Happiness in a backpack, a chat with Mokuyobi founder Julie Pinzur.
How did your business start?
It started with sewing which was a love of mine since I was thirteen. I did home economics at school and really enjoyed it. I would always buy garments and bags and rip them apart to see how they were put together. Construction was my favourite part of the design process. I didn’t know you could start a business or do the kind of thing I was interested in doing until much later; it was just a hobby for me. In high school I would make presents for my friends with found fabric prints and solids at local fabric stores but never felt like a project was truly my own unless I created every piece of it myself including the print. I studied Illustration at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City and really found my visual voice. It was then that I was able to fully merge my sewing and textile design to create what Mokuyobi is today. In 2019 we are celebrating 13 years in business!
How do you describe what you do?
I design happiness and function and roll it all into one cohesive brand to share with the world.
What is you work culture like?
We are a super small team that consists of myself, my forever guy Alex Seastrom, our photo guru- Thomas, and a sprinkle of helpers. Alex and I do most of the heavy lifting and big decision making so a lot of our “work culture” is our power-couple vibe. We like to keep an easy but focused environment at the office and it’s definitely an exciting place to be! There’s always a lot happening with new projects, product launches, photo shoots, and more! Which keeps everyone on their toes and moving forward.
What’s your favourite part of what you do?
Um, all of it! I love being able to dream up piles of fun and then put them out into the world! I really feel especially in the technological age that there is too much focus on the negative and what’s going wrong right now instead of thinking about all of the amazingness that we get to experience everyday in life and everything that is going great. I try to bring that out in people with Mokuyobi- to bring that spark of excitement back and remind people of all the good.
Why backpacks / bags?
I have always been very interested in bag construction from a young age. I would see friend’s bags fall apart and they would ask me to fix it. What is your bag but your on-the-go house? When you’re out and about you gotta be organized, able to access your necessities easily, and look good doing it! I felt there was a large hole in the market for fun & functional Made in the USA bags and it’s been my passion since day one. With our growing capabilities we now offer a wider range of products including a full apparel line which features all of the print designs that started with the bags.
What makes your business unique?
We do everything completely custom- from scratch- ground up with blank fabrics that we dye, print, cut, sew, pack, and ship all from Los Angeles, California– USA MADE!– Everything we make is with purpose because I design my bags to solve problems. How you need to carry your necessities when you’re out and about is very important but you also need to look good doing it and not be too serious about it. Fun is where it’s at and we are happy to remind you of that anytime you see us.
How has what you do changed over the years?
It has definitely evolved as our capabilities and access to different types of processes grew. There are so many ways to translate a design from paper or from a computer screen into an actual product or garment. This has been the biggest change over the years along with offering lots more styles and silhouettes than we used to.
Describe your style?
Filled with colour but I also tend to focus on comfort. During work hours (which is all day everyday) I love to dress in a fun tee and short shorts so my mind isn’t distracted by my body or clothing. BUT ACTUALLY my style is wild nonsense. I dig anything colour blocked with a great palette and silly/cute nonsense illustrations that are just for fun. Not HUGE on dresses, pants, or anything restrictive just because they limit my body movement and I’m all about moving to the max!
How many people do you work with?
Right now there are four and a half of us in house but it changes depending on our order flow and how much help we need.
What’s the least favourite part of your job?
My least fave thing is always learning to deal with outcomes that aren’t what you originally intended. I’ve accepted more now that it’s a part of the process and can end up challenging your original design to even possibly be better. Either way the best part is that no one but me will notice what was intentional and what wasn’t.
Advice you’ve learnt that you’d give to you yourself five years ago?
Clearly communicate what you want to everyone around you. I struggled with this as I got deeper into my field as my expertise grew and become obvious information to me. This information is obvious to no one else. You really have to start at the ground up and be clear and concise about what you’re looking for and why it’s important to you.
What does happiness look like to you?
Happiness is looking inside myself at what I want to create, using my skills to bring it to life, putting it out there, and thriving on the feeling that I’m putting beauty into the world with positive design that make other people feel good and uplifted.
If someone told your 20 year old self you’d be doing your job, what would you have said?
I would be excited but wouldn’t have any idea what it really meant to do what I do.
Hands down fave product ever?
It’s hard for me to choose a favorite existing product since I’m all about improving, moving forward, and creating new things. I would easily gush about all of the products we are working on this coming year and next. If I had to choose a favourite I would say the Too Dreamy Backpack is very high on the list. I use it every time I travel. It’s an amazing airplane backpack because it opens from the top so it’s really easy to access from a tiny plane seat and also doubles as a foot warmer! My feet are always cold, haha. It really holds literally everything and my main annoyance with air travel is the number of bags they limit you to because I don’t want to have to take everything out of my purse and put it my backpack just to take put it back in my purse (The Quilted Mini Backpack which I use everyday) when I arrive at my destination. With this bag I can just put my purse inside my backpack, and voila – two in one.