Eco-friendly, green, canvas…these phrases are being tossed about so haphazardly nowadays that you often simply look the other way, and pay no mind when you hear such words spill from someone’s lips. The casual totes thought up by Lillian and Anais Yim, the sister design duo behind One Language Label, however, have brought a new type of clean, ethereal, tres chic effervescence to the terms by adding trendy touches to the oftentimes boring natural canvas tote.
Wanting to merge fashion-centric fabulousness with savvy social consciousness, the sibling team got to work with creating a small, modest line of structured totes emblazoned with four unique designs (two new designs will debut right here on Café Fashionista later on in this post) that bridged the gap between style and smarts. The end result? One Language Label.
The two of you are sisters based in New York City – one having attended Cornell and the other having attended Parsons…you have very strong backgrounds, yet you seem intent on remaining anonymous to your audience. Why?
Lillian: It's not so much that we want to remain anonymous to our audience; but we want all of the attention and focus on our bags and for the bags to speak for themselves.
When/how did you start the One Language line?
L: We first came up with the idea about 2 years ago when the whole eco-friendly concept was just starting to get really big, and we were seeing all these canvas bags on everyone; but they were either really generic, granola looking, or super flimsy. We were also going through a point in our lives where we wanted to do good things for the Earth, to contribute somehow, but in a way that was modern, yet subtle, and most of all fashionable. We wanted to do/create something that made sense (not a trend that would come and go); something we could really feel good about.
We always knew we would be doing something on our own, and it all just came together. Once it hit us that we wanted to create a small line of canvas bags that would be different from anything out there currently in the market, you couldn't stop us. It’s not to say that it wasn't hard. We were sketching until our hands went numb, looking at all different silhouettes for the perfect shape, creating inspiration boards just to tear them down because we had become inspired by something else the next minute. But we love every part, every minute of immersing ourselves completely into the bags, into One Language, or else we would have never started it.
Why One Language…what does this title represent for your business?
L: Love is the universal language, the one language that everyone knows. It's about loving yourself and everything around you. One Language stands for doing good things for yourself (hence the inspirational quotes) and the earth, but with style. It's a language we can all speak. We thought it was perfect for what we wanted to create!
What type of background/upbringing did you have to get you interested in fashion and design?
L: As strange as it may sound, I think our parents had a great deal to do with it. They always encouraged us to be creative and gave us the freedom to explore any type of fashion interest we had when we were younger. Whether it was wearing my sequin tap shoes every day for a month, dyeing my hair bright red, or wanting to wear anything with oversized bows, they never criticized or restricted me from doing it. And I think that's where I get my confidence to take risks with what I wear, because for me, that's what fashion is all about.
What’s on your wish list right now?
L: Anything Balmain, leather leggings from The Row, and a Givenchy Nightingale bag.
Anais: Studded Lambskin 3.1 Phillip Lim bag and some Nicholas Kirkwood shoes.
Can you describe the ultimate One Language buyer? What type of person do your designs cater to?
L: We want to cater to those who don't want to have to sacrifice their entire outfit because they want to carry around a canvas bag, because that's how we felt before we started One Language.
She's everyone from the fashion fierce girl running around town to the beach loving Hampton-ite who wants something functional, sustainable, yet stylish that will fit her lifestyle without ruining her style. Our buyers are always looking for something fresh and chic, but like to keep it simple.
What do you love to read?
L: Love, love, LOVE Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love! I die for my dose of French Vogue.
A: I always love books by Mitch Albom. For magazines I like V Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, Nylon, and Interview. I also like looking at indie fashion magazines online.
Each bag’s lining is adorned with handwritten quotations that the two of you were inspired by during the creation process. Where do these quotes come from?
L: We have a whole journal just full of inspirational quotes we've collected over the years. We love being inspired by everything and everyone around us. It's amazing how the simplest sentences can move and inspire you to follow your dreams in the biggest way. They come from all over the place; random sayings we heard out on a night in the city, to things we've read by Ghandi. One of our favorites is by Ghandi: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." We also love “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” – Unknown.
