large portfolio bag, $715. All images via Building Block."> clock menu more-arrow no yes

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Building Block's Designers Want to Reinvent the Luxury Bag

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The <a href="https://www.building--block.com/collections/collection/8">large portfolio bag</a>, $715. All images via Building Block.
The large portfolio bag, $715. All images via Building Block.

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Utilitarian and minimal yet playful, with accents like oversize wooden dice and leather tassels, Building Block bags are incredibly unique. The LA line is the work of sisters Kimberly and Nancy Wu, creatives who brought diverse fashion talents to the table (Kimberly was experienced in automobile design; Nancy was crafting sneakers for Nike). Both were sick and tired of what they describe as "fast, trend-based goods" and so decided to launch a luxe line of bags that were the complete opposite of the disposable, up-to-the-minute offerings of big chains.

The duo's creations were soon snapped up by cool indie retailers such as Creatures of Comfort in New York and LA, Lambs Ear in Seattle and Myth & Symbol in Houston. Racked spoke with the designers to learn more about their creative process and what it's like working with your sister.

The "Dip" bag, $259.

How did you get your start and what did you both do before launching the line?
"Two years ago, Kimberly was working as a concept car designer for Honda's Advanced Studio and Nancy was working as a footwear designer for Nike Inc. Building Block began as an exercise in editing the excess things around us. We were both growing increasingly tired of the accumulation of fast fashion and were looking to go back to the drawing board.

We've always been interested in fashion (though we were educated as industrial designers), so blurring the line between luxury and utility was something we began to experiment with as a means to reestablish a new design philosophy. Though the project began with bags, ultimately Building Block was founded as a way for us to restart and thoughtfully reconsider the things around us."

The tall bag, $375.

What sets the line apart? How did you come to the name?
"Building Block seeks to clear away aesthetic assumptions of luxury and return to a sense of purpose through the exploration of form. The name is quite literal and embodies our goal to start the design process from square one."

What is it like working with your sister?
"It's an intuitive partnership. There's no one we trust or respect more than each other."

The square bag, $635.

What's your design philosophy, and where do you look for inspiration?
"Observing how things work is the biggest everyday inspiration for us and helps to inform our process. Revisiting humble everyday details is another way we can access new ideas easily. For example, looking at public park equipment or post-modern office parks with fresh eyes can be very renewing. Everything has an underlying architecture of primary shapes hidden beneath layers of 'style' or added character. What we are trying to do with our project is bring those fundamental shapes to the forefront, to magnify the essentials, and to remind ourselves that the most familiar and useful forms can continually elicit a refreshing or playful surprise."

The "Dice" bucket bag, $380.

Your bags are very understated. What do you think about "It" bags or versions with prominent logos?
"When it comes to branding, we think saying less with logos speaks more about a brand's sense of confidence."

Do you want to expand to more accessories or even clothing? What's the next step for the brand?
"Our plans include expanding to different accessories such as footwear, watches and furniture while continuing to offer bags. Eventually, we would like to get to a point where we have a recognizable form language and can exist as a lifestyle brand that embodies a mentality of living."
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