The Pantalones sits down with London’s Hard Graft:
Interview Series No.3
Hard Graft produces some of the most beautiful cases, sleeves, and bags available on the market today. I was lucky enough to get the chance to talk to James, founder of Hard Graft, and learn a little more about the construction, materials, and make-up of these insanely beautiful goods. Enjoy:
When was Hard Graft created, and what led to the creation of the brand?
The spirit of Hard Graft began in 2006 were we created our first leather laptop sleeve, we officially founded the business at the beginning of 2008.
What type of products does Hard Graft produce?
We design all kinds of lifestyle and tech accessories, from small goods, which include felt and leather iPhone cases, iPad cases and Laptop bags. Our newest venture is larger travel luggage made from British heavyweight waxed cotton canvas and Italian vegetable tanned leather.
Where are your pieces produced?
Our complete range of goods are handmade by a family run workshop in Italy. We’ve been producing with “The Brothers” and their artisans for such a long time that we’ve created a really strong bond. There exists a mutual understanding and big respect for each other’s skills. The Brothers take our designs and develop them with us, whether it’s on one of our several visits to the workshop or through Skype. Together we make sure that every single rivet is reinforced inside and there are no critical points which could break. We work very hard to make sure your hard graft product will accompany you for years to come.
Is there a certain type of person that would buy Hard Graft?
All our handcrafted felt and leather goods are sold through our online store, therefore we hardly ever meet our customers face to face, making it quite difficult to categorize our customers. As a quick rule we would say: design conscious, quality loving, young creative online shopper. But we see a big variety of people who see different things in our goods visiting our site.
The first things that I noticed about your products were the materials, and they are absolutely beautiful materials to say the least. What went into choosing the leather/felt combination as an aesthetic for Hard Graft?
We put a lot of time into researching the right materials - we love the haptic experience you get when you combine all three of our über premium materials. It’s such a good feeling when you juxtapose our smooth but sturdy Italian leather with our thick and soft wool felt next to our newest material - the waxy robust cotton canvas. The iPhone Cases, Laptop Sleeves and Bags we create not only look great, they absolutely feel good when you hold them in your hands.
The leathers and felts are obviously of extremely high quality. Can you tell me a little more about them?
Our leather is über premium Italian vegetable tanned leather from one of the best tanneries in the world. The selected European hides are a by-product of the food industry. Each hide with it’s beautiful skin structure is dyed in age old wooden drums and finished by hand with natural tannins, such as tree bark. It has a impeccable skins structure and ages gracefully over time.
We’ve been using this particular wool felt since day one. We work with a family run felt producer in Germany to created an especially robust, yet soft, 100% wool blend with a fineness that is unmatched.
Like you said, waxed canvas was recently thrown into the mix. Was that a nod to Hard Grafts’s English roots?
Yes, we love our British heavyweight waxed cotton canvas. The factory is not only a master in waxing and finishing but follow their quality and expertise through to the construction of the yarns. With their ethos and super strong and premium quality waxed cotton we think we’ve found a perfect match and playground for some new ideas.
As a graphic designer I am incredibly impressed with Hard Graft’s branding. Does Hard Graft’s branding and aesthetic speak for what you (and the brand) stand for?
Monie.ka and I are designers at heart. Monie.ka has a strong background in both fashion and graphic design, whilst I used to work as an art director for some big advertising agencies. We both love designing everything - our products, the website, the stationary and packaging. Everything you see is 100% designed and created by us.
What does the birth of a Hard Graft bag or case look like, from concept to finished product?
We draw a lot and discuss ideas on a daily basis. Sometimes one of the creations really strikes a cord and we can’t think of anything else, that’s when we know we are onto something good. We develop it further, create a rough life size sample and take it on the journey to Italy where we develop the design with our Italian workshop. We then take the finished sample back to London and test it on the streets to make sure everything works as we imagined. Only by using the products ourselves can we make sure it’s good to go.
If you could only use one Hard Graft product for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Currently I would go for the 11” Flat Pack Shore. It’s kind of my everyday bag and I never spend the day without it. It’s small enough not to be bulky or get in the way yet big enough to fit the wallet, phone, iPad in. Everything is really handy and super secure.
What can the consumer expect from Hard Graft in the future, in terms of product and inspiration?
We’ve definitely found a new playground with our sturdy British waxed cotton canvas so I’m sure you will see quite a lot more in the Shore collection. But generally, we are always trying to reinvent and develop ideas. A lot of the times quite unexpectedly so let’s see what the future holds.