photo courtesy of maharam
by Felix Burrichter
Konstantin Grcic (b. 1965, Germany) is a Munich-based industrial designer whose rigorous design approach combines deep research with an investigation into emerging technologies. Yet at the core of his practice lies a profound appreciation and commitment to craft—a principle Grcic picked up early on. After high school, Grcic moved to England to apprentice under an antique furniture restorer and later a cabinetmaker, where he learned the value of handwork and skilled labor. It was during this time that Grcic discovered his passion for furniture and industrial design, which led him to seek education at London’s Royal College of Art. Grcic’s teacher Jasper Morrisonwas impressed by the young designer’s ingenuity and hired him to work in his studio, where Grcic apprenticed for one year before returning to Munich to establish his own studio, Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design (KGID). Today, with the use of 3-D modeling software and precision engineering, Grcic designs furniture, lighting, and objects that redefine standard molds, replacing them with new, more logical solutions. His studio, located in a courtyard near Munich’s central train station, is warm and intimate, filled with eclectic objects—a somewhat surprising vision given the designer’s minimal yet technically oriented style. Amidst Grcic’s bike collection, stacks of books, and a trove of cardboard prototypes, we met in the KGID studio to discuss Grcic’s latest collaboration with Maharam: a collection of bags featuring lightweight yet durable materials that demonstrates Grcic’s unique vision and rigorous commitment to quality.
Felix Burrichter: What inspired you to design a collection of bags?
Konstantin Grcic: Michael Maharam invited me to contribute ideas to a new collection of bags to be launched as a sideline to their textile business. There was no particular briefing other than to design a bag that I would like to use myself. The great thing about designing bags is that it’s a very hands-on process; you can just make them. I have a Singer sewing machine in the office and that is exactly where all of the bags were conceived.
FB: Was there a specific requirement as to what material to use? Did they have to be made from Maharam textiles?
KG: No, Maharam didn’t ask us to use their textiles. However, the choice of material plays a big role. The Three Bagis a simple tote bag made from a waxed canvas, similar to that of the Barbour jackets. The feel of the canvas is very outdoors and heavy-duty, which I like. Then there is the Frame Bag, a kind of weekender made of a combination of two technical materials: a very thin spinnaker nylon and webbing straps. The webbing creates an outer basket or structural framework (hence the name) around the inner nylon bag. The construction is very efficient, which makes the bag robust and lightweight at the same time. The third bag, the Tube Bag, is made from a single piece of fabric, a nonwoven material. The fabric is sewn into a long tube that is then folded into two open-ended pockets or envelopes and completed by a long shoulder strap, which determines the bag’s use for cycling and so forth.
FB: What kind of bag do you use yourself?
KG: When I travel I use a dark blue duffel bag from Eastpak. I have had this for years and it seems to be absolutely indestructible.
FB: Was your ambition to design bags that would come close to your Eastpak duffel?
KG: Sure, I was interested in designing bags of superior quality. What gave me confidence in achieving this was the immediacy of the process: designing through making and being able to go over and over the same details until the result was finally satisfactory. We did not create sketches for any of the bags; we just let them evolve organically. This way of working isn’t untypical for me. Material and construction are key elements of my design process and are the determining factor for how the product ends up being and looking.
FB: How many dummies did you end up making for these bags?
KG: We probably made thirty to forty mockups and prototypes of all the different styles. Using a sewing machine is a very fast, simple process. Once we got the hang of it, we were able to knock out an average of two to three bags a day.
FB: Do you sew yourself?
KG: A little bit, but my assistants are of course much better at it. I want to know how it works, but in the end I don’t have enough time and practice to be efficient. But of course I am still very involved in all the details, because that is really what drives the process. Working out the precision of how to place a zipper or trying out alternative ways of creating three-dimensional volumes from a two-dimensional cloth are all essential steps in realizing the product. For me, it is very much about learning by doing and that is always great fun.
(read the rest of the original interview at maharam)