Never has the line between fashion and functionality been so blurred as with nu-luxury London designers New Ultra Group, whose futuristic handbags, clutches, and cases are perfect for your all lifestyle needs. NewUltraGroup, who see themselves more as a “lifestyle company” than a straight-up design house, was founded in 2012 by Rike Detscher and Sarah Hartnett, two artists for whom the Internet is more about expression than consumption. We recently spoke to them about their muses, what separates them from their more established competitors, and the fetishization of technology.
You released a collection of luxury accessories. Tell us a bit more about them. We released a Capsule collection online consisting of three large bags, a range of iPad/tablet cases, and a range of clutches (available to customize), a selection of which are now available in The BULLETT Shop. We actually decided to focus on the technology range before launching products such as clutches and shopper bags, because tablets are such an integral part to our current tool kit. This is especially true within the creative industries: technology is fetishised, worn as an accessory.
The collection sits comfortably in the price range of Louis Vuitton and Givenchy handbags that women (and men) sit patiently on wait lists for, hoping to be given the opportunity to purchase. Where does NewUltraGroup’s brand fit into this cultural mechanism?
Brands like Louis Vuitton have been in the spotlight for well over 100 years and people are still waiting in line for their bags because they’re a safe bet, and probably because Marc Jacobs has reinvigorated the message. Things are getting humorous and weird, the post-internet consumer is more sophisticated with their choices, editing, closing tabs/reopening, mood boarding, stacking. Relationships form around brands in an intense and passionate way. We want this at some point, but it needs to be earned, people need to trust us. Being hyper aware of online and AFK presence creates a depth of knowledge for future progress and instantaneous connection with an audience, collaborators, and potential investors.
NewUltraGroup seems to be very sensitive to the macro and micro relationships we have with technology. Can you expand on that?
We ‘built’ the bags around the objects and products people curate into their bags on a daily basis: beauty essentials, technology, books, etc. Emptying someones bag out is like laying their life out on the table, an intimate space. This concept echoes in the technology that’s being carried from place to place, smartphones and tablets–we’re all connected, constantly, even though we may be uneasy about it. We bare all on Facebook, or conceal ourselves behind alter egos and avatars. This memory is stamped into our devices, we change the layout/screen savers/functionality, effectively giving it our personality, whilst generally still not knowing how this technology actually works. Our various blogs and videos are explorations into this virtual emotional environment.
Hopefully we’ll develop potent connections with people by promoting a harmonious, healthy relationship to technology via our brand, or simply accompany them within the hyper connected daily trauma.
Does NewUltraGroup have a muse?
There are figures in history we’d evoke when designing, such as Alma Mahler and Eileen Gray, but women who surround us in our immediate creative zone are probably the most relevant: artists, musicians.We bolster the essence of the active, spiritual and creative woman; our products are made with their functionality needs and sensuality in mind. Mostly their work is strapped to them, sometimes traumatically: iPhones under the pillow, laptop at the foot of the bed.
We also think our products look beautiful on men: we used a male model for the first shoot of our iPad/tablet cases for instance, and another recently who has some beautiful stick and poke tattoos on his fingers and palms. Maybe the muse is a life logger; they’d have to be unashamed; as unashamed as the bags with their mesh panels, obscuring yet revealing their contents.
To me, what sets the bags apart from a Gucci or Louis Vuitton is that your product has been birthed IN technology. Older houses have rushed to catch up and seem to continually miss the mark of designing a decent iPad holder, or slightly enlarging a bag to hold a small laptop.|
It was natural for us to start ‘within’ technology. We started building things online before we’d even made any products. I guess this is why some people still don’t believe they exist! In a way the Internet is where we started experimenting and communicating the most, which continues due to convenience and connectivity. We have minimal stock of the clutches and cases, and the larger bags are made to order. The jpegs online are our currency within the melancholy of social networks.
What’s next for you? We work in series: collections rather than seasons. The vision of these collections will be translated and interpreted via the production and development of not just bags, but objects, garments and events that materialize at the most relevant time for their existence as our emotions, collaborations, technologies and trends progress, within and outside our brand. Before 2013 ends we’re shooting a couple of editorials, planning a club night and a store launch. We’re also working on a couple of new websites, a line of coat and jackets, some new products for the emergent storm of wearable technology and a table.