Meet LESS BORE, the Barcelona-Based Brand Creating ‘Austere Luxury’ for a Sustainable Future

Read why founder Ander Azkarate is obsessed with minimal production and pick up a bag yourself this Friday at the HEROINES store launch party in Copenhagen.

Twenty years ago, luxury meant dropping a fortune on a luggage set plastered with Louis Vuitton logos and parading it around for as many people as possible to see. Today, luxury has taken on a rather different meaning, especially for the millennial generation: it’s not about flaunting a big logo but taking pride in the lack of one. Especially in the Nordics, more minimalist-looking the better, and the more classic the materials the more luxurious the item (for reference, see Wood Wood, Acne, Our Legacy, Filippa K, Han Kjøbenhavn… you get the idea.) However, modern luxury is also about a local attitude—as in, supporting small producers and hand-crafters you believe in with sustainable visions. And despite the fact that millennials are supposedly way worse off than our predecessors due to the baby boomers essentially screwing stuff up in terms of economic stability for their kids, we’re still projected to become the largest spending generation in history by 2035. Point being, millennials are definitely spending on luxury, but their definition of luxury has dramatically shifted—which makes room for brands like Less Bore to thrive.

Founded a few years ago by trained furniture designer Ander Azkarate, the Barcelona-based brand makes exquisitely beautiful, leather and simple handbags. And by ‘brand’, we really just mean Azkarate: currently, he conceptualizes and builds each and every handbag by himself from his studio. In fact, the conceptualizing is what makes Azkarate’s brand stand out from other producers of handcrafted new luxury items; his vision is precise to the tiniest detail. For example, he specifically defines Less Bore as ‘austere luxury’—a reflection of his hunt to design something that is limited to the barest of essentials in the production process. To Azkarate, this inherent hunt for minimalism allows him to create the sustainability he’s aiming for—the kind that happens to reflect very well with today’s millennial consumer.

You can see and buy Less Bore’s bags for yourself this Friday in Copenhagen at the launch party for Heroines, a new accessories and jewellery store that’s just opened up in the heart of Copenhagen. In the meantime, get to know Less Bore below and learn about how minimal production is the key to empowering small brands and building a sustainable future.

GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Hi, Ander. What’s the concept behind LESS BORE?

Ander Azkarate: This is one of those really complicated questions; I never know exactly how to answer. I am a designer and not a writer or philosopher, so my job is to communicate with materials and forms what I cannot with words. What I can definitely explain, though, is where the name of the brand comes from. It is a contradiction in itself, coming from the 60s-70s architectural movement that claimed “less is a bore” in spite of “less is more”. By then, architecture started offering more postmodern designs and abandoning minimalistic and conceptual buildings in order to create places like Disneyland—merging classical imitation decoration with modern building techniques.

It sounds amusing, but in my opinion what’s wrong with our postmodern world is that we have almost forgotten simple and well-designed stuff. For example: when you want to buy a simple box to wrap a gift for a friend, you will easily find boxes with lots of motifs on them, like kittens or textures. But where can we find those simple brown boxes made of Kraft paper?

I start from the fact that for me, a good design is an object that could not be better designed; when it needs no changes and works beautifully. In short, I would love to find those simple kraft-paper boxes as easily as the decorated ones.

How do you want your products to make women feel?

A woman wearing a Less Bore bag should feel strong and empowered for daily life without losing any femininity. A woman is not a flower base that needs decoration to feel feminine; women are strong and empathic and overall, they are vital to changing our society into a more feminist one. Moreover, the key to creating change in a society where consumption habits are environmentally unsustainable is transforming the production systems. Hand-crafters are key to a more conscious consumption; they value higher quality over quantity.

What’s your favourite material to work with and why?

I studied fine arts and furniture design, so it is not about the material itself but the idea, the concept. For me the most relevant material is the design, where I actually invest the most of my time. It’s about eliminating the unnecessary and building a handbag that is so simple to make but so complicated to conceive.

