A couple of weeks ago, I hopped on the freeway to Santa Monica to meet with Zara Dramov, designer behind The Common Knowledge, an LA based luxury leather accessories brand that I love. We sat in her small but perfectly decorated studio and chatted about her brand while sipping on iced almond lattes.
Tell me how you started The Common Knowledge…
I was in the Industrial Design programme at California College of the Arts, and I just started folding paper and making these architectural vessels. Then I started working with leather. But Industrial Design isn’t about soft goods, it is more about creating kitchen tools etc. I was creating sculptural pieces out of leather. Directly out of school, I decided to take a course at Central Saint Martins for leather working and bag making. This is where I came up with my Bone bag style. I learned how to hand sew, and people quickly became interested in that particular style.
How long have you been going?
Three years! In the beginning, it was all about figuring out how to manufacture the Bone bag series, because they are all made out of one sheet of leather. Because the design came from an Industrial Designer brain rather than a seamstress brain, it was quite a challenge to get it into production.
How did you come up with the name?
When I was in London at CSM, I was with my boyfriend and we were talking about how the Bone bag seems more complex than it actually is. It really is just one sheet of leather with a couple of folds, but it looks like this hard, organic structure. He said something along the lines of “it is common knowledge that it is folded” and I was like “oh – The Common Knowledge – that sounds good!“. I like that it sounds inclusive and exclusive at the same time.
I am looking at your moodboard right now… Is it your current inspiration? Or for next season? Or are you not seasonal in your collections?
I am not really seasonal… The moodboard changes. It is more about the technical aspect of my inspiration, so there is a lot of couture on there. We just added the Elie Saab outfit. It is more about intricate manufacturing that comes with Couture. The pink and the brights and the lights are all ongoing… You can see my colourway there.
I think LA has inspired me a lot. When we were producing in NYC, there was a big NYC life for the brand. Now I am in LA and have a studio here, it’s become lighter and airier. All whites and brights are coming into it. It is becoming almost more beachy. There is a mix of NYC and LA energy. I live in Santa Monica too, so it is definitely more beachy and tropical than NYC!
The inspiration board is also about dark meeting light, showcasing the intricacies of design that inspire me. It is an ongoing process.
How long have you been in LA?
I moved here 3 years ago from San Francisco. My sister lived in NYC, so I would be there every other month to see her and oversee production. I think of NYC as another place to call home…
Your main inspiration?
Industrial design, sculpture and different materials. I am excited to start working with velvet, and see how different it is to leather work. It is a lot lighter fabric.
Who do you look up to in the design world?
My parents are both architects so of course they come first! My mum is a landscape architect and my dad an architect. Charlotte Perriand, Rick Owens, Charles and Ray Eames… I went to visit their house in Pacific Palisades when we first moved here and it was so great.
I find Ray Eames particularly inspiring. Charles and Ray remind me of my parents too! They make a great team.
Where do you see your brand going in the future?
Eventually I would love to have furniture be a part of the brand. For now, I am trying to introduce new, weird materials. We try new things all the time, and see what works. I like to involve methods of altering a material to make it look like something else. The Bone bag is supposed to look like skin over bones, popping out. It is meant to look like an extension of your body. It is a lot about materials and alterations.
The Bone is the core of your collection. Would you ever design small leather goods? Shoes?
Yes! I would love to come up with a line of shoes.
In our new stuff, there are lots of smaller pieces, made from new materials too. That is really exciting.
How is it here in LA as a #girlboss?
There is less pressure being in LA with everything. It is just more relaxed and there are many head strong women, most are my friends, I see them start their own businesses and doing what they love. So being surrounded by women like this, it all feels normal. I don’t feel like anything is holding me back.
Name three women you admire?
You for sure (laughs). Can I say this?
We actually have a girlboss list we are really into. We listen to a lot of podcasts about women business owners… I love Jen Gotch from ban.do – in a perfect world we would collaborate with them! I watch her Snapchat and I laugh so hard. She is so smart.
Sophia Amoruso, she is so cool and easygoing. We are thinking of approaching Nasty Gal actually as a stockist! I like her podcast and the people she picks for her interviews. She even speaks to one of her best friends in the beginning and it is so interesting. She admits to doing it so she can learn more about others too.
Last but not least I love Leandra Medine and what she’s achieved with Man Repeller so far.