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Annabel Smart and Marijne Vogel from 11:11 design studio create both small things (like handbags) and big things (like interiors). Here, they chat about their affection for symmetry, their journey online, and how they embrace weirdness in a business-like manner.
Tell us a bit about how 11:11 got started. Marijne: I’m Dutch and Annabel's Kiwi. We met while working for an interior design studio and started producing bags together as a side project. We didn’t really start as a business. We were just interested in working with leather and creating something of our own. Annabel: Because we were designers, we were always carrying around A3 drawings and a laptop, as well as some other things. We created the original large leather tote bag to suit our needs and got some positive initial feedback. Recently we made the plunge to go fulltime with 11:11 and branch out into interior design as well.
What’s the story behind the name? Marijne: We launched almost exactly three years ago, on November 11, 2014. Annabel: We use that as our official birthday, but 11:11 is also a recurring sequence that reminds us to pay attention to our surroundings. Marijne: The graphic qualities of 11:11 resemble repetition and symmetry, which are rules we often apply in our design process.
Where are your leather bags made? Annabel: We design them here in Melbourne and get them made by talented leather craftsmen in Victoria. People told us that we could get manufacturing a lot cheaper in places like Indonesia or China, but we feel very strongly about keeping production local. Each product is made to order with vegetable-tanned thick saddlery leather, which we like because it has a structural quality to it.
Leather bags and interior design are a pretty odd mix – how do they connect? Marijne: People often say our bags have an architectural feel to them, so six months ago, when we started talking about creating a multi-disciplinary design studio, we thought we would be crazy not to do this under the one name. Interior design and fashion design actually go hand-in-hand. Annabel: The connection for us is the design process. We don't have a great distinction between designing a bag and designing an interior. We are grounded in simplicity, functionality, and great craftsmanship.
Is anyone else doing anything like this? Marijne: Designer Rick Owens really blurs the boundaries between creating sculptural furniture pieces and really beautiful garments. London’s Faye Toogood does a similar thing – she's a fashion designer originally, but creates furniture, spaces, ceramics, and even light fittings. Both Rick & Faye really inspired us. All of a sudden we didn't feel so weird trying to produce leather bags with structural architectural qualities under the same business name as our interiors.
How hard was it to demonstrate all that online? Marijne: We started thinking we should create a website, get my partner Nick to take some really great photos of the bags. The built-in online Squarespace shop really appealed to us. Annabel: I’m certainly not technologically inclined and we also have a very pared-back aesthetic. So we chose to go with Squarespace and our experience has been so great. We just feel that we can manage it ourselves so easily and the graphic look we had envisioned was definitely achievable through their templates.
What do you hope people get out of your work? Marijne: We hope they're either holding an object or sitting in a space that is there to last. Annabel: We're aiming to avoid trends while creating products and spaces that improve people's day-to-day life and stand the test of time.
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