Since 2017, Singapore-based designer Adrian Furstenburg has been creating one-off luxury designer leather bags and goods for clients all over the world, collaborating with numerous airlines, banks and other corporate clients. We chat sustainability, customer satisfaction… and French leather!
For the uninitiated, could you tell us the motivation behind Adrian Furstenburg, the brand?
Co-creation is the number one pillar of our brand. Taking clients through a series of design dialogues, adding elements of their personality such as specific colours or symbols, using the best materials available and then delivering a bespoke designer handbag to them is one of the biggest motivations. There’s really nothing more rewarding than seeing the joy on their face when they unbox something fabulous – and exclusive.
It’s also important for us to be mindful of waste; that’s why we produce our pieces on-demand or by pre-order only. Fashion is a notoriously wasteful industry; billions of dollars of excess products are lightly used or unsold before they’re sent to the incinerator – or even dumped in developing countries.
Moving forward, we’re looking to use technology as a vehicle to give clients a fully bespoke service, through a mobile device. We’re currently working on some really cool and innovative ways to recreate the “in atelier” experience through augmented reality, hyper-realistic 3D renderings and video consultations.
What’s your go-to for design inspiration?
Flowers and architecture inspire our bag designs very much. The aesthetic that inspires us can be found in many Singaporean icons like Gardens by the Bay and Jewel Changi Airport. Like those places, our leather bags are a blend of beauty and functionality, in a way that is rarely found elsewhere.
As a brand that co-creates customised luxury leather goods together with our clientele, we draw a lot of inspiration from Singapore’s own identity in relation to its place in the world.
With an industry already saturated with designer handbags and leather bags and goods, what makes your label unique?
We certainly can’t compete with the likes of major luxury brands such as Chanel or Louis Vuitton. But we don’t try to, either. Instead, we’ve found our footing by offering a fully bespoke service, using the highest quality leathers and hardware, while taking our clientele through a journey of self-expression.
To give you a rough idea: if you like, you can have your kids’ drawing that’s on the fridge masterfully applied through marquage onto a black Epsom leather clutch with a thick gold chain, that opens up into a striking interior that has space for an iPhone, lipstick, wallet, mask, hand sanitiser and more! All of that can be done and delivered in only four to six weeks.
How did you settle on deciding to use leather from France for your designer bags?
As mentioned, we’re committed to using only the very best materials, including the hardware and zippers – even down to the glaze that seals the edges of the leather. We generally apply heritage thinking to our brand’s philosophy; that means we pick the finest materials and hardware from places that have built a global name for doing that one thing exceptionally well.
If you want the best leathers, go to France or Italy; for the best hardware or zippers, Korea will be your best bet; and, if you want to run a global business from a place that just runs like clockwork, Singapore is your answer!
What’s the most memorable customised leather bag you’ve designed?
Every piece is memorable in its own way – and that’s not just a cliche. It’s such a joy each time we get to witness the sheer delight in our clients’ eyes when they unbox their bags and instantly recognise traces of themselves or their loved ones in the design of the bag.
We once had a new bride receive her leather bag in her favourite shade of pink, which has an element of her wedding day hand-painted inside. And I also recall another woman opening her pochette to see her daughter’s drawing beautifully painted to match the leather lining she chose for the inside of the flap.
But of all the memorable client stories, I’d point to the time when we had a request for a matching set of crossbody bags for a lady and her daughter. She specifically wanted to have the bags made in a silver, iridescent crocodile skin that glinted in rainbow colours. That was definitely a highlight!
Is there a limit you’ve placed on yourself when it comes to customers’ requests – a point where you’ve had to politely decline?
In true renaissance fashion, we think of ourselves as being equal parts artists and inventors. We enjoy pushing the boundaries of co-creation with our most valued clients and trying to bring that creative vision to life.
Of course, we have our own aesthetic sensibilities, but so far we have yet to come across a client whose requests have been so outlandish that we simply cannot, and will not make it.
What’s an underrated aspect of your profession as a luxury leather goods designer?
That the word luxury can mean so many different things to different people. For one person, having a clutch leather bag with a precious stone-encrusted handle in rare exotic leather might create the exact same feeling of excitement for someone who wants a work bag that has a specific slot for business cards. (We’ve all been in that position where we had to smack the bag down and rummage for cards in front of a client!)
In the future, would you consider expanding your luxury leather goods to include shoes?
Our team gets excited all the time thinking about ideas for new products. But we spend a lot of time researching and carefully analysing before jumping into anything. We want to establish a reputation for doing one thing incredibly well, before even thinking about expanding outside our circle of competence. Luxury comes from the mastery of one’s craft; it cannot ever be half-baked.
If you could create a custom piece for someone famous, who would it be and why?
Our clients tend to be successful people who have strong personalities and distinctive styles. I’d love to create a work bag for Lee Hsien Loong, a stunning shoulder bag for Maye Musk and the most extraordinary piece for Lady Gaga!
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