Thoroughly Ultra-Modern: Isaac Reina
If Isaac Reina’s ultra-minimalist unisex handbags seem like architectural marvels, it’s because the man behind them did in fact design buildings before bags. Before miniaturizing the scale of his art, Reina studied for two years at an architectural school during his youth in Barcelona, where he focused on streamlined aesthetics. “To me, minimalism has never gone away since its conception in 1900 by Adolf Loos and, later, by the Bauhaus,” he says. “Utilitarian design looks to accomplish a primary function in a direct way—and if it succeeds, an object can become legendary.” With that lofty goal, he made a beeline for Paris, and towards menswear, earning two covetable positions: one at Hermès, where the values of exquisite craftsmanship were instilled in him; the next at Margiela, where he learned that avant-garde ideas could be infused into luxury garments. Neither a provocateur nor a traditionalist, Reina maintains the asceticism of both houses and has established his own niche.
When he launched his own line, Edition De Sacs, his goal was to streamline what was necessary in a luxury handbag to its bare, vital essentials. Portability was key, but so was a strong design statement. “Contemporary minimalism can’t exist in a way that is too rigid or too boring,” Reina says of his modest sensibility, which is finding commercial traction as fall fashion turns discreet. “It requires a certain sense of creative daring, but it must be in a wearable way—not too heavy or obvious,” he says. In Reina’s utopia, boyfriend and girlfriend could share the same handbag.
Reina’s economy of materials is logical, and elegant to behold. Wallets are razor-thin, replicating mirrors. They are delicate but spectacularly lethal looking. The pleasure is in watching the pleats do their magic: they unfold succinctly, accordian-like, then collapse back into the titanium slab from whence they came. His gravity-taunting “envelope” cases, which ostensibly house a Mac Airbook, are suitably weightless and lithe. For his Winter 2010 collection, currently in select stores like New York’s Project No. 8, Reina used latex, satin and lacqued calf. “All the inspiration comes from the skin, the nude skin, in a kind of abstract interpretation with some extremely sensual materials, skin toned,” he notes, calling the new styles “almost classical”—but “with a slightly ‘perverse’ twist.”