Designer Profile: Vincent Lai / Skinny Vinny

Vincent Lai of Brooklyn based Skinny Vinny sat down with Revolver to chat over his craft, process and design ethos.

How did you get into design?
I always loved design even though I didn’t know exactly what design was. I went to a public high school in Brooklyn, where we had one art class. I thought I was going into fine arts. When it was time picking a college, I applied for all the art schools in NYC except for a school in Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon. I wasn’t familiar with the school at the time and didn’t really give the program much thought. After I went to the school for an interview and saw the facilities and learned about the program, I was sold. Learning what design was or could be opened my eyes. I graduated from Carnegie Mellon with an Industrial Design degree in 2006.

Why canvas bags? What are the perks of canvas that other materials/fabrics don’t provide?
I enjoy the versatility and ease of cotton canvas. Canvas is known to be a very casual textile, but when paired with different accents, it can have a formal vibe as well. We have a clutch bag that we are working on and we paired the canvas with patent leather trim details that really added a new level of sophistication to the look.

Where do you draw inspiration for the shapes of your bags and the details (pockets, straps, etc.)?
Our bags are all designed from a product designers point of view. They’re functionally driven rather than decorative. We craft bags that use architectural and geometrical shapes along with little details like hidden pockets and contrasting trim colors. We really stress clean lines and proportions. We want the bags to be comfortable when carried as well as comfortable to the eye.

How do you choose your color pallet for design?
We love using rich colors that are versatile and can be easily paired with other colors/materials. You’ll find a lot of blacks, grays and blues in our collection.
The color pallet for our ties is different. We love pairing neutrals with colors/patterns/textures that really pop.

What is your creative process for designing and making each bag?
I always find myself thinking about new bags, new shapes and new ways of carrying things. I can be out with friends and I find myself drifting off thinking about it. I love people watching, watching how one interacts or stumble with their bags is a huge source of inspiration for me. How the bag falls or hugs the body, or what problems they seem to have with their bags is very helpful to my process. Through watching, I usually have a direction and sketching helps me find the right shape and proportions. I sometimes make quick and fast muslin samples just to test out the proportions and usability. Then I jump on my computer to refine the design and make the tech packs. I won’t really know if the bag is successful or not until I get a final working sample. After the sample is approved, the bags are produced in small batches. I inspect and package each bag myself.

Which bag from your collection are you toting around?
I find myself switching between the Hawthorn messenger and the Doug fir messenger bag. The smaller size is perfect for my daily errands.

If you could place your bags in the hands and arms of the characters of any movie/film, which would it be?
I think a Hawthorn messenger would go hand in hand with Mr. Fox’s double breasted corduroy suit. (Fantastic Mr. Fox) Also, I can always imagine the sophisticated, yet down to earth and fun Princess Ann carrying a gray Koda bag on her arm speeding around Rome on that Vespa. (Roman Holiday)

Skinny Vinny bags and accessories available @ Revolver from Summer 2010

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