Making bags: a talk with Amauz and Zubi

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The Design Pot and Polpettas Mag are here for the third episode of “Pot-Pettas – where Switzerland meets Spain”. As you perhaps already know, thanks to this monthly column we compare Swiss and Spanish designers to better understand different approaches to design. This time we speak about bags and, in specific, about Andrea Mauz (from Switzerland) and Mercedes and Elena Zubizarreta(from Spain).

The first designer creates chameleon bags and accessories that are minimal and multifunctional, the second ones create bags which are made by original photos taken by them around the world. Let’s go to the interview!

Please introduce yourself. Could you talk about your education and your previous professional experiences?

Andrea: I was born in Germany and after my graduation in Architectural Studies at the University of Applied Sciences in Konstanz I worked in the Netherlands, Germany, Japan and Switzerland. Since 2007 I create and produce all Amauz products in my studio based in Zürich.

Mercedes: we are sisters, Mercedes and Elena! I studied first architecture, then interior design and finally I got a Master’s degree ineditorial design.
Elena: after my degree in Economic Studies, I spent almost 8 years in marketing and sales for multinational groups here in Spain. We’ve always been totally complementary in our way of being: every time I needed some advices about creativity Mercedes helps me, and in change I always give her a hand with numbers.

2. How did Amauz and Zubi come about?

Andrea: when I was working in the Netherlands and in Japan I was very interested in the changeability of spaces. The idea for small areas to be changeably inspired me to develop the first Amauz bag and, as a consequence of it, to found my own label Amauz.

Mercedes and Elena: we just decided to start doing something together, like we are used to, with small flea markets for our friends or something like that. Two years and a half ago, we decided to design something for us, like “the perfect summer bag”: the most basic, fit-with-anything, essential, light, but with capacity bag! And that can make you happy every morning! Next step was looking forfabric till we thought to use our own photos, printed on the bags. We can’t explain but it was all so simple: we could do everything that came up to our mind. We started printing 10 meters (about 50 units) with the photos of our travels, and we sold them to our friends in just a week! So we did another 50, and another 50, up to 200, sold in a month and a half in the living room! Unbelievable. And since then we haven’t stop: first we started to sell online, then participating in the fashion fair in Paris, keeping on searching for new materials to create each season a new collection.

3. Could you talk about your bags’ features and materials? Is your production process sustainable?

Andrea: we use to go to the office as well as to the supermarket or to the Opera by bike or by feet. We need accessories that are confortable and also able to meet different situations’ needs. That is why I designed bags which are “changeable companions”. Thanks to a special strap and buckle technique my bags are self-closing and they are “5 bags in one” models: they can be handbag, bag pack, shopper, shoulder and tote sack. After careful considerations and endurance tests I decided to use pond liner. This material has a homogene and matte black surface that appears very elegant and noble. It is washable and very resistant and it seems to be always new also after you have used it for many and many times. I produce all the bags by myself and the production process is ecologically sustainable: pond liner is cadmium-free PVC. Also the sale phase is sustainable because my studio is at the same time laboratory and shop. It requires no CO2 emissions!

4. What about your production process? Your bags are 100% made in Spain?

Mercedes and Elena: we do everything in Spain, all around Madrid. We started asking how to make it, we found a person, a printer,who does also textile printing here in Madrid, so we started to work with him. Slowly we grew up and talking with a friend of mine we found out a sewing workshop that now works almost exclusively for us. Some women in Cuenca found themselves with no work, the clothing factory where they worked all their life closed so we asked them to open a small workshop and work for us: we aretremendously proud to be able to help them, and they’re very proud too of our products, everytime they see a Zubi bag in a magazine they phone to tell us! We love to have a close relationship with our providers, and you can only have it if they’re close. We choose to make a 100% made in Spain product right for this reason, because we like to know personally our suppliers, how they work, and be able to chose each single detail of our bags: it’s a lot of work, but we enjoyed itMies van der Rohe said that “God is in the details” and for us it’s right like that: when we see the finished product we’re so proud because its the sum of my sister and I.

5. What is driving you?

Andrea: my aim is to design products that have a special focus on functionality and minimalistic aesthetic. In addition to the bags I am now producing turn-over hats and small bags for flowers. The first one are classy and warm with a changeable shape (“changeability is crucial in my work“). They can be tailored on your special requests, for example in the fabric’s selection. The second ones are small vases for single flowers that can be hang up to the ceiling or to a piece of furniture. I am always experimenting new products closely watching at people behaviours and daily needs. 

6. Your work is strictly connected to your travels: which is THE travel?

Mercedes: (laughing!) Japan is waiting for us! It’s right there! Speaking of we’ve already done, for me it is a family trip to Argentinalast year.

Elena: for me California! I did the Big Sur route in a convertible car, all that amazing cliff landscape from San Francisco to LosAngeles, it was spectacular! We’re not used to travel together, we already see each other a lot for work! And we can thus see moreplaces, then we put together our ideas and images and stories! The truth is that we love tralling, and love that it’s a big part of our job.

7. Next projects? Are you going to take part in future design events or exhibitions?

Andrea: I am going to travel to Copenhagen for the Blickfang international design fair which will take place from 15 to 16 November. In December I will also show my products at the Design Schenken in Lucern. It is from 5 to 7 December…save the date!

Mercedes: we have new exciting projects for Christmas: we’re collaborating with great brands – we can’t say anything till start of December! – for a capsule collection of stationery and one of cosmetics.This issue of the capsule collection with brands is really thrilling for us, before starting we always ask to ourselves Would I buy it for my house? Would I use it for myself? ” and when the answer is “Of course!” we know that we have to go for it!

Elena: about the fashion fairs, we’ve just finished to present the new collection for next Summer, the Pan American, in Paris in July, again in Paris in September and Los Angeles in October. I think in February or March we’ll be once again in Paris to present the Winter collection.

8. Where we can find your products?

Andrea: you can find all my products in my studio in Josephstrasse 42 in Zürich: ring the bell at the window and I will take care of you!

Mercedes and Elena: worldwide you can buy our bags online, on our webpage, and phisically you can find our creations in many shops in Europe, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain. Italy, Czech Republic, Russia but also in USA and Japan.

© Photos: Amauz, Zubi and Giacomo Prestinari.

Interviews by Valeria Crescenzi Margherita Visentini. Zürich-Madrid, November 2014.

Amauz website:

Zubi website:

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