The simplicity emanates from Isaac Reina’s design can not be new, as the wind from Bauhaus has been breezing for decades. It’s not the idea about simplicity, but the perfect execution towards simplicity that makes the brand preeminent. To appreciate the bags and small leather goods designed by Isaac Reina, you really need some discernment. Just like the tasteful buyers from La Garçonne or Farfetch, who have been clients for seasons.
Talking about discernment, Sori Yanagi, the Japanese design icon, remembered a story of his friend Charlotte Perriand, whose aesthetic also influenced Reina’s:
As the famous design assistant of Le Corbusier, Perriand visited Japan in 1940, there she organized a controversial exhibition called “bad design exhibition”. Relying on her discernment, the unnecessary designs in the world are marked with X using red-tape, which also includes the works of well-respected masters in Japan. As a result, the organizer received complaints and had to withdraw several pieces from the exhibition.
Living in the current throwaway society, I can’t help wonder how many “bad designs” would be marked with X had we inherited Perriand’s discernment and candour. Nevertheless, I guess even Perriand would not mind using the designs from Isaac Reina.
With the profile of working with Véronique Nichanian in Hermes menswear department and Martin Margiela in Maison Martin Margiela. Isaac Reina shows little interest in playing the game called luxury: “Taking one step-back from the traditional iconography of luxury. I am trying to build a new vocabulary: to eliminate the effects and keep the essence. The sensuality of the material, its function. To guide towards a form of natural beauty”, said Reina.
Reina’s design is concise and elegant. As for the general concept, Reina claimed: “What matters is: a beautiful material, a beautiful manufacturing and the right proportions (elementary principles, essential ones, but too often forgotten)”.
Isaac Reina runs his brand in a way that is true to his own values and in a pace synchronize with his own steps. Only sourcing the finest leather from France and Switzerland, and the bags and small leather goods are handcrafted in four different workshops all based in Paris and its area (see the latest update). In 2006, Isaac Reina opened his first store in Paris’ Le Marais area. And it was not until 2018, a second Isaac Reina boutique opened in Rive Gauche, 20 rue Bonaparte.
In the short interview that I did with Mr Reina, we can have a brief of his approach to design and life:
Agnes： Having a background in architecture, is there any architects or architecture movement influenced the way you do your brand?
Of course, I am very influenced by architects to design our bags and small leather goods.
To mention a few,
Le Corbusier in France & Switzerland,
Arne Jacobsen in Scandinavia,
Mies van der Rohe,
Dieter Rams in Germany
and Charles & Ray Eames,
Donald Judd in the US.
It is a very heterogeneous group of architects, sometimes very straight in their approach, sometimes more organic,
but all-embracing modernity, research and respect of technicity as a common denominator.
Agnes: What’s the most meaningful lesson you’ve learned from working with Véronique Nichanian and Martin Margiela?
With Véronique Nichanian, I couldn’t have had the best teacher for good taste and exigence of the best possible quality, always taking into account the perception of the people who would wear the clothes we were designing.
With Martin Margiela, with whom I was able to work before he left his eponymous brand, I learned how to always push the limits creativity, removing the barrier between contemporary art and fashion.
Agnes：How’s the relationship looks like between you and the artisans in those small workshops across Paris?
When I started my company with the idea to create bags, I had no experience in bag design, and I hence learned everything I now know with the local artisans I met along the way. Learning by being exposed to their highly technical skills, allowed me to be more creative, as not knowing everything gave me more spontaneousness & freedom, especially as my previous experiences were in fashion design.
Agnes：I love the way you designed the hardware in the collections, it only appears when necessary, it goes well with the beautiful leather surface, unobtrusive, yet I can feel the quality from the touch. Please tell me more about your work process.
I can’t explain to you why, but I spend half of my time designing details and the other half trying to hide these details. Using the best leather materials somehow forces me to integrate the metal accessories in the most subtle way, in order to emphasize the sensual touch of the leather, as well as a more monochromatic/uniform aspect.
Agnes: What gives you the aesthetical pleasure in life?
Here are a few suggestions, though non-exhaustive nor classified by order of preference:
– obsession for the chairs designed by the above-mentioned architects.
– galleries & exhibitions of contemporary arts
– sculptures from Isamu Noguchi, Ellsworth Kelly, Brancusi
– plants in general
– and travels to Mediterranean area & Japan