QUINOA | timeless, ethical and minimal leather accessories
In this week’s session of the COFFEE TALK we present Quinoa Paris – young Paris-based label run by Sasha (the designer) and Stephanie (concept director), which combines simple beauty with respect for the environment. How it all started? As it often happens in life the best things happen by a chance. When Sasha and Stephanie met in 2012 – it was love at first sight. Year and a half later Quinoa Paris was launched. Stephanie tells us more…
STEPHANIE, HOW DID YOU AND SASHA MEET?
In June 2012 I was working on an architecture project and a furniture line, which has been left on standby. At this time I was introduced to Sasha by a collaborator we had in common. I shared my idea of designing folding baskets with Sasha who knew how to give a shape to this concept. We became a great team because we are very different and yet complement each other. We like the same aesthetics and share the desire to undertake.
TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR AND SASHA’S BACKGROUND?
I come from New Caledonia, where I spent my childhood, later moving to Australia and Argentina. This adventure formed my entrepreneurial soul. I began my career as an international commercial agent. Realising my passion for entrepreneurship I’ve created my first company in Asia, a ready-to-wear brand traded around the world. After working as a stylist for many years in Indonesia and London, it was finally in Paris I decided to tackle a new challenge.
Sasha as a painter’s daughter has always been influenced by her father’s passion for art and artistic environment. She graduated from the Academy of Arts and Design of the most prestigious university in China – Tsinghua University. Later she flew to France for inspiration and to study Master degree in Fashion and Design. She specialises in company marketing, styling textile, graphic design and visual communication.
YOU AND SASHA MET IN PARIS – WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO MOVE TO THE FRENCH CAPITAL? WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CITY?
I actually did not plan to move to Paris in the beginning, but I fell in love with a Parisian guy ;). It is a love-hate relationship I have with Paris. As much as I love this city for her unique charm and authenticity, I hate her for the lack of space, pollution and overall proud and negative attitude. In spite of this, I love the fact that the city is a size of a large village where it is pleasant to cycle around and discover tiny, little corner streets. Amazing wine and food experiences are omnipresent. The charm of the “petites” is everywhere – there are lots of great little designer’s boutiques all around the city.
HOW DOES YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS LOOK LIKE?
Our creative process takes place at home and in our studio. We start with brainstorming and then put some sketches down. It starts with paper model followed by 3D rendering, mock leather model, adjustment technical drawings and finally a prototype phase.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Inspiration is everywhere. We mostly think about what features are important for us and how we can improve the design of a product. We ask ourselves how we can make our and others life better via our products. We are trying to make things around us better and more practical. Best ideas often come from a basic initial need…
ALL OF YOUR PRODUCTS ARE MADE OF HIGH QUALITY VEGETABLE TANNED LEATHER. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO USE THIS SORT OF LEATHER?
We decided to use vegetable-tanned leather sourced from Germany and Italy, as there are no chemicals involved in the process of tanning. It involves only natural tannins extracted from wood, bark, fruits or leaves. The alternative – chrome tanning – is harmful to the environment and the material doesn’t appear as natural. Leather is such a noble, resistant material. The use of vegetable tanned leather ensures that the product ages beautifully and wears very well with time. Only this technique is able to give leather such unique characteristics, retaining natural flaws and markings.
WHY DID YOU NAME YOUR BRAND “QUINOA”?
Quinoa was called “The Mother Grain” by the Incas, since it was a symbol of abundance and fertility. It has since been carrying the message of the past and the energy from the future throughout the world. The story of the quinoa has inspired us to create timeless and minimalist products using only high-quality and environmentally friendly materials.
WHAT TECHNOLOGY/TECHNIQUES DO YOU USE TO MAKE YOUR ACCESSORIES? WHERE ARE THEY MADE?
Our bags have been designed to be made out of a single piece of leather (vegetable-tan leather or recycled leather) and are based on a “seamless” concept. This requires a special industrial cutting machine. It is in our little studio, nestled in the heart of Montmartre, that each product is carefully designed to fit the style and personality of each one. The production is then carried out in our workshops in the North Eastern France – region with a long tradition in manufacturing.
TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR CURRENT COLLECTION. WHERE DID THE “NO SEAM” IDEA COME FROM?
Quinoa Paris bags have been designed on a “seamless” concept, without fixed rivets to maximise the product’s strength. The fact that it comes flat optimises costs of transport and storage. The use of high quality veg-tanned leather ensures an embellishment of the product with time. Another asset is the possibility to diversify the product by combining it with different accessories from the same product line. I am a type of a slow consumer – I try to buy less but better. This is where the idea came from. After spending quite a bit of time on stitching back my favourite bags I thought why not design bags without the stitches that would last longer!
ANY FUTURE COLLECTION PLANS? WHAT WILL IT BE ABOUT?
We are currently developing a new collection called Parallele, which consists of several leather goods that help optimise the organisation of all small high-tech accessories.
WHAT FUTURE DO YOU IMAGINE FOR QUINOA?
Long, steady and meaningful …we would like Quinoa to be involved in social & environmental actions at some point. Education and implementation of solutions to environmental problems in underdeveloped countries are important subjects to us.
FINALLY, WHAT MINIMALISM MEANS TO YOU?
Essential, minimum, simplicity, utility, devoid of superfluous…