I came across a handsome group of weekender and messenger bags by Killspencer last week in my online meanderings. I learned from the website—the only place you can buy a bag—that they are designed and made in Los Angeles, but only after talking with head bag man Spencer Nikosey did I learn that the company is less than a month old, and debuted at his senior show at Art Center College of Design in LA.
“I always knew I wanted to launch a brand,” Nikosey told me last week, though his initial plan was to make a line of waterproof, vinyl backpacks for his senior show in product design. Vinyl’s toxic manufacturing process put the kibosh on that idea, but a class field trip to the American Military Museum quickly provided another route. Impressed with the aesthetics and durability of the tarps that covered military vehicles in the 50s and 60s, he spoke with a curator there who put him in touch with a source for the fabric.
The Repurposed line from Killspencer makes use of that fabric, scuffs, markings and “used in combat” imperfections only adding character to the bags. “When I think of where that fabric has been and what it’s done, that’s very powerful for me,” he says. The Historical Reserve collection is made from decades-old deadstock coated cotton canvas that Nikosey tracked down, and each line comes replete with military spec hardware—D-rings, zippers and buckles from Switzerland and Austria. “I want to make a bag that is classic enough to be passed down,” he says.
Streamlining the manufacture of his bags is presently Nikosey’s greatest challenge, that and finishing a final semester at Art Center. “I’m driving all over the place to get fabric, take it to these industrial washing machines and get it over to the crew of master leatherworkers I have,” he says. “My teachers have all been really supportive, but this is pretty much a full-time job. Fulfilling orders is starting to cut into schoolwork.”
Refining the process is certainly paramount, as is getting his product into local stores. Though there is still much work to be done in that arena, Nikosey is hopeful about getting the kinks worked out. “My goal is to be at a place where I could design something, a bag or whatever, on Monday. Then I refine it over Tuesday and Wednesday and by Friday or maybe the following week I’m starting to produce it.” A lofty goal, but one this young designer is only too happy to chase.