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Designer Interview Part 1: Ellen Truijen


It's been a long time coming! And I couldn't be more excited to present my next interview with shop favorite, Dutch bag designer Ellen Truijen. As one of the first stockists of her amazing leather goods line in the US, we've carried her hard-to-find bags since we launched.We covet her versatile beautifully crafted leather bags-a true fusion of form and function. Crafted in the Netherlands, simple unadorned aesthetic and quality leather varieties are at the forefront of her design bringing forth a true utilitarian appeal with understated elegance.  As a designer balancing family life and work, she's lovingly named some of her classic bags as "Mommy Dearest" and the "Toddler". And who can resist the playful pacman details?So here we go, enjoy this interview!

Ellen Truijen Spring/Summer 14 Collection
How would you describe your design approach and creative process: from design, inspiration and to the creation for each collection?
I think my design approach is more the approach of a sculpturist than of a product designer. Each bag is created behind the sewing machine, molding the leather into it's new form.
Simple things inspire me, the smell of leather, colors you can't really define, old magazine pictures, a lovely teapot found on a flea market, springtime, or fall, a hint of my favorite perfume...

Besides the simple silhouettes of your bags, the hallmark of your designs is the standout sumptuous leathers you use with each collection. What is the process like in choosing the leather varieties for the season?
I always let my intuition lead the way, never follow trends or forecast. My approach is very tactile, feel the leather and make sure the leathers all together give me a good feeling.

My Ellen Truijen bag is my everyday bag and faithful companion. Why do you think customers are drawn to your line once they discover it?
Besides the design, I often hear the combination of design and functionality is what makes the bags desirable. And not to forget they get even more beautiful by wearing. 
Your line is now 12 years old! Love how there are classic staples in your collection but some styles that change, what's new in your collection and how has the line evolved since you started?
The bags evolved through the years. At first, they where more rough and had no lining. Through the years I added details to increase their functionality. More refining, in design and look. I tried to upgrade the understated luxury feeling with little details. 

It's all in the details: the Shopper and 36 Hours Bag

Running a business requires a lot of time and passion for what you do on your down time? Interests, passions or activities that you enjoy?
Going to concerts or to the movies, drinking wine in the garden, making city-trips and strolling around discovering places. I also enjoy doing nothing much around my house.
Any irks and quirks you'd like to share?
When I have to drive far by car and I'm always feeling hungry, I like to stop by a gas station and buy this kind of knackerbrod sandwich filled with tomato cream (which I never eat and isn't even nice food), but somehow I have to have it! : )
How do you balance managing your line, MOS store (plus recently opened brand store) and of course life with your family?
Improvise! Most of the time everything flows naturally and it's important to be flexible, luckily our children are that as well.
Ellen Truijen Brand Store

So much a part of the creation of your designs involves working with local makers and craftsmen. What do you love most about this process especially with keeping production of your bags locally in the Netherlands?
What I love is the direct contact with the people who make my bags. We work only with small family businesses and know exactly who worked on which bag. Also providing local businesses with work and keeping in honour of what is left of a beautiful, once blooming Dutch craft, is something I stand for and gives me a good conscience. 

I know it’s so hard to choose, but what’s your go-to bag or style from your collection? And why the playful pacman detailing (which I love growin' up in the 80s!)?
I don't have a particular favourite. Every new bag is a favourite and they're all precious to me. And if a bag has sold very well, but my feeling with the bag is gone, then it must go out of the collection. Again, I trust my intuition. Regarding the pacman detailing, at one point I wanted to add something with a wink and the pacman kept popping up in my head. And it's also, just as you said, a thing of my generation. 
What is your personal style or aesthetic? What are some of favorite your pieces, items you collect for you or your home?
I love strolling around flea markets, collecting for example tea pots or nice styling objects.  And I have a weakness for pumps, preferably found in little shops, where the last pair in my size is waiting for me.
It's been wonderful getting to know the personal side of the people who bring such inspiring design to life. Thank you so much Ellen for sharing your inspiration, creative process and your story! Stay tune for part 2 with travel tips to her hometown in southern Netherlands!Hope to visit next time I'm there in Europe!
Catch a glimpse of Ellen again just in case you haven't seen this beautiful video-featuring our favorite bag designer with art direction by her husband Rob Truijen. So much talent in one family!

I am Ellen:Truijen from Caramel on Vimeo.

Black and White and Lookbook Images from Ellen Truijen

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