California College of the Arts graduate Zara Dramov is leaving her mark on the accessories map. Her design approach is unlike most; she has a degree in industrial design and a three dimensional eye. The idea to launch her handbag line, The Common Knowledge, was conceived after playing around with origami paper and creating a seamless shape, thus The Bone Bag was born. Some of our favorite stores have picked up the line (Concrete + Water, The Dreslyn) and with good reason: the line offers an affordable price point, and all styles are constructed with Italian leather and the bags are produced in New York.
It seems industrial designers who get into fashion have a completely different understanding of form an function – is this true for you?
Yes I think that this is true, because my training and experience in industrial design is based on fit with functionality rather than focused more on style and materiality. Form follows function in all types of design, but it is especially true for industrial design. We learn that a product’s function and elegance comes clearly and creatively expressing that function so that it works well for the consumer. I still use visual organizational tools during the creative process that I learned from industrial design.
What led you to launching a handbag line?
When I was at California College of the Arts in industrial design, I was incessantly folding paper and going around the design objectives to create structural vessels using leather and thick card stock. These vessels quickly turned into bags. Though I didn’t know much about bag construction and design at the time, I was lucky enough to know excellent handbag and luggage designers in San Francisco that were generous enough to teach me a few things. Later, I attended Central Saint Martins to learn a little bit more about bag making. After this, I designed my original large bone bag and then The Common Knowledge brand just naturally evolved from there.
What was the learning curve like for you transitioning into accessories design?
I think there will always be challenges, but that is what makes it thrilling. The fashion industry works quickly and seasons seem to be here before you know it. I find it hard to work that quickly as I am a perfectionist, but I also appreciate being forced to put my pen down because I could work on one design for ages.
Accessories is a crowded market – what sets The Common Knowledge apart?
There really isn’t anything out there right now that is like our brand. We are very fortunate for this. Geometry is very trendy right now in the accessories market but I still feel that we are very different because we aren’t only about geometry – the product is very three dimensional and takes on a life of it’s own.
The brand has a great stocklist – how do you choose your retail partners?
We choose our retail partners very carefully. We have our own e-commerce site so we don’t feel the need to just fill our quota. We want to build relationships with the stores and make sure it is the best fit for the brand.
How do you keep the price point so accessible and still produce in New York City with fine leather?
We put everything into the quality, construction, and materials of our bags. This was really important to me when starting this company and it continues to be. I want all of my friends to be able to afford my designs, and that is still very hard today. We are continuously trying to reduce the cost wherever possible with out jeopardizing the quality.
What designers do you like to see worn with your bags?
I personally love seeing Helmut Lang and Rick Owens worn with one of my bags. Some black on black draping with a structured black bag is beautiful. However, saying that, I love seeing how customers style it as well. Our bone bags have a girly-edge to them, especially in the colors. Seeing a girl wearing a mini bone bag with a floral print is just to die for.
Do you anticipate moving beyond designing only handbags?
The dream would be to incorporate furniture under the same brand, but that wouldn’t be for a while.
What three words would you use to describe The Common Knowledge?
Structure, Minimal, Sculptural
How are you planning to grow and evolve the line in the next few years?
As of right now, we are creating some products that are a little bit more accessible to the customer in regards to materials and styles. In a few years, I’d love to see the brand grow to be even more accessible to the customer as well as stay true to my industrial design roots.