Leather to Grow Old WithWritten by Melody C
LLAGUT is a leather goods project launched by two dreamers who found each other despite living 11,000 kilometres apart. Read the story of how the unlikely partnership between Spain and Taiwan came about.
A series of spontaneous, life-altering decisions set the impromptu partnership between Spain-born Miquel Rey and Taiwanese native Chichen Lin in motion. Still enrolled in graduate school, Miquel bought a one-way ticket to Taiwan in 2010 on a whim after catching a bad case of the travel bug. Two years later, he met Chichen, who had left Paris after putting up with its weather for eight years before returning to her hometown. They soon formed a close friendship, and, whilst globetrotting together, realised they had similar interests in design and lifestyle. Quickly, Chichen let Miquel in on her dream of creating a new collection of leather goods. “The idea came around quite spontaneously and yet seemed so right, so we just put all our spare time into designing and creating our first collection,” she says.
Starting in 2013, they started gathering different designs and concepts inspired by their different backgrounds – Chichen was in the product design industry and took courses on leatherwork and handbag design whereas Miquel made furniture for fun. Eager to try new things, they took the development process slowly, spending a long time sourcing the right materials and manufacturers, sketching and sewing. “It was a very fulfilling period because we didn’t have any kind of pressure or rush,” Miquel says. “Eventually, around the spring of 2014, we had accomplished a whole collection of leather goods, ranging from big handbags and totes to small wallets, and we thought it was time to show them to the world.”
They opened their first shop just a few months later in Taipei and named their brand LLAGUT, a name that comes from the classic little Catalan boats that litter the Mediterranean coast, an area that Miquel and Chichen both spent many years in. “It was a common visual reference for both of us, a reminiscence of a lifestyle and a pace that would inspire us in our design process, as well as a reminder of our traveller spirit,” Miquel explains.
Starting their project in Taipei allowed them to collaborate with small manufacturers that would agree to produce in small quantities, and by choosing to work with leather, a “very malleable and organic material,” Miquel and Chichen were able to transform and create new pieces without requiring a huge amount of machinery and equipment to send samples to their manufacturers. “Starting a brand in Taiwan has proven to be a very thrilling and enriching experience,” Chichen says. “Taiwan is blessed to have very skilled and experienced craftsmen that are willing to try new designs and rethink the way we’ve been doing things up to now.”
A year after they introduced LLAGUT to Taiwan, they opened up a second shop and made their designs available online, as well as at some retailers in Spain. Although LLAGUT’s collection consists of mainly leather, the duo hopes to soon add wool and fabrics into the mix, creating more timeless pieces that forgo the “hustle of fashion trends and seasons.” “The Taiwanese market tends to embrace new ideas and concepts,” says Miquel. “For us, being from different cultural backgrounds, and yet not belonging anywhere, this has been an interesting experience. We are located here in Taiwan, but our creations don’t come with a specific culturally-rooted mindset, so it has allowed us to be even more playful and experiment with new ways of communicating and portraying our brand.”
Incorporating elements from Taiwan sprinkled with their European influences, leather sourced from Italy and manufacturers now found in both Spain and Taiwan, LLAGUT’s goods cater to those looking for something fresh with no expiration date. “Since the beginning, we wanted to create something that would inspire you every day, a celebration of design, something that would grow with you,” says Miquel. Sticking to their colourful roots, it’s a business that could grow with them, too.