From TheVitrine.com, November 20, 2012, by Blaire Dessent
Interview with RJ Diaz of Industry Portage
RJ Diaz is the founder of Industry Portage. He designs a range of functional, well made, and smart looking bags that are inspired by his background in architecture and construction. But beyond the good looking bags, Industry Portage also collaborates with non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity-giving back to the community. It’s a pleasure to include some of his work on The Vitrine. Thanks to RJ for responding to my questions!
Q: When and how did you decide to make the leap to start your own business, Industry Portage?
A: I’ve always loved the intersection of function and design. This is why I love architecture and construction. In 2010, I was frustrated by the amount of money I had spent on work bags over the years and came across information on resourcing product manufacturing that gave me the courage to prototype my own designs, do some test marketing and develop a brand around my concept called Industry Portage. In hindsight, I realize that the seed for this concept was planted in 1990, when I designed and built my own bag that held the items I needed to carry around for my architecture and drawing classes at the time which included an oversize drawing pad and even a special holder for my T-square (I’m really dating myself here!).
Q: Do you have a studio where you work or where are the designs created? Is this full time for you now or do you still practice architecture/ construction?
A: I have a home studio where I keep my computer, equipment, materials/hardware samples and inspiration boards. Since I always keep my sketchbook and iPad handy, my design studio is pretty much everywhere I go. Currently, I am a also a construction management executive in New York City.
Q: How did you choose the materials? It’s definitely unique, but why the welder’s jacket?
A: I chose canvas because of its durability and versatility. The bags I’ve liked and used the most during my career in construction were made of a combination of canvas and leather. I was definitely inspired early in this process by brands such as Filson and Klein Tools and their bag designs used mostly canvas. I wanted to celebrate the craft of construction and always loved the patina of the heavy suede jackets worn by ironworkers on my jobsites. From spark burns to the softer areas of the jackets, I believed the effect would translate well to a carry bag. I also wanted to explore the ideas of upcycling, which in my mind would repurpose a utilitarian item into something of a work of art and expression of craftsmanship.
Q: Tell us about your connections to non profits such as Habitat for Humanity and Room to Read? How are they linked to Industry Portage?
A: As a father to two young children born just before Industry Portage was started, I made a conscious decision to use the brand as an extension of the advocacy work I personally believed in. The right to have a home for anyone willing to work hard as well as every child’s right to an education and play is extremely important to me. I am also an advocate for the environment and believe in the importance of thinking globally and acting locally. I am a volunteer with my community’s Green Team, which advocates for an environmentally conscious lifestyle and governance. I also love the fine arts and especially modern dance and therefore support it whenever I can.
Q: Did you take any special training when you started designing the bags or did it come naturally?
A: I did not take any formal classes but I definitely did a lot a research and spent a lot of money in my lifetime buying bags that never seemed to do exactly what I wanted.
What/Who are some of your design influences?
A: In addition to Filson and Klein Tools, my design, aesthetic, and brand influences include Harley-Davidson, Levi’s, the ‘64-1/2 Mustang, Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier, Picasso, Apple/Steve Jobs, Giacometti, Carlo Scarpa, da Vinci, mid-century furniture and industrial design, ’70s top 40 radio, construction sites, and recently Luis Barragan.
Q: What books are currently at your bedside?
A: Impact Equation by Chris Brogan, Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and Geek Dad by Ken Denmead.
Q: Favorite cocktail?
A: Greyhound or Margarita