I’m so excited to share this interview with Miquel and Chichen. They are the design duo behind LLAGUT, a growing fashion accessories label born and raised in Taipei with a distinctly Mediterranean influence.
Together, they’ve taken their love of Mediterranean style and translated it into a timeless collection of bags, accessories and shoes. To be honest, I would happily cast aside my usual canvas totes and upgrade to a LLAGUT design.
Thanks to Miquel and Chichen for sharing the LLAGUT story and also revealing their favorite spots in Taipei!
First things first. How did you meet and how did the business start?
Chichen: After my degree in Interface Design in Paris, I worked as a graphic and multimedia designer for a couple of years. I started to get in touch with the product design field when I came back to Taiwan and worked at a design agency on several branding design projects. I also discovered my interest in accessories design, and then spent two years learning leathercraft. I frequently travel to Barcelona, it is one of my favorite cities. I met Miquel in Taiwan and became curious about him when I knew he made his own furniture by recycling wooden tofu plates.
Miquel: I graduated in Translation and Interpreting and worked for a while in the film translation industry before moving to Taipei. Back in Barcelona, I used to love repairing old cars and reselling them for a profit. LLAGUT started in a very casual way. It was the end of 2013 when Chichen’s passion for leather goods passed onto me. During a trip back to Barcelona, we decided that we wanted to create a collection of leather goods which could show our point of view on aesthetics and lifestyle. Since we both had lived many years in Southern Europe (Spain and France), we were very akin to that spontaneous lifestyle in which we sort of grew up. We knew we wanted to portray that feeling as a brand. The name LLAGUT comes from the Catalan name of a wooden boat commonly found sailing the Mediterranean coasts, especially in the area of Catalonia and Southern France.
Chichen: Miquel and I share a similar vision of what makes a “good life” and “LLAGUT” was almost the first Catalan word I learnt. All I need to do is to think about this small wooden boat, and I switch to my holiday mood even on a hard working day.
How has the brand grown?
Miquel: Things have come out in a surprisingly good way, to be honest. During 2014, we started selling our very first piece from our collection in some points of sale, as well as our collection of Spanish-handmade avarcas. By late summer, we had our first collection ready and decided to open our first shop with Colorliving Group, a friend’s brand that designs and produces solid wood furniture. Then we got some media coverage, we increased our selling points and now we are almost about to open our new studio, which will work as a shop too.
Chichen: We love our work and we are lucky to be surrounded by great people. The result so far is good for an independent designers brand. I think the difficult part comes after this first step.
What are some challenges you face being based in Taipei?
Miquel: I see Taiwan as a cultural melting pot in terms of historical influences which somehow has lead to a very eclectic scenario where everything is allowed and nothing looks strange. Hence it is always permeable to foreign trends, most noticeably to those coming from Japan and Korea, as well as some misinterpreted “Western” influence. I think one of the biggest challenges for us is helping our customers understand the spirit of our brand. LLAGUT takes some Western inspiration which is inherent to us and our backgrounds, but at the same time, we want to portray the reality and the environment we are living and creating in. As for me, it’s all about escaping the cliché and showing determination in what we are and what we do.
Chichen: We prefer to underplay cultural stereotypes, even if they would make it easier for consumers to memorize or identify a brand. We always try to design beyond cultural boundaries, and suggest our identity in a more subtle way. The challenge with the Taiwanese market is that people tend to give a sort of “style label” before trying have their own interpretation.
What are some unique opportunities here?
Miquel: Taipei is an extraordinary city for those who would like to give creativity and entrepreneurship a try. One of the best things I could mention is the ease of finding very skilled craftsmen that can bring our creations into life. I really appreciate being able to work locally and to understand the production process at first hand. On the other side, I see the Taiwanese market as a very vibrant one, as if being always eager to see what will come next.
What are the best parts of running your own business?
Miquel: Running your own business opens a new spectrum of possibilities and fields to work in, and I believe this is what keeps the excitement alive. There is a continuous expectation about what could we do next.
Chichen: The most interesting thing is learning how to see a project from different points of view. From the design process, project management, financial control to public relationship, we have to play many roles at the same time, and try to balance all of them. The most exciting part is the freedom to explore our ideas, and then verify how it resonates in people’s mind.
What are your plans for the future of Llagut?
Miquel: We would like to enter some other Asian markets, such as Japan and Hong Kong. We also feel quite enthusiastic about the idea of entering the housewares category.
Chichen: We are working on production processes, to preserve and continuously enhance the product quality throughout the business growth.
Now some Taipei questions! What are people missing out when they come to Taipei?
Chichen: Natural scenery. People should leave the cities and go to the countryside. They will be surprised by how magnificent and varied Taiwanese landscapes can be.
What are your favorite restaurants?
What’s your favorite place to go for a drink?
Miquel: Trio, 華山三重 (during weekdays) and JS Place.
Thanks Miquel and Chichen!
Photo Credit: LLAGUT