Wearable art is becoming a thing in Detroit, thanks to one local brand and artist.
Detroit Denim Co, a denim company specializing in made-to-order items, is collaborating with Detroit artist Mike Han for a limited edition “Blackout Bag” design to highlight intentional, wearable art. There are only eight bags being made for this collection, and each will be unique. The bags are being made available starting at 11 am on Tuesday to Detroit Denim and Mike Han email subscribers. If the bags don’t sell, they will be available for public sale on Friday.
“We hope this becomes a series. We just love the experience of working with artists and kind of stretching our wings in terms of what we can do and what we can make outside of just the jeans,” said Detroit Denim co-owner Brenna Lane. . “It’s a lot of fun for us.”
Detroit Denim Co was created in 2010 by Eric Yelsma and co-owner Lane.
“From the Cordura nylon we chose to the webbing handles to the leather, to the deadstock Cone Mills lining, every piece of this is really, really thoughtful,” she said. “We sourced stuff that is really sturdy and it’s a little bit of an over-engineered bag, but I feel it should be. It’s got that Detroit sturdiness to it.”
The Blackout Bag is a hand-stitched, medium, two-handle nylon bag that features Korean-inspired calligraphy paintings on it by Han. His artwork typically includes sharp contrasts “to illuminate life’s ubiquitous truths.” He also works on manufactured, hand-crafted, or found objects that have a component of sustainability.
“The painting is sort of my visual language,” said Han. “There’s the alphabet, where I have sort of a finite amount of standard shapes, geometric and organic. But the combinations of them are very much like my fingerprint, or snowflakes where at first glance they resemble the same thing but each one is absolutely unique .”
Han also added that the pattern on the bag is unique not only on the exterior but also on the interior.
“It’s not like a pattern that’s printed,” he said. “That actually happens on the inside of the bag, on the pocket where I’ve even engineered the printing. I’m carving into a material directly, just like I paint on this directly, where if I mess up on the carving, it ‘ll show but then that print is rotated and altered so that each pocket that’s printed, will also have a unique variation in how that’s made. Both the inside and exterior of the eight bags will be entirely unique.”
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The pressure was on with making this bag because there was no room for mistakes, Han said.
“I can’t mess up, I’m not allowed to,” he said. “We don’t have backup bags, there’s eight, that pressure is very hard. It’s very hard for me to create, which is weird. I think people think I really enjoy making things, but making things is really hard for me because I feel like there’s a responsibility in the thing that’s made.”
Han didn’t have a grand reason behind only making eight bags.
“I’m obsessed with the number eight,” he said. ” I like it from a quantity standpoint to me, it felt right in terms of the scale, because these things are a premium product and, of course limited. The number eight is also if you tilt it on its side, the symbol for infinity . I love this idea of thinking about the whole lifecycle of the design, of art, the things that humans make. My hope for this bag is that it becomes a Detroit heirloom, something that you love and cherish during your lifetime.”
The Blackout Bag also has an embossed luggage tag, with an authenticity card.
Bags will retail for approximately $2,000, and all bags will be made in January and then shipped out.
“We really liked the way it played on this idea of a really sturdy, solid bag with something that might feel a little bit more delicate,” said Lane “It’s like wearable art, you’re taking it around, into the streets, and carrying it with you in your life. This isn’t something that’s in a museum or on a wall, or you’re trying to keep fingerprints off of so that’s what I got there.”
Lane said that she hopes this isn’t the last time they work with Han. The two brands have been friends for quite some time now but this is the biggest collaboration yet.
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“This bag is kind of capturing a moment in time for us,” she said “We’re making eight of these, that’s it. If we work together in the future, who knows what it’ll look like, but there will only ever be eight of this bag in the world.”
Detroit Denim Co. is also getting ready to open its retail store on Saturday.
“We’re really excited, we’re finally opening a store,” she said. “We shut down our store during the pandemic and after two and a half years of being online only, we are just ecstatic to be reopening a brick- and-mortar retail space.
Detroit Denim is located at 4240 Cass Ave., Detroit.