Monika Przywara-Strzałka | less is more
"Small brands are unique and exceptional. They create their designs with heart and true passion. Everything created in such a way will be unique and timeless." We couldn't agree more with Monika, the founder of her namesake brand Przywara-Strzałka, who tells us more about her business of minimal bags.
HOW DID IT ALL START?
When I was a child, my grandfather passed down his passion for leather to me. I grew up in his shoemaking workshop with its particular scent of leather and his tools. I never thought I would follow his footsteps and do his work in the future, even though I have always dreamed of designing bags. At first, I studied journalism, later I graduated from fashion design studies and I took part in several fashion contests. Still, I had a feeling that what I should do in life was to work with leather. The beginnings were quite difficult. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any idea of how to work with leather because my grandfather didn’t have enough time to pass down all the necessary knowledge to me. In Poland, it is very difficult to acquire expertise in this field because all the specialised schools teaching leather craft have closed a long time ago. However, luckily for me, a one-off leather craft course was reopened at the time. I decided to take the course and I received a title of a "purse maker". Today I create my own designs of bags and leather accessories two floors above my grandfather’s workshop, in my attic studio. And I keep working with the tools he used to have...
WHY LEATHER GOODS DESIGN IN PARTICULAR?
Working with leather is a very demanding job, but the nobility of this material makes working with it very special. Creating short thoughtful collections is what I do best. Designing and creating things has been present in my life since my childhood. Of course, the dream of designing products under my own brand came later. But I have always known I wanted to do this. I was looking for a narrow specialisation for myself and one day I managed to find the perfect one for me.
HOW DO YOU SELECT THE LEATHER YOU WORK WITH, WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TYPE AND WHY?
My favourite kind of leather is a very thick one. I am currently working with this type. It is custom-made for me because it has to have just the right rigidity. Thanks to that, my projects can be so minimalistic – the rivets have to be attached in the right places and the bag is formed.
WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO ESTABLISH YOUR OWN LABEL?
To be honest, at first I wanted to start working for someone, primarily to gain experience and learn as much as possible. However, I did not have the required experience so nobody wanted to hire me. When I think about it today, it was for my own good. Thanks to that, I had to work harder and create my own brand. This path was very difficult and full of sacrifices, but today I would not change it for anything else.
WHAT PART OF THE PRODUCTION DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST?
I love creating prototypes when I already know what it should look like as a final product. This moment when your image becomes the reality is a moment of true excitement for me! I can really jump out of joy if this thing, that was previously only in my mind, turns out better than I could have imagined at the beginning.
ALL OF YOUR PRODUCTS ARE CURRENTLY BLACK, WHY IS THAT? DO YOU INTEND TO ADD SOME MORE COLOUR IN YOUR FUTURE COLLECTIONS?
Black is my favourite colour. I find it to be the most refined, classic, beautiful, and noble. For this reason, my first collections were in black only. However, I am working on some projects that will be in grey for the first time and I am also preparing to work with beige colour soon. Additional colours and fabrics are going to appear in the new collection. Still, I can promise you, that you will never see my products in red or green. Everything will be in monochrome colours. In the future, I am looking to take on some adventurous projects, some of them might even be a bit funny. I want to break through this asceticism of the past projects but it is also a reflection of my personality – I am serious but I also have a great sense of humour. I also dream of working with other designers and artists and using the leather in unconventional and surprising ways.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I am very sensitive to everything that happens around me. I often enjoy the little things; I collect images, sounds, smells, emotions that are connected to those things. Most often these smallest things are the best stimulus for me. My projects reflect myself – the way I live, what I like, what I surround myself with. I also love everything that is imperfect - wilted flowers, cracked chinaware, raw concrete.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS?
My bags are simple, harsh, created with love and respect for this unusual and noble material – leather. They are also a continuation of the tradition started by my grandfather. And last but not least - they are handmade from start to finish, in limited annual series. Moreover, each piece can be personalised by laser engraving, making it look even more unique.
WHAT IS YOUR BRAND’S MOTTO?
‘Less is more’ is definitely my motto. With every new product I design, I ask myself if it is ‘less’ enough, if I can remove something unnecessary to make the piece look perfect.
JUST WONDERING, HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR ONE OF YOUR PIECES TO BE MADE - FOR EXAMPLE THE TASSEL BAG?
To be honest, forming a bag when I have all the components made and ready takes about half an hour. But this is preceded by a lot of work by employees and myself. First, the design is hand-cut from the chosen leather, we punch holes, sew on the machine (e.g. handles) and paint the edges with the use of a special paint. I often engrave bags using a laser, put quotes, names, declarations of love, or inspirational words on them. Requests for engraving something on the leather are very often intimate. With the engraving, I often feel I made something very special for the particular person.
WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?
My great passion is journalism. As I've mentioned before, I graduated from journalism studies and I still hope that someday l will manage to combine these two passions of mine - writing and design. I love traditional reportage and factual literature. I get inspired by people and I often read biographies. At the moment I am reading the autobiography of my beloved artist Marina Abramovic, whose work is a tremendous inspiration for me.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVOURITE UP-AND-COMING BRANDS?
Yes, I like quite a few brands from different parts of the world. I love discovering these tiny companies that have great stories to tell. Brands that are passionate do not need marketing because they stand for themselves. Just to name a few; I love The Watch Now which definitely has had some influence on my life. The Czech porcelain brand Shit Happens is another one. Their story is so true, this porcelain is a personal therapy :). An Organised Life is an Australian stationery company - I use their products every day! And finally, I really adore Boston's COCO and CHIA and their handcrafted eco rings with black diamond.
WHAT DOES MINIMALISM MEAN TO YOU?
Minimalism perfectly describes me and my life. To me, it is the philosophy of the life and the world that I would like to celebrate every day. Have less, live more...