Open Circle Lab
Illusions of Lightness
Shining a new light on leather aesthetics, functionality and longevity, we connected with startup brand Isochron, during the 1017 ALYX 9SM and HXOUSE event.
From a shared perspective of conscious brand building, offering tools and materials created mindful to the environment, the event allowed us to personally introduce innovation in leather, evaporating any stigma of working with leather in the future.
“When we saw the leather hides in person at the ECCO Leather workshop hosted by HXOUSE and 1017 ALYX 9SM, we were struck by the beautiful textural quality of the Dyneema® fused leather and the unparalleled transparency of Apparition. We knew that if we had the opportunity to use Apparition and FSDX fused leather in concept-wear pieces that really highlight how spectacular these leathers are, we’d finally be able to execute some ideas that we’d been waiting for the perfect materials for.” – Matt and Yiu Hei, Isochron.
“At the most basic level we create products using precious metals that are meant to last lifetimes - they grow with you as you tarnish and wear down these once-pristine items, and while we haven’t aged to that point yet, we hope they will carry your story onwards as you pass these relics onto your loved ones.” - Yiu Hei.
With a degree in architecture [Yiu Hei] and math and computer science [Matt], jewelry making became a merge of shared interests between both.
“Our friendship is rooted in a project we never finished; we wanted to make an ergonomic camera bag that utilized a 3D pattern out of Dyneema® due to it’s high tensile strength and low weight. We didn’t quite understand patterning at the time, and went about it with some pretty silly methods. We went about it all wrong, and ultimately complicated the process enough to prevent us from completing it.”
Marrying expertise, Matt and Yiu Hei initially started combining leatherwork and metalcraft in silver hardware for the bag-collection. While the idea of metal and leather accessories are common in the form of belts and wrist bands, you rarely see the two integrated in a homogenous manner. What’s unique about the ‘Illusions of lightness’ collection is the design integrating leather and jewelry.
“I had long wanted to incorporate leather in some way because jewelry can be so much more than how most people conceive it. Naturally leather presents a different set of challenges in jewelry. How do you secure the leather to the metal? How do you ensure the metal’s lifespan doesn’t greatly surpass the leather’s?“ – said Matt.
‘I wanted to highlight Apparition’s feature quality, its translucence, in one of the designs in the collection. I had made some silver glasses frames before, and I realized this would be the perfect application for showing the effect of the leather. Although you can’t actually see through the leather “lenses” while wearing the frames because they still have the texture of leather, you can see areas of light, shadow, and darkness. The process of conceptualizing this design led to the naming of the collection- Illusions of Lightness.’ – Matt
Reminiscing is often referred to as “looking through rose-tinted glasses”; we indulge in the illusions our mind creates by looking only at the aspects of our past that bring us joy. In doing so, we choose to be blind to the hardships mixed into the times we reflect fondly on. By applying Apparition, a material that plays visual tricks and incites you to question the boundaries you know, in place of lenses on a pair of glasses, we’ve formed a physical manifestation of this action - an object that resembles a piece of corrective eyewear that does the exact opposite of its intended function.
Being interested in cutting edge materials, Matt and Yiu Hei were familiar with ECCO Leather’s experimentally designed leathers. Whilst experimenting with Dyneema® composite they soon realized FSDX would be the perfect balance between Dyneema®’s lightness and traditional substance and feel of leather.
“I have had my eyes on FSDX and Apparition for a few years. Naturally, when I began to sew I gravitated towards leather; a natural material known to withstand heavy use given that you care for it over time. That last aspect - the care - stuck with me and triggered my dive into leathercraft. Like buildings, the more you use a leather bag the more you need to maintain it, and in turn, the better you maintain it, the longer it lasts.” – Yiu Hei
One of the themes explored by Isochron is the connection of history of materials utilized in a new context. Isochron uses materials that act as personal reminders to people, places, things and experiences. The two materials tell vastly different stories, but in combination they will share a new one.“
“I was super excited introducing leather into our designs because of the juxtaposition between organic materials and a material as cold and elemental as silver. One comes from the earth and will eventually return to it, while the other belonged to an animal not so long ago. To my opinion, leather more so than other organic materials that are used in jewelry- wood, corals, shells, etc. holds a closer connection to a once living organism.” – Matt
Isochron’s distinctive originality enables a new emotional attachment. “Leather, like silver, is seen as a naturally occuring luxury material that is precious yet hardy. Both materials can last many lifetimes under proper care. As such, a piece of jewelry or an accessory made of leather and silver can very much act as a record of one’s life in the form of a trinket that one forms a bond with over time.” – Yiu Hei
What makes Apparition leather unique is the way it responds to light, showing similarities to gemstones from a jewelry point of view. This perspective created Apparition leather to become a primary element in each design.
Working with Apparition leather proved to be a learning curve. The leather’s responsiveness to water and abrasion had to be addressed together with the relevance of today’s emphasis on hand sanitation.
Adding functionality to design, the leather received an additional protective layer to make Apparition less susceptible to constant growth/shrinkage and abrasion, extending the lifespan of the leather.
“While experimenting with wax, glue, and epoxy systems as a protective layer I realized this allowed the opportunity to play with phosphorescent pigments, allowing the leather to glow in the dark while maintaining its natural appearance in daylight. We’ve been really excited about how we can apply this in other designs in the collection.” – Matt
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It’s not a pursuit of originality for its own sake, it’s the earnest attempt at fostering a deeper appreciation for jewelry as a both art and a craft by showing people new possibilities of what jewelry can be.
“There’s a saying that “there is no such thing as a new idea” and while I can’t disprove that claim I want to help people experience something they haven’t been exposed to before. If I resign to that idea there is no originality and make something that has already been made, then I’m just creating unnecessary waste; and that contradicts our personal values amongst the whole team.” – said Matt.
The brand explores human confrontation with passing time through design. The products are inspired by the many facets of this confrontation: from monolithic pieces that reflect one’s desire to leave a legacy larger than themselves to nest-like pieces seemingly composed of intertwined silver strands that represent the milestones that define one’s life.