In drawing inspiration from Japanese minimalism and utility, Building Block, an emerging brand based in Los Angeles, is making a mark in the contemporary leather goods market.
The three-year-old label’s range of sleek, geometric handbags is selling out at hip retail emporiums like Creatures of Comfort and Opening Ceremony, with sales up about 250 percent in the last year. Between 2014 and 2015, the brand has shipped and sold approximately 6,000 units.
The brainchild of sisters Kimberly and Nancy Wu, both former industrial designers, Building Block is “cut around the ideas of editing down and starting from square one — the name is pretty literal, it kind of embodies our whole idea,” Kim said.
The label’s original bag endeavor, its Cable + Outlet bucket style, was designed to incorporate pared-down finishings sourced from Tokyo hardware stores. Sparse in embellishments, the bag’s linear appearance was later spun into a larger narrative that now includes more than 35 styles.
Prices for the bags, which are designed in L.A. but produced in the Wu family’s native Taipei, range from about $350 to $1,100. “We’re trying to edit out all the shiny hardware on the generic pieces you see on mainstream handbags today, but put a humorous twist on it,” Kim added.
That sentiment is evident, particularly in the brand’s play on leatherlike textures, such as using heavy-gauge rubber cording for handles instead of hides — to a utilitarian, nearly undetectable effect. Ditto for its drawstring cinches, which are constructed of unconventional materials like Lucite and wooden blocks.
With bags under its belt, the brand plans to branch out into footwear next, and is in the process of developing small leather goods as well as watches and stationary products for future collections.
Nancy explained of Building Block’s larger picture: “We definitely think of ourselves more as like a concept or a point of view versus a fashion or bag brand.”