Are all decisions made for One Language Label as a team, or does each of you focus on one aspect of the business?
L: We definitely make all the final decisions as a team but Anais is more in charge of the design/visual aspect of the brand, coming from a design background, and I pretty much handle all the business side of things, coming more from a business/fashion background.
What is your go to accessory?
L: SHOES! No matter how bad a day you're having, you throw on a F-I-E-R-C-E pair of Louboutins or Balenciagas and suddenly you feel like you can take on the world! (Or at least I do).
A: I think we can all agree on shoes; but I kind of have a thing for scarves as well.....
What inspires/influences what you create for the One Language line?
L: Our everyday life inspires us, as well as the city of New York. You see and hear so much here on this tiny island; you feel like you're in the center of it all. Other designers in the fashion/art world influence us as well, of course; their stories and designs make us want to work and create something equally as beautiful and inspiring. We really try to absorb as much as we can from what we read, see, and hear, and try to incorporate it into our line. We love all the small indie designers we come across on blogs…you feel like you’ve just discovered something amazing before anyone else has.
Favorite places to shop?
L: Barneys, Zara, Topshop, Whole Foods....
How do you unwind? What are your hobbies? What do you do in your downtime?
L: Finding downtime is hard but whenever I can, I love to s-l-e-e-p.
A: Walking around the Chelsea galleries.
What’s a typical day like for you?
L: Reach for the BlackBerry before I even get out of bed for any international orders that might have come through, catch up on more emails, send out orders and sketch up new designs and silhouettes for the collection. We're also constantly searching for cool blogs (like yours) to reach out to since that's where our biggest support has come from.
A: Design. Design. Design.
At the moment there are only four bag designs to choose from…do you hope to add more to your collection? Do you have aspirations to branch out into different fashion directions?
L: We started this for the sole intent of creating interesting and inspiring canvas bags that make you rethink what sustainable means. This is our love and this is what we believe in. We are definitely in the works of more shapes and designs for the brand, some really cool concepts we're excited for everyone to see. Never say never, but for now we are just focusing on designing great canvas bags.
If you could create one item, what would it be and why?
L: I honestly have no idea…
A: A DSLR camera that you can slip in your back pocket. I love the quality of the cameras, but am not a fan of the heavy/bulky size. It starts to be a pain to carry around everywhere.
What is the mission of the One Language line?
L: The mission is to take the concept of canvas bags out of the box and surprise people with the details and design elements we put into it. For us, its all about the details, from the handwritten quotes printed on the inside of each bag, down to the packaging (for those who have ordered from us, they know what we're talking about!). We're constantly exploring what we can do with the canvas material and all the textures and shapes it can take. From what you were seeing before, you would think a canvas bag could only take this one shape and could only be this flimsy, non-structural, schlep-y bag!
Any advice for girls who love fashion/design?
L: Stay true to what you love and who you are. In this world where the line between fantasy and reality can sometimes get blurred (believing that you really NEED that $5000 bag), it’s important to not get caught up with the hype of this 'glamorous' fashion world. If you're going to design, design for yourself first, because you know you're going to love doing it. Over and over we find that success = loving what you do and believing in it!
Since their debut, One Language Label has had only four designs – The Haute Bag, The Bicycle Bag, The Necklace Bag, and The Simple Luxuries Bag. Now two new patterns have joined the mix – The Banana Bag and The Text Bag (both pictured above).
Whimsically designed and ideal for storing crusty French baguettes on your way to a romantic picnic in the park for two, or simply toting your can’t-live-without belongings from here to there, One Language Label’s creations are the piece de resistance of casual canvas tote bags that add a high fashion kick even to a pair of lived-in sweats. Want one? Special order your very own, one-of-a-kind, One Language Label original by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to One Language Label for the pictures.