Are you planning a road trip in 2019 and looking for the perfect travel companion? Then look no further than pinqponq. This up-and-coming label creates high-quality backpacks and accessories and since 2014 has been offering intelligent products that combine design, function and sustainability. pinqponq stands for a new generation of lifestyle products and PARACHUTE is the name of their latest model of inspiring bags and backpacks. We had a chat with the creative mind behind the brand, Annemarie Keizers, to explore the question: is the only way to be truly modern also to be sustainable? The interview is taken from our new print issue!
What inspired you to start pinqponq?
Back in 2014 backpacks had started to come back in a big way. Fashion, sportswear, outdoor wear and streetwear all started to come together and take inspiration from each other. As the different areas started to collaborate with each other and melt together that really made sense to us and was long overdue – especially if you look at it from the consumer side. Backpacks sit at the centre of all of these areas and bring them together.
Do you have a background in fashion?
I studied Fashion Design at the avant-garde- inspired Hogeschool voor de kunsten Arnhem in The Netherlands and gained work experience at fashion houses such as Vivienne Westwood and Giles Deacon in London. My studies were really progressive and ahead of fashion developments at the time, but I was quickly disillusioned by the fashion world itself. There were too many sad people, too much hierarchy, too much time wasting, too few visions.
Design, function and sustainability are the three keywords for your designs. Can you tell us about how you design your products?
There is a difference between our editions and the main collection. The main collection needs to be accessible and should be a reliable and suitable partner (also identity-wise) in one’s everyday life. In terms of materials, we are really limited due to the sustainable standard, but that’s OK. I like boxes. In terms of shapes, colours and stories, I am mostly inspired by society. In relationship to social developments or cases, I research for non-abstract things that can fulfil the lacks for the consumer. Then a visual world emerges, which is where I draw my inspiration from. We see that modern urban citizens want to take their electronic devices everywhere, need bags for different occasions but do not want 5 bags, take their outdoor backpack for grocery shopping, that work and life blends, that transportation changes. These are some of the things I have in mind when designing the products, but for the look and feel of the bags – especially for the editions where we can be more inspirational and progressive – I delve into more soft topics, longings, aspirations and lacks that our consumers, or we face.
What made you want to create a sustainable company?
It is much more expensive, all the more when you decide to work together with sustainability or green seals. But for us, it is simply the only possible way to work and still be able to sleep at night. Everyone should feel the need to take some responsibility where it’s possible. I don’t understand the other routes. I mean, we’re not exactly saving the world, but we are trying our best as a company that also has to pay wages. Of course, there are so many areas that we need to work on. We are making an industrial product and the reality is that the whole network and system is not entirely sustainable. You have to find a way to make a difference across as many points as you can. That means that you also need the will to try and a certain level of education on such topics with the people in your workflow, but sadly this is rare. I think this is also the main reason why only a few brands commit to sustainability because it is hard to do. Everything takes more time, a lot of stuff is not possible and you really have to dig deep to understand which changes could potentially make the world a little better.
Do you think the only way to be truly modern is to be sustainable?
Yes, but not necessarily to make it your slogan. Sustainability is something that should be inherent in your company, but it doesn’t have to be the main story. If sustainability would be the main story of all fashion brands from now on, that would be really sad. Take a look at the eco-fashion sector. Our approach is to have a story and a product that convinces without foregrounding the sustainability aspect.
How much of what you buy for yourself is new? And how much is used?
I buy a whole lot of vintage and make some stuff by myself, but not only for sustainable reasons. My biggest hobby is eBay I am really into it, I even know the coding language of the search bar [laughs]. I also buy new designer pieces now and then, ones that I fall in love with – not necessarily sustainable, but long-lasting pieces – and I buy new underwear and knits. I don’t have a car (an easy decision for living in the city) and I try to reduce waste. For sure I’m no angel, but I’m also confused a lot of the time. Not so much with textiles, but a lot with food or reusable cups or electronic devices. There is almost never a good straightforward path you can go, it’s always a choice. I wish governments would find ways to make rules that made it easier and better for all of us and the world. I sadly don’t believe in a revolution by consumers alone.
You use PET bottles to make your products. That’s amazing! How did you come up with this idea?
It’s not our idea but that’s fine. We are only the missionaries. When we started it was clear that we wanted to take responsible decisions in the supply chain. We researched solutions that were ready to use because we know how long it takes to develop a whole new section in that industrial business. This would have been a whole other project. So instead we teamed up with our brilliant fabric supplier in Taiwan. They are pioneers in sustainable solutions that can be used on an industrial scale and blue-sign members like we are. An important factor for us was that any solution could be scaled up, so we could potentially start something that could really make a change.
But how do used PET bottles become such beautiful bags?
Can you explain the production process to us? The bottles are from post-consumer waste (after using), they are collected, melted and spun into yarn again. Quite simple! The process is being checked all the time to make sure that the bottles are really used and the yarn is really from used bottles and not new ones. But we are working constantly on better solutions. We are in developments to work with solution dyed yarn, a water-free dye process, with algae foam, water-based coatings (to be PFC and PVC free), recycled nylon, castor oil buckles, the list goes on.
Let’s talk about the new Parachute bag! I love the shape and the colours are on point. What was your inspiration for that one?
The starting-point was something that everyone who lives in the city can relate to: longing for space, natural experiences and new social interactions. The shape is inspired by our first backpack (the Cubik) and by golfer bags. There is so much that is interesting and layered to them. Golfing has an elite reputation, but is also socially driven and fulfils a need for nature, space and wellbeing. Golfing bags have funnily been the same for decades. They are the most un-fresh, un-chique, untouched designs you can imagine, even though they are so regularly used by the glamorous elite. That’s my sense of humour. They lasted so long that the style gets interesting again, but in a sort of anti-way, no elderly elite player would want that. But if you look at golfing as a sincere reasonable activity without the elite side, it fits. I really liked the double-sided nature in aesthetics that occur with golf-related stuff, so I took it as inspiration. Also road trips, a hippie mentality, a sentimental look and feel — woven labels from outdoor packs during a previous time or naive illustrations from landscapes. We also made woven labels on the parachute, but integrated modern visuals like a cursor. We translated the idea of the naive drawing over the whole backpack using it as a canvas for the landscape. The “Wunderbaum” as a zip pull is also synonymous with road trips, but is sort of ageless, it is now and 20 years ago at the same time. That also reflects the timelessness of the feelings that were the starting point for the design process.
What makes this bag so special? What is different about this backpack?
It is rare that products that are functional and/or sustainable can also inspire in any way. I see it as my duty to accomplish that. And with this backpack, I could do that more than ever before.
Interview by Marcel Schlutt
Photos and Artwork by Yu-liang Liu www.yuliang-liu.com @yuliangliubln
Models are Michail Rozimatov @blaxze and Michael Solomon @mrsrsl2
Photography assistants are Alex Aravantinos and Sebastian Pollin