EAM, short for "Essential Articles in the Making", is a brand from Oslo, Norway founded by Vuong Tran which specialises in handmade leather goods and articles. The small label started out as a hobby a few years ago and has now grown into a full business complete with it's own store and workshop located in the heart of the Norwegian capital. We met up with Vuong (and his buddy Sam) at his newly opened space to talk about the brand, it's products and how he ended up making handcrafted leather goods in the first place.
Firstly, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm Vuong Tran from Bergen, Norway. I work as a product designer in Oslo and in this case I work with leather.
When and how did EAM start?
EAM started about six years ago. Whenever I traveled I used to collect those typical and simple tourist wallets from the different places I visited which has grown into quite a collection throughout the years. Seven years ago I decided to quit my old job at the tea store I was working at and caught myself thinking "what the fuck should I do now?", so I went through my stuff at home and found all of these wallets again and thought to myself that "I could make this too". It started out as a hobby at first before it grew into what it is today.
What did you do before this project took off? Did you have any background within fashion or design?
I've always had an interest in design and I did go to the fashion school in Oslo, ESMOD, when I was younger. I also used to work at a clothing store named Hunting Lodge as an extra and after I quit my tea job I began to work there permanently while making leather goods on the side. I still work there three times a week, the people there are like family and I love working at the store. EAM's physical space is relatively new so it's just open Thursday till Sunday at the moment.
Your products are all handcrafted and of very high quality, did you ever work with leather before this project started?
No, not at all but I've always been fond of leather products and the relationship between man and material. To me it's significant that my products are recognisable as well. The branding is quite minimal so it's important to me that a potential customer remembers my items because of the product itself and not because of the logo.
Amongst your products we find everything from wallets, bags and other accessories to homeware goods such as a wrapped dim sum bamboo steamer but you've also made items such as a dog harness for your friend Sam here and something inspired by the McDonald's frie cup. How do you choose what to make next? What's the design process?
The McDonald's frie cup is just a contemporary thing which I'm quite interested in. I like making random things but that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm making it for profit but rather to show some variation in my work. Those who get it, get it and those who don't will do so eventually. It's just for my own enjoyment, I believe it's important to have fun at work too!
"I want my products to be seamless and the feeling you get when holding them is very important to me"
The design process is very fluent and often stretches over a certain period of time. Some of the products I'm making now wouldn't have been possible for me to create two years ago. I don't draw down my ideas on a piece of paper and try to make it as close as possible to the sketch. That's very industrial to me. Like sketching up an idea and sending it off to a factory before getting a sample back and then realising that you'll have to make changes again in order to get the wanted result. I'm working with the product from start to finish, shaping it along the way. If a problem occurs I'll see it right away and work around it.
I want my products to be seamless and the feeling you get when holding them is very important to me, like the weight and shape. A lot of mye clients and customers want to hold the products in their hand and feel them. Everyone can learn how to sew and the quality will always be the same, leather will always be leather but is it something you'll remember? It's important to me that it's a well made article and nice to look at as well.
You mentioned earlier that everything started with the wallets you've been collecting, did you always want to make something of your own? Where you searching for a place to start or did it just happen organically?
I've always wanted to be a designer, always. I'm not going to sit here and say that I was born to be one, it's been a very long road. I've often been like "fuck this" before I sit down and realise that "this is something I really like to do".
I've spent so much time on these products which makes me think that "making this bag was hard but if I can do that I can surely make a lot of other things as well". The hardest part has probably been to make my work and products known to people but that's been gradually changing over the years.
Do you have a specific audience for the brand?
Whoever buys and appreciate my products makes me satisfied.
The store is almost brand new (congratulations), are there any future plans for the brand right now? New products or projects?
I hope I'll be able to expand the store in the future and get a few more people to join the team. The name stands for Essential Articles in the Making so there's always new products waiting to be made. I've also got a few different collaborations and projects coming up soon which will be revealed at a later point.