MAKE YOU SHINE WITH A BAG
People Whom Lynn Met
I visited the ARTHUR & GRACE atelier, which is not gorgeous but neat. It’s an atelier where classical music is played quietly. In a calm and relaxed manner, it cared about the small things to make optimal conditions for their product. I can confidently introduce them because they never handle products and details in an inferior way, which can cause allergies despite difficulties. It is the brand that maintains not only the quality of existing products but also customers' memories with customized services. Let's hear their story: "Our goal is to make bags that make people wearing them look better, rather than showing off just the bags."
Q. How did you get started on the brand?
A. I did not start my work thinking that I was going to make a bag from the start. I was interested in e-commerce because I was going to start up a company in the IT industry, and clothing was already competitive, so I decided to choose the bag industry because that was relatively less burdensome. I thought it would be easier to manage inventory than clothes, which should take into account the seasons and sizes. I looked into the process of bag making, but the more I dug into it, the more convinced I was that it is now time for luxury brands to come out of even Korea. There were many people with good skills. The problem was that the environment was not good enough, so they were producing low-cost bags at factories. Artisans usually have more than thirty or 40 years of experience. There is an image that comes up when you think of the artisan, right? I thought it was hard to come up with such an image at a domestic bag factory, but I thought they were artisans. I opened my own atelier instead of a store and started it with three artisans.
Q. How did ‘ARTHUR McLean’ and ‘Grace Middleton’ come along?
A. The name of the male brand, Arthur McLean, came from the legendary King Arthur. The V for victory is used as a symbol. Grace Middleton symbolizes the past and represents elegance. I focused on a classic look that feels beautiful regardless of the time, compared to constantly changing trends.
Q. I heard that the leather material is special. Please introduce it.
A. The main leather used in the ARTHUR & GRACE has been supplied from tanneries which have more than 100 years of tradition in Germany and France. It‘s the calf and goat skins with natural patterns and it is the finest quality leather in the world, used only for expensive products even by the finest luxurious brands. However, because of its high price, I couldn't meet more customers. Three years ago, I visited a leather factory and persuaded them to work together to develop leather. Now we have developed our own leather, called SOE, to introduce more affordably priced products while maintaining the quality of the products.
Q. What is your favorite design?
A. It is a product called 'RORY50'. It is a 48-hour travel bag, but it is a large-sized bag, which is rarely made from leather. The motif was taken from this one photo in the streets of Europe in the 1900, where the bag that the lady was holding and the side line was uniquely designed. We plan to release it in a smaller size in the future.
Q. The color of the product is very diverse. Please let the readers know how to pick the color.
A. There seems to be two kinds of colors in the world. My favorite color and the color that suits me. Of course, if the two colors are the same, you do not have to worry. When choosing a bag, we recommend a color that suits you better, rather than your favorite color. I think you should also consider the color and style of your usual clothes. On the other hand, wallets and small items seem to be a good choice for your favorite color. It definitely makes you feel better.
Q. Your office has a unique atmosphere. Is there anything in particular you care about?
A. I think making a bag is similar to cooking. An atelier is like a kitchen. We focused on creating a clean and well-organized workspace. Everyone is working hard so that the bags can be made in a clean space without dust. Also, classical music seems to be helping me to work calmly and quietly. Other than that, I think it is the atmosphere created by various colored leather, threads, and metal decorations that are placed inattentively.
Q. What is ARTHUR McLean's unique color different from the other brands?
A. The details matter most. The size of the zipper on the bags, clutches, and wallets varies, and the thickness of the handle varies from bag to bag, as well. At the end of the threading is a knot made by a hand needle, and the edges are coated in a dark color. About ten thousand strokes of hammering are needed to complete a regular-sized bag. Wallets are no exception, so they are usually completed by hammering away for more than a thousand times. These details don't stand out very much, but they clearly create a different feeling. I think small differences bring together the uniqueness of ARTHUR & GRACE.
Q. Finally, tell me the brand direction and the future of ARTHUR & GRACE.
A. When asked how to plan initial marketing for the brand, I said that it will be recognized by the customers if we make it well. While ordinary brands think, ‘how to sell?’, we are thinking about, ‘how to make better?’ Those who know that it is carefully made of the finest materials say that they will never buy another luxury good made of synthetic leather in the future. We will continue to focus on the product's intrinsic value. Our goal is not to sell images created by advertising, but to become a brand that sells truly valuable products that fully reflect the value of hard work. More customers use order-made (order-producing) services. We are experiencing that our goals and customer needs are aligned in the market. Last week, we made a bag to carry braces for a dentist and he was very happy with it. I hope there will be more happy people with our products. After ten years or twenty years, don't you think that our brand will become loved by many people? The ultimate goal is to become a group of global luxury brands created in Korea. We hope to see you on the streets with other luxury brands in any city.