Isaac Reina may not be a familiar name to you but this would come as no surprise to me, he is a man of subtlety, both in presence and in design. In truth, it’s the design and quality of his bags that does the talking, they are simply beautiful; elegant, timeless designs that are not brash or showy. The craftsmanship of each piece is incredible and very important to him which is why he chooses to work with only a small group of talented craftsmen and women in Paris.
Reina spent seven years at Hermès as assistant to Veronique Nichanian which may well have influenced his choice to value quality over quantity, although it seems as though it may be in his blood. He is not focused on building a huge luxury empire but in creating incredibly well-made items that will be cherished for years to come.
I’m touched to have been able to interview Isaac, who I’m told rarely gives interviews.
What do you think makes a good bag?
This is actually the mystery we are trying to solve every morning. But essentially it is something that pleases you, that you truly enjoy carrying with you rather than being something bulky, inconvenient or heavy.
What is it about working with leather that you most enjoy?
As I like working with simple shapes and forms, leather is to me a great material that emphasizes, and tenfold increases, the beauty of those things.
What’s your favourite stage when creating a new design?
The pencil. Drawing.
When it doesn’t exist yet and it is still just a project.
Model bags are also something I appreciate and the prototype stage is something I find very interesting too.
But it is definitively drawing that I enjoy most of all.
What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?
The main inspiration for this collection was definitely the mirror calf. It reflects so brightly that it really gives a complete new dimension even to our most classic models.
You’ve worked for some great designers in the past, what have you learned from them?
1. Antonio Miro: Like many other Spanish artists, he was a mad surrealist through and through. Almost in a genetic way like Picasso, Dali, Gaudi… It seemed like normal life though.
2. Veronique Nichanian: The big taste lesson, the savoir-faire lesson, and intelligence.
3. Martin Margiela: The search and the push back of limits and boundaries of creating.
What was the original vision for your brand, and how has it changed today?
In any case, originally, my vision at the beginning was an opposition, in contrast with handbags at that time that I considered too designed with so many unnecessary things on them including logos, metallic accessories, etc. It was 9 years ago. So my idea was to make things simple and sensual. Without adding anything else.
Today, this view has become widespread even within the biggest and most famous brands. Where now, they tend to make things simpler and more timeless. I can’t tell whether it is a good thing or a bad thing happening for us yet.
You’ve kept production small and in France, tell me why this is important?
This is something non-negotiable for me today because I think the French savoir-faire in this field is incomparable. Crafts are like a little national monument the government itself protects and encourages. Since Napoleon, I think. It is something that does still exist at our scale and something I am interested in.
Has your background in architecture had an impact on how you design?
Yes of course. Because it is for me about geometry and construction. It is similar in the drawing sense. It is its scale that changes and also the way you wear it that differs a lot from it.
Who, if anyone, has had the biggest impact on your career?
Many architects and designers: Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, Arne Jacobsen, Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret, Jean Prouvé, Dieter Rams, Enzo Mari, Naoto Fukasawa, Jasper Morrison, Martin Szekely, Pierre Charpin…
Describe a typical day in the life of Isaac Reina…
It has been one year since I chose to temporarily work at home. I can say my professional and private lives have never been so mixed up. It is not a problem for now.
In a typical day, I’m dealing on the one hand with 50% creative issues of all sorts (pure drawing, image and graphic works, etc) and on the other hand with all kinds of logistical issues (production, commercial, etc).
What are Paris’ best-kept secrets?
The river: the Seine. To walk around the river when Paris is sunny, through the islands, passing by the Louvre, inside the Tuileries gardens and so on.
I don’t want to try and give any addresses of places like cafés or bookshops because there are a lot of very goods ones. It is impossible.
What five things couldn’t you live without?
I’m trying to stand out and grow away from as many things as possible. From everything really. I don’t think I can reply any differently.
In London there is just one Isaac Reina stockist, Mouki Mou, a beautiful store full of curated objects from around the world. For those of you looking for somewhere on line, one of my favourite websites La Garçonne stocks a good selection.