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- Photos by Elizabeth Daniels
- Graf & Lantz.
- A small sampling of the women’s collection.
- Designers Holger Gräf and Daniel Lantz with the resident boss lady.
- Graf & Lantz inspiration and vision wall.
- Men’s bags.
- Rolls of felt ready to be made into handbags.
- The designers hard at work.
- Lantz cutting pieces of felt to be used in one of the bags.
- Extra felt is used to make keychains and coasters.
- One of the company’s very first sewing machines.
- Wood patterns hang from the walls.
- Team Graf & Lantz cutting and sewing away.
- Designers right outside their Silver Lake digs.
Graf & Lantz designer, Daniel Lantz, who is "endlessly curious, terrified of boredom and intolerant of authority" grew up in Utah but spent his life traveling and living outside of the country. His partner in crime, Holger Gräf hails from Germany where he studied engineering and received his PhD before moving to Los Angeles and starting a brand with Lantz. Yes, the two finally found themselves in the same city, becoming Angelenos and starting their own company that would make everything from chic handbags and totes to backpacks, messenger bags and even some home goods. Gräf manages the daily business while Lantz is more involved with the production process and research & development, the two design as a team.
The overall goal of the Graf & Lantz is to stay different and distinct. Although the collections are not exactly "themed" at the moment, that will change for Fall/Winter 2015. "We are in a constant state of learning," they explained. "It has been enlightening to sort out an image of who we see wearing our designs as a brand." The company has operated out of their Silver Lake live-in studio for almost three years and it was only chance that the ended up there. They found the sweet spot while they had a contract for a different studio in hand. "Silver Lake chose us." They said. "We should take a moment and have a smashing house warming party." Yes please.
How did you two studs meet?
Lantz: We met in Munich. We were introduced by friends and immediately began a rather free flow conversation that turned into a heated argument. In the end, naturally, Holger was right, but what impressed me was how easy it was for me to just admit it. It stuck. The rest is history. It's still how we work together. It's safe to say that we approach things from absolutely opposite positions on most everything, in life and in design. It doesn't look like that's going to change, but that's ok because what now we establish a goal and lob ideas back and forth until they begin to form a path to something totally original.
How did you end up in LA?
Lantz: I knew I wanted to be able to go back and forth from Japan at a moments notice. I wanted to be as close to what I had come to know as home. After being on my farm in Hokkaido for so long, LA was like a new world for me. It became, and remains, an adventure.
Gräf: I finished my PhD in Munich in 2004 and was free to go any place. After 4 years of transatlantic dating it seemed about time to live in the same city.
What was the inspiration behind starting your business?
Lantz: I don't know if its bad to say this or not but whenever we get asked the question about our "beginnings" we just say that we started it because "We want to make cool shit and not have bosses." It's the truth and I think most people can understand it perfectly. I'd love to inspire more people to do it. It's an attitude we'd love to instill in our designs.
Where do you find inspiration for new bags?
Lantz: My design values really come from my years in Japan. I was on my farm then and somehow landed among this super disciplined traditional artisan community of friends. All masters. They're all still there and they all have Graf & Lantz products; which is so cool to me. They approve. Subjectively, it's a big deal for me.
Gräf: I am a civil engineer and always have an appreciation for clean, structural lines, which is visible in many of our designs. I love architecture and find it a source of inspiration for new shapes and bag constructions.
Which style would you say is a Graf & Lantz staple?
Our iconic Jaunt tote was the first bag we ever made and has been a best seller ever since. The same goes for the slate collection. They sell well to both men and women. They are modern and distinct and at the same time are very functional and sturdy. Our best selling home goods are our coasters. People love them; they look great in any home, really work well and are very durable.
What are the basic steps in your design process.
Gräf: Often one of us has an idea and comes up with a rough sketch or a simple prototype. Then we make changes and argue back and forth until we both like the outcome.
Lantz: Well like any creative person starting a project it begins with screaming, crying, wailing, whining, pouting and gnashing of teeth, tantrums, inferiority meltdowns and then, finally, acceptance. Oh, and all that is on a renewed daily basis.
You work a lot with felt…
We love working with felt. Besides the history and the German roots it holds, it's also just a really interesting material. However, the challenge with felt is to always be vigilant about keeping it as chic as possible because it's easy to veer off into the world of crafty-land. We also like mixing leathers and fabrics.
What Graf & Lantz details set you apart?
Until now we have relied on construction, form, and materials as our details. That clearly draws people and we're proud to have grown the company this much based on that. These days we are looking at things like signature custom hardware and custom fabrics. We'll see where all that goes in the new year.
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