Canadian born designer, Stephen Kenn has unveiled The Encounter Collection, his collection of vegetable tanned leather bags and cases. Following his recent furniture venture called the Inheritance Collection from 2011, Kenn has returned to bags with his Encounter Collection, sourced and produced entirely in downtown Los Angeles with his wife and business partner, Beks Opperman. Kenn's collection of bags are unlined (because lining tends to be destroyed first on leather goods) which will prolong the bag's life and have a custom warm cognac brown leather made specially at a local Los Angeles tannery.
Kenn was partly inspired to produce this collection after a trip to Denmark where he was fascinated by the leather craftsmanship, care, and wear and tear on the furniture. He became enamored by how each piece is unique in treatment and age, and how each piece of leather told a different story.
Kenn told us, "I went home and started experimenting with different treatments to raw leather. I wanted to create a unique wear pattern of my own. I tried boiling it, oiling it with linseed oil, vegetable oil, car grease, molding it onto frames, and exposing it to sunlight for different periods of time. I fell in love with the way that the raw leather would warm and age when exposed to oil or stains. The material started to feel more familiar the more I worked with it, and my attachment to it as a medium grew."
His most significant inspiration to do the collection came during his trip back home in Canada for Christmas. After sharing his affinity for leather goods with father, he was taken to the garage to see his grandfather's old camera case that was a raw, vegetable tanned leather that aged into a golden brown, and looked good as new. "As we pulled out all the lenses and old film cameras that were inside my father told me stories about all the travels Kenn had taken him on. Those trips with his dad were life changing for my father, and it was a significant moment for us both when my father gifted me with the camera bag that had been my grandfathers," Kenn shared.
Shortly after, Kenn returned to LA to work on a collection that is built to last and is meant to be passed on from generation to generation. Kenn continued, "I began thinking about leather bags and how they travel with a person, changing alongside them. We as people grow and change so much when we travel and experience new things, and the bags we carry with us change as well. They get worked in, softer, more beautiful. I wanted to capture the rich feeling of old leather and create an object that was worthy of being passed along from one generation to the next. I knew that an object itself cannot embody the spirit of inheritance, but that it could be a reminder of great adventures and meaningful moments."
The Encounter Collection is built on the principle that good design should be simple in design, fully functional and made to last forever. The Encounter Collection will be released in 2014.
To understand Kenn's design and manufacturing prowess, check out the video below from his work on his Inheritance Collection.