A fashion accessory that celebrates nature
Designers create first-ever wearable wood clutches.
When we think of wood, we often think of furniture. But think again.
Textile designers Orli Tesler and Itamar Mendelovitch are pushing their industry's boundaries. The Israeli designers discovered that wood can be turned into lightweight wearable fashion that moves elegantly with the body. Their studio, Tesler + Mendelovitch, developed a lustrous collection of handmade wood clutches to prove it. Their Walnut, Ebony, Rosewood, Walnut and Birch handbags are surprisingly soft to the touch and sought after by women across the globe who share the designers’ fancy for bending the rules.
The transformation from a stiff piece of wood into a limber handbag didn’t come easy. It took the designers nearly three years of experimentation before finding a form that felt right. “Trying to figure out how to make the wood fit into the contours of the body in one piece rather than breaking it up into many small pieces requires a lot of patience and experimentation,” Tesler told From The Grapevine from their studio in Tel Aviv, Israel. “Each clutch takes up to eight weeks to produce as there are many stages that it goes through until completion. Because everything is handmade, the work is done slowly and requires a great deal of quality control for each stage.”
Once Tesler and Mendelovitch have chosen the type of wood, they scrub it of debris and treat the wood to soften it. They then layer it, which adds strength. Next, they manipulate the material with precise incisions so as not to splinter the wood or create cracks. Once this cutting is complete, the shape is lined with a high-quality leather that elevates the bag aesthetically while also providing a barrier for hard items, like keys, that could damage its interior. The sides of the clutch are then strengthened with a pair of studs secured by using a drill.
Tesler and Mendelovitch enjoy this tedious journey and believe in working in methods that do not necessarily require machinery or mass production. “Each piece that comes out of our studio could be made 100 years ago,” says Tesler. “Everything is handmade to order, and this makes the production process much more personal. Maintaining a small production line helps us to allocate the time to continue our R&D and develop more projects in textile design which is very important to us.” The same craftsmanship goes into their collection of tables which come in a variety of widths and heights, each with a modern and flexible geometric pattern.
This collection of tables was assembled with flexible geometric patterns as their core structure, using traditional craftsmanship techniques and modern design technology. (Photo: Tesler + Mendelovitch)
The design duo’s work is guided by a respect for nature and the belief that the material they’re working with informs the product and not the opposite way around. “Besides its beauty, wood in our opinion creates a feeling of balance,” says Tesler. “With us it is the smell of the wood, the grain and history that makes every piece unique.” Tesler says that when working with wood, they try not to waste anything and also ensure that what they make is made with a great deal of love and passion. “We try to respect the fact that wood is born from nature and takes a certain amount of resources and time in order for it to grow.”
This philosophy seeps like sap into their approach to style. “We are very much trying to break free from trends or changeable fashion,” says Tesler. “Our collections are not trend driven and will not be replaced with our next product but rather added to. Hopefully our designs will be relevant for a long time."
For more, watch this interview with the fashion carpenters themselves:
Lindsay E. Brown is the managing editor of Eco-Chick, the web’s first ethical fashion, beauty and travel site for women. She has written for Whole Living Magazine, Edible, and Cottages & Gardens. Lindsay has been featured as a fashion and beauty expert on the Veria Living Network. Lindsay holds a BS in Global Business Studies and Marketing from Manhattan College, and received the 2012 Honors Award at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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