Maeden happily partnered up with independent jewelry designer, goldsmith, wax carver, and Design Academy Eindhoven-alumnus Julia Bocanet who designed an eye-catcher of a bag called Boulevard. One that both captures the allure of times gone by and fits the modern gentlewoman. Her delicate eye, love of crafts and commitment to historical research make her a great match for Maeden.
You always start out with historical research. What was the starting point for crafting this bag?
Being able to put my designs in a historical context is key for me. I’m now also working on a book called Vergeten Draagbaarheid (freely translated: Forgotten Wearability) about the fascinating ways people used to wear jewelry in the 16th century. It started when I saw this portrait of Queen Elizabeth, donning a pearl necklace in what would now be considered quite an odd way. It was attached to the bodice of her gown in a quirky looped shape. There were so many interesting ways of wearing jewelry back then. Those applications have been forgotten because of all the standardization in contemporary industrial design.
The beauty about Maeden is that they are open to bringing back and maintaining old crafts that are slowly being forgotten – and that’s something I do in my day-to-day work as well. When I started on this special project, I discovered that the handbag is a relatively new discovery. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century, during the industrial revolution when people started traveling long distance by train, that they needed bigger luggage. Before then, women would have these dainty little pouches made of silk or huge pockets on a belt hidden in between their skirts with slits. I was keen on bringing back the clutch, this aesthetic little “gem” of a bag. A companion for your essentials when you go to dinner or a museum.
Your bag is called Boulevard?
That name derives from the shape – long, fluid lines – and it’s a tribute to my grandmother. I have always been such an admirer of her style and the way she presented herself to the world. When I was little, she told me how back in Romania where she lived, she would walk the boulevard every Sunday together with my grandfather. This was a moment to be cherished, and to be seen! They would wear their Sunday best. So now I associate “boulevard” with flamboyantly expressing and appreciating oneself.
How did this sculptural bag shape come about?
I felt it had to somehow have a nod to jewelry, keeping the overall look and feel quite “petite”. It looks somewhat like a jewel, like a stand-alone art piece that you could display on your antique credenza if you’re not carrying it around. I arrived at this shape by experimenting with Maeden’s artisans. That was a real special process because we got to try out many different techniques over the course of several months. Because of that luxury of time, we went all out with experimenting and achieved something truly one-of-a-kind.
This project was all about showcasing the versatility and beauty of (Maeden) leather. What do you treasure about it?
What’s really special is that Maeden developed a specific leather entirely fitted to my design wishes. A stunning leather with a specific sheen, grain, color, thickness – it came down to the tiniest details. This way the quality of the leather is on full display, accentuating the beautiful curves that reflect the light in a very luxurious way. It’s quite matte actually, that soft, moldable leather, so it wouldn’t reflect too much light, but just the right amount. I had this preconceived notion that leather has this coarse grain, but that’s not always true. As a matter of fact, most leather used for a range of leather accessories is a so-called “corrected grain” leather. This means that a grain is embossed into the leather to make it look more even, but it’s not natural. The Maeden-leather is all-natural, untreated in that sense and closest to nature, the natural texture of the animal. I love that.
Was it very different working with leather as a jewelry designer?
Leather has such interesting characteristics; you can manipulate it in various ways. I played around with the leather a ton; made my own prototypes with a wide range of bag constructions to try and solve challenges that popped up. I am the type of designer who loves a good puzzle. We went to folding, stitching, then using strips of leather parallel to each other. They looked like “arches” and puffed up with lots of volume. Exactly what I had envisioned, that sensual curve. It made me think of fluted glass, which you see a lot in Art Deco – my favorite style period. It was, however, quite the challenge to make that organic silhouette look seamless. The lines soft and feminine yet controlled, beautifully balanced. We managed to do so by folding the leather all the way inwards, instead of cutting it off at the edges, and a blind closure with a magnet. When you close it, you hear a little “touf”. Quite a satisfying sound, haha.
You also developed your own color scheme?
What I kinda miss in my jewelry craft now is the immense spectrum of colors I got to play around with at Maeden. I decided on one powerful splash of color in a seductive shade of red. Not a lipstick red, but more of a copper. Then there’s the neutrals. Not just a brown or black, but more complex colors with the black having a hint of navy and the brown a touch of purple. Very layered colors. The last one, a lighter ivory shade, fits the zeitgeist well.’