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In The Studio With Janis Munz: Behind The Scenes of Janis Studios

Janis Studios launched earlier this year, ushered in by the drop of its first Darka bag that features a clean-cut, cosmopolitan design made timeless by an assortment of interchangeable handles (you’ve more than likely seen it scrolling through your Instagram feed). Ahead of the fourth Darka drop coming very, very soon, designer Janis Munz caught up with Milk in her snug SoHo studio apartment to chat about her burgeoning brand that draws creative ingenuity from her Parisian roots. While its present focus is accessories primarily, Munz shared her hope for the Janis Studios brand to become a “creative hub” transcendent of fashion. Read our interview with the designer below and be on the lookout for Darka drop four.

Janis Studios prides itself on being an ethically-made brand. Why is ethical production fundamental for you?

When you create a brand in 2018, you can’t do something that’s not responsible in some way — I feel like that’s morally wrong. Also, no consumer would get behind it. When building the brand, it was very important for me to make it fully ethical and as sustainable as can be. What that means is that I have full control and oversight over who makes our bags, the conditions of the workers, their wages etc. People is what I prioritize, whether it’s through the factory workers or the communities that we empower by using their fabrics. Our denim bag for example, was made by a community in Guatemala. We’ll also be launching a bag in December that is made by a small community somewhere else in the world…

Pop-ups are kind of the new thing as of late. Janis Studios just had their first-ever pop-up in SoHo last month to commemorate the drop of the Darka Leopard Bag. How was that experience?

It’s great because I meet with as many people as possible in general, but the people I meet with that give me feedback are often press or influencers so they have a very specific angle, and I only get a specific feedback on my product and the universe I’m creating. It’s great to hear from consumers about what they want to see and just the questions that they were asking were very unexpected and very helpful to grow, from a business standpoint. It’s a good way to be close to your consumer. Feedback you can get if you spend a lot of money on e-marketing and all that stuff, but I don’t have that money yet. So that’s why pop-ups are great because people come in and give you a blunt opinion. Also, it’s interesting to know what people look at your bag. It’s not the people who you follow on Instagram, it’s not the same girls. It’s girls that would come into the store and I’d be like ‘Oh shit, that’s my consumer,’ because I see them wearing my bag.

Embroidery and design weren’t always your calling. When did you know you wanted to make the career switch from television and film to designing handbags?

Well, it was a bunch of factors. The first thing is that I had just started doing hand embroidery and I started an Instagram account. Things kind of just happened. I started working with brands, and while I was working in film the embroidery business was growing and there was a point where I was very, very, very miserable in my job in film and embroidery was working. So I had all that money saved up and all this networking in fashion because of all the events I had done and, I don’t know, I liked fashion so I started thinking about what I could do with it. I thought about it for a long time, I raised money, then I quit my job and launched [my business]. It wasn’t spur of the moment. I was trying to think about something where I would leverage my network in fashion and where I could design something that meant something to me.

Would you say that the Parisian lifestyle influences the essence of your designs, from conceptualizing to details?

[The Parisian lifestyle] is chill. I think the way it impacts [my designs] the most is mostly from the fact that I’m designing a bag first and foremost for me. In America, it’s a lot of: there’s a type of girl that wears a bag from Kate Spade and there’s a girl who wears a very designer, weird-shaped bag. There’s very much two ends of the spectrum. In Paris it’s not like that — you have a bag that you don’t change for three, four, five, six months and then you put it in your closet and give it to your daughter. It’s about creating something timeless that’s going to make a statement.

The Darka bag is such a staple accessory — it’s clean, timeless, and interchangeable. Can you walk me through the decision to make it interchangeable and the creative process behind designing it?

A lot of brands make bags with interchangeable handles. If you walk into a Prada store, all [the bags] are going to have a way to change the strap. Same for Kate Spade and Michael Kors. The brands that have never done this are more of the cooler brands, like Alexander Wang — they all have cool bags but they don’t have that interchangeable aspect in the bags. Essentially, the bag itself is a square and it’s very, very timeless. But with the handle, you can make it fit into your time. As for designing, I look at trends and I see materials that are going around and that’s how the process begins.

Who are the “baguettes”?

There’s a French pop singer from the 60s called Claude François, and he had dancers with him at all times called “The Claudettes.” From there, we thought of the baguettes who are the muses, and also obviously because the word is French. Our baguettes are our muses and our muses are everyone who wears a bag.

What can we expect next from Janis Studios?

I think for now we’re going to mainly focus on bags for the next two years, with a few surprises along the way that are not going to be bags. The goal is not to stay accessories, the goal is to create clothing down the line. Also, I want Janis Studios to be a creative thing that maybe doesn’t stop at fashion — a creative hub. We live in a world today where not fitting into categories gives you a platform more than fitting in.

Do you have any collaborations in the works for future designs?

Yes (But, we can’t disclose that info just yet).

Stay tuned to Milk for more designers we love.

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