By Calvin Berry
With its groundbreaking and uniquely structural approach to Italian leather bags, The Common Knowledge has been at the forefront of design in its field, leading the way into innovative new ways of thinking about how we relate to our accessories. Since its foundation, the LA-based company has been lauded in publications such as Harper’s Bazaar and Refinery29, and its founder, Zara Dramov, was named one of Racked.com’s 15 “Young Guns” in design in 2014. Trained in industrial design at the California College of the Arts, she has a singular eye for construction, conceiving each of her creations from a three-dimensional perspective that lends them a distinct and shape and feel that really stands out from the crowd.
Recently, we were lucky enough to collaborate with Zara on an exclusive bag for Poketo, adapting one of our favorite The Common Knowledge designs, the iconic Pinch Bag, into a convertible backpack. We reached out to her to talk about her design process and the origins behind her unique point of view.
Can you explain the philosophy behind The Common Knowledge?
The Common Knowledge is guided by the philosophy that every object be conceived in sculptural terms, be of the highest quality and crafted with great care and deliberate intent. I believe that the handbag should be reinvented in artful terms, drawing inspiration from nature, the human body and ordinary, everyday things. Construction approach is an integral part of the design and every detail needs to be perfect – from the stitching to the folded edges. We produce the bags in small runs so not to jeopardize the quality and craft that goes into making these complex styles while also striving to reduce our ecological footprint.
How does your background in industrial design factor into your design work?
My education and training in industrial design taught me how to look at objects in a different way. Problem solving was approached in three dimensional terms which in turn influenced the dimensional quality of my work. I was trained to sketch ideas over and over again and then to develop them in model form. This is how I work today and continue to approach design – using sketches and tiny paper models to refine and adjust an idea.
What was the inspiration behind the Pinch Convertible Bag you designed for Poketo?
The original concept for the Pinch Bag was to see how a material like leather could transform from a half circle to a pinched top by way of a zipper closure. The way the leather naturally curves in and responds to the pull of the magnets and zipper is so cool. I became fascinated with exploring how the shape of the bag could be made different from every angle. I knew for a while that the Pinch Bag would make a great backpack because it has a flat side. When Poketo asked me about the possibility of converting that particular style I was like “Yes! Yes! Yes!”. After I met with them, I went back to the studio and spent some time playing with paper, as well as my existing model. It took some tinkering to keep the design simple but effective, and I was eventually able to make it a convertible backpack and over the shoulder bag while retaining the bag’s original shape. I am very happy how it turned out!