Interview With Tanja Bradaric
Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Tanja Bradaric, Co-Founder of SAGAN Vienna, which is known for its luxury handbags and accessories.
Founders Tanja Bradaric (Croatia) and Taro Ohmae (Japan) were born and raised in different countries and both studied fashion design in Vienna (with Raf Simons). Born in a mix of cultures,
SAGAN is a bag that has both beauty and functionality. An individuality that cannot be described in one word is likely to be close to your own individuality.
Can you share with us your background?
I was born and raised in Croatia and my partner co-founder Taro Ohmae is from Japan. Both of us studied fashion design at University for Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria (with Raf Simons, and Veronique Branquinho). Our label SAGAN Vienna was born out of this mix of cultures and has both beauty and functionality.
How did you start your company and the mission behind it?
We launched SAGAN Vienna in 2016. Our philosophy is to create fair, responsible, quality pieces with a true sense of uniqueness and relaxed elegance. It is an encounter with the familiar, charged with history, the well-known that spurs new ideas. We like to say SAGAN Vienna is familiar and done differently. We love crafts and we are interested in the locality which often leads us to collaborate with local manufacturers and create bags using materials that are not usually associated with bags.
We like materials that tell stories. It can be something very old or something very new but the story is important.
Most handbag brands define design by shape and metal hardware, somehow we wanted to get away from this and use some other elements to develop our language. We incorporate in the material of the bag such as Wiener Geflecht or cow horn elements. Both materials were not common to be used on the bags. Wiener Geflecht is more common for furniture, cow horn more for jewelry and hair combs that the young generation doesn’t really use anymore, so this craft is on the decline. But we liked this material, we´re inspired by them and their story and we´re triggered to think how something that has a history can be used for something new in a different way than we know it.
Our rattan collection, now called the classic collection started in 2013, even before we launched the bag brand SAGAN Vienna. For our classic collection inspiration comes from the chair „S 32“, designed by Marcel Breuer in 1929/30 at Bauhaus in Germany and produced by Thonet. Taro ( SAGAN Vienna´s co-founder) saw this chair in his grandmother’s house in Osaka when he was a child, he grow up believing that this is a Japanese chair.
When he came to study design in Vienna, Austria he saw Thonet chairs in city coffee houses and discovered the true origin of the chair. Fascinated by this object and its history it served him as an inspiration for a Viennese bag style vision. Traditionally made from cow leather, in 2021 we decided to reproduce these bags in vegan leather that is made from the leftovers of grapes after wine production.
With PetzHornmanufaktur, that exist since 1862 we develop horn elements for the bags that are now essential parts of our Horn collection. We always loved this material and wanted to make it new, somehow unjust, and make it relevant again. We learned that before World Wars there were many horn manufacturers in Austria (more than 60…), but after World War II, it stayed only one; PetzHornmanufaktur.
After the war many of them didn´t restart their business, further on a decline happened when plastic comb and jewelry started to be cheaper options. This kind of background story interests us and we like to incorporate it into our design.
We learned that before World War 2 in Austria there were more than 60 horn manufacturers, after the war, many of them didn´t restart their business, further decline happened when plastic comb and jewelry started to be cheaper options. This kind of background story interest us.
How is diversity in the workplace evolving, and how does it play into your company and its mission?
We are an international team, and for us, diversity was very natural from the very start.
Our team is Croatian/Japanese/Austrian and we will expand to welcome new team members regardless of gender or race. We work with production sites in Austria, Spain, Serbia, Slovakia, and Japan. Our models have often international looks.
What major trends or shifts in the retail fashion sector are you experiencing and How has your company adapted it to be what it is today?
In the terms of major trends, we usually don´t follow them, but Sustainability and Social Justice are positive trends happening right now. Our contribution to it is a collection of essentials entirely made from grape leather.
Another project we´re active with is the project with Caritas in Vienna, we collaborate with them in sourcing second-hand denim trousers. These items are used to create bags from them. 10% of every sale is donated to the American non-profit organization The OR Foundation which is passionately helping in Accra, Ghana fighting social justice and environmental impacts of second-hand clothing that lands there (as the last station) from the USA and Europe. https://sagan-vienna.com/blogs/news/extended-life
Are you working on any exciting new projects now?
At the moment we´re working on a bag project with a Japanese Urushi craftsman. It´s an old lacquer technique traditionally applied on tableware and“Inro“, a traditional Japanese case for holding medicine and small objects.
We wanted to create bags using this traditional technique combining it with an unusual approach, by introducing 3D printed mold to the lacquer artist from Wajima Kohei Kirimoto. 3D molds are specially developed for this project by Architect and Designer Mr. Thomas Milly from the University of Applied Arts, Vienna.
Using 3D technology we gave a new possibility to the craftsmen and we have exciting Urushi bags as result: https://sagan-vienna.com/blogs/news/kanshitsu-bags-a-story-of-ancient-production-and-process
Where do you see yourself and your brand going next year and in the future?
We see ourselves visiting many more local manufacturers, talking to them, observing their techniques, and creating things together to share the results of these projects with people on different corners of our planet.
If you could go back and talk to your younger self what would you tell her and why?
One life, one experiment, there is no right and wrong. Just do it.
My free interpretation of thought from Milan Kundera´s book “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”.
“There is no means of testing which decision is better because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself? That is why life is always like a sketch. No, “sketch” is not quite a word, because a sketch is an outline of something, the groundwork for a picture.”
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