemporary and urban minimalist appeal. This collaboration best encapsulates their philosophy of fashion, and the place they have carved out for themselves in the industry. “Fashion is fun but we’re more interested in personal style. We want to be a part of people’s personal style, people who have opinions and are doing things.”