What makes Less Bore unique, in my opinion, is that we create austere luxury. It is not about producing minimal-looking handbags, but making them minimal in the manufacturing process. So behind that simple image lies the hard task of eliminating the unnecessary and leaving just the essential in order to be functional and aesthetic. I love the language of nude materials, so I give prominence to the character of the material, gladly showing that each handbag has been made from two leather layers and a couple hand-stitched seams as well as stainless steel hardware. I believe that the ability to observe how simply the bag has been built is pure luxury.

You’re based in Barcelona. What’s the creative scene like for emerging fashion brands there?

Spain is probably one of the biggest fashion manufacturers in Europe. This means that there are many excellent colleges and universities teaching fashion design, so we have very proficient designers all over. The thing is that it’s not the same to design for big companies with millions of units produced as to design for small productions. Big companies are not looking for stories behind each product, but good prices for big amounts of clients. It turns out the work you do can’t be all that creative at one of those big companies. So we are many young designers trying to produce slow-fashion versus fast-fashion, and that makes a community in which there is a lot of synergy. Nevertheless, the local people cannot afford to buy our products and we focus much more on countries such as Denmark where the economical situation is better and clients are used to consuming more sustainably—quality versus quantity.

Are there any clear influences behind the look of your products? Specific designers, art movements, creatives…?

Yes, indeed. However, many of my influences are not from the fashion industry but from furniture design. I always mention the excellent designer Miguel Milá who designs austere luxury like Less Bore does—starting from the principle that minimalism is not an appearance but a production system. And handcraft is the way of producing it.

Let’s say I buy a bag. Tell me its story—from the creation of the idea behind it, the production process to the finish line where it’s in store and in my hand.

You can find two product lines on our catalog. The first line is the Mecano bags; the name comes from the Meccano toy. They were named that way because the first handbag samples where made out of screws and nuts, without any seams on them. It is true that I have added a couple seams on the back of the bags, but I am still using stainless steel screws and nuts as I think they are beautiful and functional.

The second line is the luxury line in which the majority of the bags take a woman’s name. As I am Basque (a little region between France and Spain), even if I am living in Barcelona, I always use Basque female names within my designs. Basque language is one of the oldest languages in Europe, so those female names cannot be translated to other language; this makes them unique, as they do not have any Christian root. For example Maddi, the name of one of our best-selling bags, is a name of a Basque pre-Christian goddess and the name of a person I love.

What’s your personal favourite item you’ve made and why?

I would certainly say that the Libe bag is my favourite one. It is made so simply, so smart, and its name means ‘freedom’ in Basque. It is the name of my niece and the way I would like a woman to feel wearing the bag.

What are the pros and cons of running an emerging luxury brand?

I would say that being a luxury brand is the only way for a hand-crafter and designer to exist in contrast to big companies. Slow fashion is always expensive. It depends, of course, on what we consider luxury is, anyway. If luxury is paying an astronomic amount of money for a brand product just because of the visible logo, then there’s no doubt that what I do is not luxury. But if luxury is buying a high quality product produced in the best way on a human scale, locally-minded and respecting the environment and people producing the items, then we do produce luxury.

What’s your set up like? Do you have a team or are you on your own?

It’s me, myself and I. I am the designer and hand-crafter and I produce it all at my tiny studio at the moment, even if my next step will be producing in a bigger workshop.

On the one hand, though, I can count on fantastic collaborations with people such as the artists Manel Ros and Anna Bennet who always help me produce campaigns and communication images.

And on the other hand, I can count on people such as Henrik and Sine from This Time Tomorrow Agency in Copenhagen who understand the brand and the product perfectly. They believed that the brand is a good one and decided to present it in Denmark and the Scandinavian countries.

What’s coming up next for Less Bore?

Next season? Nude colour on the whole collection. In the future? I am expecting very exciting things. Things like changing leather for plastics and other material, such as paper, to produce vegan-friendly bags. But I’ll still be working on establishing Less Bore as a high quality, luxury handbags brand.

What piece of advice would you give anyone who is thinking about starting up their own fashion brand?

Love what you are going to do. You are going to invest loads of time on the project, so love it. It’s not about the money; never wait until you have money to start. It’s not about having a perfect product—just release it and listen to what clients think in order to improve it. Love what you do and no matter what, it will for sure work. And always listen to what people think and recommend—they know much more than you do.

Thanks, Ander.