Created by sisters Kimberly and Nancy Wu, Building Block combines industrial design with luxurious materials, where utilitarian resources and processes translate into minimalist forms. Drained of what they describe as "fast trend-based goods”, the Tokyo-LA duo decided to launch a luxe line of bags that were the complete opposite of the disposable, up-to-the-minute offerings of big chains. As a result, they created an amazingly successful minimalistic collection of leather bags literally based on their concept of “going back to the square one”. Minimal yet playful, with accents like oversize wooden dice and leather tassels, BB bags are surely unique.
METAL spoke with the designers to learn more about their creative process, the production of affordable good design, and what’s like working with your sister.
Two years ago Kimberly was working as a concept car designer for Honda's Advanced Studio and I was working as a footwear designer for Nike Inc. Building Block began as an exercise in editing all those things around us that meant excess. We were both growing increasingly tired of fast trend-based goods and the accumulation of fast fashion, so with BB we’re looking to go back to the drawing board. We've always been interested in fashion though we were educated as industrial designers. Blurring the line between luxury and utility was something we began to experiment with as a means to re-establish a new design philosophy. Though the project began with bags, ultimately Building Block was founded as a way for us to restart and thoughtfully re-consider what surrounds us.
Building Block is an exercise in editing excess. We believe that when at its best, good design is uncomplicated and can complement space without effort. In virtue of this, our project seeks to clear away aesthetic assumptions of luxury and return to a sense of purpose through the exploration of form.
We had always talked about branching out and starting something we could call our own while at our corporate jobs. Kim was living in Tokyo and I was living in Portland, so we decided on coming back together where we grew up, in LA.
The goal when we started Building Block was to always keep it an open-ended project with no restrictions on subject matter or materials. Although it is currently focused on bags, the brand seeks to clear away aesthetic assumptions of luxury and return to a sense of purpose through the exploration of form. The brand name is quite literal and embodies our goal to start the design process from the square one.
We believe good design should always be accessible.
There are many different ways to approach designing a collection, we simply believe that in today's throwaway society, it is more important than ever to avoid being fashionable and come back to what is already known. What feels right are designs that are self evident in their construction and beautiful simply because of the honesty of their material and form. The goal always being to offer what is known to the surface and to emphasize the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
It feels wonderful and we are continually humbled at the positive response we receive!
We'd like to think that all the bags are iconic in their own way. Each bag’s almost a reinterpretation on a classic bag archetype and a symbol for a single need.
Learning how to build a small business and plan for future growth.
It's an intuitive partnership. There's no one we trust or respect more than each other.
Observing how things work is the biggest everyday inspiration for us and helps to inform our process. Inspiration takes a lifetime of seeing and seeking, so revisiting humble everyday details is another way we can access new ideas easily. For example, looking at public park equipment or post modern office parks with fresh eyes can be very renewing.
We are currently working on finding a new studio space in Los Angeles where we can have room to explore larger scale projects.
Our next plans include expanding with different accessories such as footwear, watches, furniture while continuing to offer bags. Eventually we would like to get to a point where we have a very recognizable language and can exist as a lifestyle brand that embodies a mentality of living for men and for women.