It is very interesting putting an idea (a product) out in the world, and seeing how our Customers will react - which are the positive and negative emotions. Andrea and I will talk about it, and build on that.
Lately we are pushing for more customizable designs, on the border between product and one-off personal work of art. You can have your favorite quotes engraved, mixed with our illustrations; we try to give you all the ingredients to make a product that truly reflects a moment in life.
This involves, in the case of OPUS-1, our OP-1 hardcase and double stand, also choosing a case strap, by selecting materials and a set of vintage buttons (from my family’s tailor shop in the 50’s). That can be challenging, as we use standard e-commerce platforms, and you really need to push the envelope of a system that is designed for mass-produced items, if you want to go towards a totally opposite direction.
The case strap is no little detail to us, and it delayed the launch of OPUS-1 of at least a couple of months. I wanted to design this feel of a humble, functional yet precious object, and the strap was an important part of it. The old buttons re-emerged from chaos, while we had renovations in our workshop. Those boxes we found have such a good vibe. Can you imagine the thrill of a kid dipping her hands in a big box full of colorful buttons? They still smell nice. I thought I would make the straps out of it, and send them in the world. I sewed the buttons at the end of some leather scraps, as you see in our product pictures.
When we posted about it, some of our friends had concerns about the leather, seeing that as a non-sustainable choice. We had been looking quite hard for an easy to source, durable material, and repurposed leather was the best alternative we could find. As you asked about it, though, we also offered the option of repurposed synthetic leather, which is not of animal origin. Whereas we leave to you the choice between the two kind of materials, we make a point of only utilizing post-consumer products, because that means delaying landfill time, which is good.
The environmental impact of any heavily processed product is difficult to assess, hence we try to stick to few materials, easily separable and used in the minimum amount to fulfill the design needs. Extending life cycle is essential, too: a new object obtained from post consumer materials can be around for decades, and the longer it is used, the longer it stays off landfills. That is part of the thinking behind our Dust Covers, made out of X-Ray plates: an excellent material when you need something lightweight and durable, a nasty one when it becomes waste. Recycling any plastics involves further plant processing, therefore reusing them buys precious time. The synthetic leather you will find in your straps is made from faux leather bags, which were torn apart to be used in our designs. The leather straps come from all kind of bags collected from our families, too.
When it comes to "sustainable" choices, lots of things are uncertain, and people never know if their energies and money are well spent. The word itself, “sustainability” implies a compromise: what is it that we are supposed to sustain, or tolerate, or balance? It was never a very lucky word, and its champions tried anything in the style of stick and carrot to move some good ideas forward, but still here we are. We could start from some hard facts: plastic has taken over, with terrible consequences on wildlife and human health. There is a little continent made of plastic waste in the middle of Pacific ocean, which is likely going to become our next holiday destination. What do we do about it? We may not have definite answers, yet we can analyse what is before our eyes, and control many of our actions.
Choosing a long lasting product, one that ends its life gracefully; repurposing objects and simply knowing where some of our money goes, is a big thing: think of the impact of a single human being, from first birthday (in Italy, I could witness that means tons of plastic gifts) to career choices (company strategies, daily routines which go on for a lifetime).
We also tend to compare and emulate each other (herd behavior): sooner or later, some interesting examples might get followed. Not that you can control the course of your actions and their impact completely. But even a small action can have unexpected benefits. In our case, we are deeply grateful to be able to do this kind of work from our hometown, at a time when everybody is moving out to big cities (more than half of the buildings in the street we live in have been abandoned). By doing this, we are definitely not changing the world, but we surely are giving funny ideas on how to live their lives to some kids in the neighborhood. That makes us smile. And this is just a small, isolated case. When you put more of these cases next to another, you can definitely feel a good breath of fresh air. I can compare it to the first time I took a walk in El Born, the crafts neighborhood in Barcelona. Talking with those artisans, who have been transforming their own family backgrounds and hardships into a business (one collaborated with Berber women, another one had their shoes made in his native Brazil), seeing them all at once, with their beautiful designs, all different, was like being immersed in an alternative universe when compared to the mass-production, mass-tourism haven just across the street. An alternative universe, yet a very real one.
Andrea and I love to see the beautiful things that you make - beautiful music, if that is your passion; please never stop asking questions. When we are asked questions, we try to let it sink and find a sincere answer, and grow this into a personal form of expression. Please take pleasure, fun, in making your choices. It is almost impossible to break out of the mold - it is inevitable for all of us to come across false beliefs and grow into it - but this doesn’t mean you can’t have the time of your life just finding and expressing your own voice!