“The materials that make up our world have a huge impact on our daily experiences. It is the difference between sitting at a salvaged wood table or a shiny marble counter, the difference between wearing a crisp linen shirt or a soft fluffy sweater,” explained shop owner Arielle Salkin. “Materials impact the way we feel, move, think, and function. The Materials Design Company uses a ‘materials first’ approach, by letting the materials lead the design process.” As a pretty tactile person, I was immediately drawn to New York City-based The Materials Design Co.
Salkin designs totes and handbags sourced from eco-friendly materials, organic cottons and textile remnants. “I love to share materials with a story – whether the story is the process used to weave, embellish or dye the fabric, or if it is about the backstory and intention of using repurposed or remnant materials,” she said. “I look for organic fabrics and buy trims like zippers and thread from small local shops. I’m excited to be making the One of a Kind collection from production remnants from the first collection, as well as unused dyed fabric samples. These may seem like major creative limitations, but I believe that limitations actually encourage creative design thinking.” Salkin lets the materials, colors, and techniques guide her designs. “The end result feels good and the customer can feel great about their purchase. When people use a bag they bought from The Materials Design Co., they are taking a small part of our brand and our values with them throughout their day. Handmade with great values – It’s a modern kind of luxury.”
The shop’s Original Tote is perfect for everyday use. Crafted from sturdy, certified organic cotton canvas, the bag comes in various colors and has pockets to hold all of the contents of your purse and diaper bag. “I love the simplicity of the Original Tote and that it has all kinds of hidden unique details, like the funky patterned linings and the invisible external pocket. The Original Tote in the black and caramel combo is by far our best seller from the first collection,” Salkin shared. Salkin also hand-embroiders certain of the limited edition totes in Japanese Sashiko style. “I am so excited about the new Sashiko versions of the totes because the embroidery elevates the bags to something so unique and they have been tremendously popular across our social media,” she exclaimed.
The Materials Design Co. officially opened for business late last year. Salkin, an embroidery designer by trade, was looking to start a product-based business. “I was six months pregnant, and I would work on sketches and business plans sitting in coffee shops between freelance gigs. After a chat with a friend, I decided to base my first design on a tote bag I made a few years ago that had been so popular among friends who saw it on Facebook,” she recalled. “Of course, being 2/3 the way through a pregnancy is not the ideal time to start a business. It took a few months postpartum before I was able to get things up and running, but six months later, I was launching my website and starting my first presale.” From the outset, Salkin was committed to making sustainable choices in her designs. “The unfortunate reality of the fashion industry today is one of incredible waste and carelessness. The unimaginable amount of pollution from chemical fabric dye and fabric waste from the cutting and sewing process, as well as consumer habits of regularly buying and subsequently discarding cheap, poorly made garments and accessories, is shameful reality of our society and something that needs to be addressed,” she professed. “As someone who feels a drive to create, it is my responsibility to make sure my impact is as low as possible.”