Created by Dimitrios and his wife Esther back in 2012, TSATSAS is a German label that produces handmade leather bags and accessories, using only the best available materials. More recently, the brand collaborated with the photographer Ramon Haindl, also founder and editor of the online magazine CULT, for the project Aesthetics Habitat. The resulting images not only play with the concept of ‘handmade’, but also add a perhaps unexpected sensuality to the stark simplicity of TSATSAS designs.
How did TSATSAS X Ramon Haindl come about?
The collaboration was initiated by Moritz Firchow of Deutsche & Japaner, who is familiar with both our work and that of Ramon. Moritz put us in contact in the context of his Aesthetics Habitat project, and so we started to exchange our ideas and thoughts with Ramon. Focusing on leather as a material, Ramon captured our work in his very own way – subtle structures and a high level of attention to surface characteristics form the essence of his photographs.
The result are seven images of our bags which he edited by hand; he didn’t use Photoshop, but relied solely on paper, scissors, glue and pens. And succeeded in lending those photographs a very special look and feel.
Can you tell us some more about Aesthetics Habitat?
Aesthetics Habitat is the brainchild of Moritz Firchow. The idea is to bring together like-minded brands and creative visionaries to produce genuine content without any restrictions or limits. In other words, the focus is always on the artistic freedom of the protagonists. Participants included BMW with Studio Amos Fricke and Saint Laurent Paris with Uwe J. Bermeitinger.
Do you believe there is such a thing as the perfect bag?
We believe there is no such thing as THE perfect bag, but there are attributes which separate an ordinary bag from a sophisticated one. For example, you need to use only top quality materials, allow plenty of time for the handcrafting process to create a long-lasting product, and you need to strike a perfect balance between form and function. The design essentially works to accentuate the character of the user, precisely and to the point.
Your bags are quite striking in their simplicity; in fact they are easily worn by both men and women. Do you believe that good design is genderless?
Good design can achieve such clarity and precision in a product that both sexes are happy to identify with it. Most of our products are used by men and women alike... This even includes bags like FLUKE, which we conceived as a ladies’ bag originally. But it’s not just the design that’s important: a product’s social connotations play a crucial role. The clutch, for example, will most likely always be associated with a female, no matter how pared-down the design may be.
Dimitrios’ father had a leather workshop for 30 years, but how did you decide you wanted to follow in his footsteps and start your own brand?
As a boy, Dimitrios spent a lot of time in his parents’ studio, which meant that craftsmanship and working with leather had a monumental effect on him. The idea to return to his family roots did not materialise until much later, however. We spent a very long time looking for a high-quality leather bag with a reduced form, but sadly in vain. We both have a design background (Esther is an architect, Dimitrios an industrial designer) and safe in the knowledge that we would be able to rely on the assistance of the father and his skilled craftsmanship, we fancied the idea of designing and producing a bag that matched our expectations.
What began with the idea of a single bag soon turned into a growing passion. We were very excited about making products that melded contemporary design with the traditional values of craftsmanship, so we eventually decided to turn our passion into a profession.
Talking about leather, what kind of leather do you use? How do you source it?
We only use natural leathers. Both the exterior of the bag and all of the interior are made of aniline leather, which comes from animals that are farmed for meat production in southern Germany, France, Southern India, and New Zealand. Various surface structures arise from the natural quality of the leather. Every skin and every fur grows differently, with the pores and grain lending it its very own special character.
We source our leathers exclusively from a leather wholesaler, with whom we work very closely. As a general rule, the characteristics we look for in a bag are defined by the properties of the leather. Our dealer will contact various tanneries he works with and search for a suitable article. Alternatively, if we want to achieve a specific colour or an unusual quality we may have particular leathers produced for us.
What about your production process?... Can you explain it to us?
We don’t follow a stereotypical process. We start with an idea that we both find fascinating but that places no restrictions on the product’s further development, for example: the typology of the bag, if it will be used by men or women, et cetera. Our design process is characterised by a certain obsession, which is to realise the first idea that is not formally defined in a product. This may be a detail in a seam or a particular leather we come across during the research phase, which has such intriguing properties that we definitely want to work with it.
Once the design process is completed, we finalise the workshop patterns. Then it’s over to the studio of Dimitrios’ father, where the bags are made. The first step involves cutting out all the parts; depending on the bag, there may be as many as 60 items. After all the parts have been finished, the bags’ interior and exterior are completed before the two parts are put together. Depending on the model, the production process can take up as many as 16 hours.
Established in 2012, TSATSAS is still very young, but you are gaining more and more exposure every day. How do you balance a small family-run business with a growing brand?
Striking this balance poses the greatest challenge to us. We didn’t envisage rapid growth when we started our business, indeed we always wanted plenty of time to improve things slowly. We simply work very hard to ensure this and meet our goals – you could say we work around the clock. As a couple we are in the happy position to be together 24/7, meaning we can talk about things all the time.
There is currently a lot of talk about fast “fashion”. What are your thoughts on that and how does this concept compare with your work?
Our philosophy is exactly the opposite of fast fashion – everything in our design and manufacturing process takes much time to be developed. We don’t believe in products that were designed and produced for swift cycles because they don’t have a ‘soul’ that speaks to people and that makes them into a long-lasting product. Consumers of fast fashion forsake so much, namely a sense for what is really precious, for good quality, and for detailed craftsmanship.
What other projects and collaborations are you planning on?
In September, we will be showcasing our new collection at the Paris Fashion Week in our temporary showroom in the Marais. This is a big step for us on our way of promoting the brand and letting it grow. And there are two collaborations in progress – so stay tuned for news during the coming months!
Photos by Ramon Haindl