April 20, 2011
In honor of Earth Day we are continuing to feature artists who are working with artisans to create eco-friendly, fashion forward products. This post features Escama Studio, a collaborative design studio based in California and Brazil.
Escama Studio was founded in 2004 after Andy Krumholz took a long awaited trip to Brazil. While in Brazil, Andy became fascinated with the traditional handicraft of crochet-with-tabs and decided he wanted to somehow adapt this traditional craft into products for the international consumer. Recently we had the opportunity to talk to Andy about Escama Studio and the inspiration behind its products.
Q. In what way is Escama Studio and its products sustainable?
A. Escama Studio handbags and accessories could be regarded as 'sustainable' because the material used to create the bags is post-consumer recycled aluminum pop tops. The metallic shell of the bags uses anywhere from 200 to over 1,600 pop tops; each pop top represents a can of a beverage that has been consumed. (After seven years I still think it's pretty amazing!). But in my opinion, the more important consideration is that the products themselves are sustaining the livelihood of approximately 100 artisans. Some of the artisans are earning income that is supplementary to the family income and others are the sole bread winner of the family. The venture has had a significant impact.
Q. What inspired you to create your line of handbags and accessories?
A. I became hypnotized by the look of pop-tops and crochet. I was in Brazil and I saw the craft a couple of times in different places and I thought it was brilliant. I just liked the way the crochet and pop tops looked -- it looked like armor and I thought that it would be heavy but it was extremely lightweight and supple. The craft was compelling but the designs that I saw were not too great. I thought it would be cool to add a modern design sensibility and to come up with some sophisticated shapes. I started brainstorming with my friend Socorro who is Brazilian but was living in San Francisco at the time and when she moved back to Brazil a short time later, the business became a reality.
Q. How have you accomplished making your products fashion forward?
A. Escama Studio is a company that makes handbags and we must create products that women will fall in love with. There are a million handbag companies in the world and unless the product is great, there's no reason why they should choose ours. We want to set the bar high for our products. For the past seven years the designing has been a collaborative process -- a lot of the design concepts and input has come from our team in the US and from our customers in the US and abroad. The other key part of the collaboration has come from the artisans in Brazil, they understand what will work and what will not in terms of products. In our line, some of the designs got started in the US and some of them were completely conceived in Brazil.
More recently we have brought in two very talented handbag designers in San Francisco, Beatrice Amblard and Joey Simi. Beatrice started making handmade purses for Hermes and for the last twenty years she has continued making luxury handmade purses under her own brand, April in Paris. Joey is still in art school in San Francisco but I suspect that it's only a matter of time before his talent will be picked up by some fashion house in Paris. In the months to come we will have new designs that introduce new materials. It should turn some heads.
Since 2004 approximately 70,000 handbags have been produced by the artisans. In addition to creating employment, Escama Studio gives back a percentage of gross sales to the cooperatives for capacity building. In June 2010 Escama Studio was awarded the 2010 Independent Handbag Designer Award for the "Best Green Handbag."
Enter to Win An Eco-Friendly Gift
Don't forget to enter our Earth Day drawing. On Earth Day we will draw the names of one winner who will be able to select one gift from our three featured artists. One of the choices is the Pull-tab Cuff Bracelet by Escama Studio.
To enter our drawing please send your name and e-mail address to email@example.com.