When Janis Munz first began to dream up a winter Janis Studios bag release, her mind went to Christmas. "And when I think of Christmas, I think about where I grew up: the house, around the holidays, in Normandy," Munz, the founder and designer of Janis Studios, explains in a phone interview with The Zoe Report. "A lot of Normandy’s heritage is British. Tartan is very British to me."
Those childhood memories lead to the Darka Tartan, the most recent addition to Janis Studios' Darka Bag line. The Darka Tartan was released Dec. 4 amid the skyrocketing tartan trend — similar to how the Darka Leopard helped usher in fall 2018's animal print obsession — though Munz didn't plan on that.
"It’s funny, when I designed this year’s collection, I didn’t look at trend books," she says. "The fact that I thought of this without looking at trend forecasts means that I’m apart of these people that are influenced by mass unconsciousness." And how do these subconscious fashion trends form? "To me, it’s a mystery," Munz says.
Photos of the Darka Bag's utilitarian shape — a relaxed square, available in Tartan sizes "small" for $290 and "big" for $380 — made it an instant hit online via Janis Studios' Instagram. Like many great bags before it, the Darka is designed with its owner in mind; the durability and origin of the Darka Tartan's fabric was just as important as the style. "I looked at where I could find sustainable tartan, and I found a community in Scotland that makes tartan in a very old school way. It came together pretty effortlessly," Munz says.
But it did take effort to choose the Darka Tartan's colorway from the rainbow of tartans available. "Once I narrowed down which factory and community I wanted to work with, it came down to which one is the heaviest tartan," Munz explains. "Narrowed it down, narrowed it down. Then, asking people around me what they think looks best, getting a feel for what would be appreciated best by my customers, and what I liked most." The end result: a classic tartan that instantly reads as traditional, crossing cool green shades with crisp red lines.
Pulling together a bag from international strings is no stranger to Munz, a Parisian living and working in New York City. Previously, the designer up-cycled the Darka Denim's fabric from a factory in Guatemala — and found an element of authenticity when working with the small factory, or the Darka Tartan's mill. "You’re just talking to a human, instead of buying leather in bulk from Italy. It’s a very human experience," she says.
Like the other colorways in the Darka line, you have your pick from four Darka handle options when purchasing the Darka Tartan, and all handles are available for individual purchase as well. But which handle would Munz pair with the Darka Tartan, you may wonder? "That’s so hard!" Munz says. "I think the chain or the bamboo handle."
While it shares the Darka Bag line's shape and handle versatility, the Darka Tartan is slightly different than bags before it. "Every bag that we’ve dropped has been marketed to a fairly young crowd, women in their 20s to 30s, but the beauty of a tartan bag is that it can be worn by anyone from any age, or any background," Munz explains. "That’s the beauty of the holidays, it’s very intergenerational."
Generations of women, and the holiday memories they share, are woven into the fabric of the Darka Tartan for Munz. "A lot of my brand is based around my family. Darka is the middle name of all the girls in my family, my cousins, my sisters", Munz says. "Anytime I can involve traditions or family, I’ll just do it."