Tuesday, November 29, 2011
5 Minutes With Johnny Diamandis of J Panther Luggage
J. Panther Luggage Co.™ was founded upon our passion for innovation, design classics and products that are built to last a lifetime and beyond. After design and extensive testing here in New York our bags and accessories are hand-crafted and finished by New England artisans who've been making high-end luggage for generations. Our products draw upon the exacting standards and construction methods of the pre-1960s U.S., yet are very much designed for how we live now.
Johnny Diamandis, J Panther founder and designer.
Innovative functionality and detailing — both inside and out — make them particularly suitable for folk who like to cycle, walk or travel frequently, as well as those who simply wish to make a stylish statement and lifetime investment in their luggage. Be sure to check out our ingredients page to see the care and attention to detail that goes into every item. We hope you enjoy our luggage: it's built for life just like you, and will continue to look better with age. We hope you do too...
Q1. What was the first record you bought and what effect did it have on you?
Johnny Diamandis: My first music was acquired by taping stuff with cassettes off the radio at a very young age. Two huge ones for me were Grandmaster Flash-The Message and Ian Dury & The Blockheads- Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. I sat in my room and wrote down all the lyrics of both using the archaic pause/record function on my Hitachi cassette deck. I was obsessive about music then and still am. My first bit of vinyl though was The Specials first eponymous album. It was a massive influence to me as at the time growing up in the UK music and fashion were inextricably linked in a way that they are no longer. I followed the Specialʼs fashion style and was influenced also by their lyrics which were very political; anti racist and anti the Thatcherite status quo of the UK at the time. Everything about them resonated with my experience growing up in a small town close to London in the eighties, particularly and epic track called ʻGhost Town”.
Q2. What's the story of J Panther Luggage? Where does the name come from and what is the brand ethos?
JD: I am hugely inspired by the golden era of manufacture (clothing/luggage) in the USA pre 1950ʼs. I wanted to design and build high end/ premium items that you buy once and keep for ever with a business model that had a low ecological impact and was a redress to the throw-away fast fashion that is dominating the market today which claims to be “luxury” but really is not. We have had our business model looked at by enviro-tech consultants to challenge it (rather than making our own bold claims to be “green”) and particularly the fact we use leather. The feedback so far is that the right thing to do as a brand and indeed as a customer is to aspire to products that last and if they wear out or you break them then you get them repaired. These items should never end up in a landfill basically. Our logo was based on my love of wild cats and of animals as logoʼs, Iʼm certainly not the first. JPLC are an ongoing contributor to a fabulous charity called Panthera, leaders in wild cat conservation, as a way of paying back the creature whose image we use.
Q3. How did you get into fashion design?
JD: Really through music. In the UK growing up in the 80ʼs music and fashion went hand in hand. I donʼt think I had the confidence for music or a career in music, playing an instrument and so on but fashion was the next best thing it kept me connected to music and youth culture. I always knew I was going to have a career in the arts in some capacity. When I used to see people commuting into the city to regular white collar jobs I just didnʼt get it. They all looked so miserable, their lives looked so dull. I felt that really they wanted to be in music, fashion or the arts in some capacity.
Q4. Is it tough to get men to buy accessories?
JD: Itʼs tough to get American men to buy accessories especially expensive accessories but fortunately I didnʼt set my business up to try and conquer the USA market or to solely sell to men. I export my products all over the globe thanks to the internet and many of my customers are women. I design my product to have international appeal and not to be too localized in their aesthetic. We are launching in China in 2012.
Q5. Do you think that e-commerce is the future for retail?
JD: I think it has added another excellent layer and created an accessibility that did not previously exist. We have noticed that a lot of our items go to locations far far away from major cites. Whatʼs interesting now is how some new brick/mortar stores are cropping up after the owners had founded their businesses online. A good a example being one of our New York stockistʼs CʼHʼCʼM.