olend backpack in green

I came across Ölend the way one usually finds beautiful things: by accident. And when I discover something this unique, I go to great lengths to find out all about it. Adriana Dumon and Fran Rios started making backpacks by hand for their friends. They loved doing this so much that they turned it into a business. Ölend is an example of the comeback of slow fashion – a return to small-batch production and the use of locally-sourced materials. The Barcelona natives’ love for the craft is what keeps their young entrepreneurial spirits alive, despite a dismal Spanish economy that does not readily support young business owners. Inspired by the alpinist’s packs of the 50s, each canvas backpack is made-to-order, and all colors and trims are picked by the customer. People are catching on and business is flourishing. Even in the midst of a full schedule of orders, Adriana still took the time to answer my questions.olend backpacks lookbook spring 2014 collection

What made you guys decide to make all backpacks by hand and custom-made?
We liked the idea of offering our customers the option to design their own backpacks. The option to have something unique that nobody else has is an interesting feature that customers really value. It’s also our way of answering to the needs of the current market, where mass production has saturated the ability to differentiate. Being able to listen to the customer, find out what they need, and making sure they’re satisfied is very important to us.

 Do you think it’s a viable way to continue making backpacks as you grow?
Right now we’re working very hard to find a balance between growth and remaining true to our brand spirit. We believe there has to be a sustainable way to grow without giving up the principles which founded Ölend.
olend backpacks lookbook spring 2014 collection
What is the hardest thing about being entrepreneurs with a small business?
The hardest thing we’ve found is the current textile industry in Spain and the administrative and fiscal disadvantage from which entrepreneurs are forced to start. On the one hand, the sector is closed off to new and alternative projects, the generational gap is huge, and there are still companies who do not understand that a young person can start a business with a computer. And on the other hand, though it may sound cliche, the situation entrepreneurs face in this country is incredibly precarious. The economic pressure which we face from the outset is truly incomprehensible and unfair, aside from the way it erodes the production capacities and skews an entrepreneur’s profile based on economic resources rather than ideas or project viability.

And what do you like most about it?
What we like the most about working on this is dedicating ourselves to something we are passionate about. Being a part of an adventure like Ölend makes us very fortunate people in many ways, and seeing our customer’s positive reactions to our dedication and daily hard work, makes us truly happy.

Check out their beautiful lookbook and online shop at their website:
[Photo credit: c/o Ölend]