Architect-Designed Label M.R.K.T. Is Finally Launching Women's Bags

The LA-based brand's first ladies line lands tomorrow.

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If you, like us, have never met a minimalist-cool bag you didn't like, then make space in your closet for M.R.K.T. After designing commuter-friendly felt carryalls for the last seven years, the Los Angeles-based unisex brand finally launching a women's collection for spring/summer 2017.

Founded by Harvard-trained architect Tom Pen, M.R.K.T. is rolling out five new sleek silhouettes inspired by the pastel palette of natural landscapes. Dubbed "Urban Oasis," the collection includes a vegan leather bucket bag in blush or stone ($99), a convertible backpack available in four soft hues ($115), a sleek shoulder bag made of microsuede and SMRT felt ($135), a two-toned microsuede tote ($145), and a roomy and reversible tote bag available in ($149). Just like the rest of Pen's versatile carryalls, the women's range fits right in with on-the-go lifestyles.

Scroll through the gallery above to see the full collection before it lands on M.R.K.T.'s website tomorrow, then read on below to get to know Pen and the inspiration behind his new line.

What's the story behind the brand name, Mad Rabbit Kicking Tiger?

We started out as a small shop called MRKT, short for "Market," next to my architecture studio. When we decided to turn our small collection of products into a fashion brand, the name just didn't work, but we were already quite well-known in the neighborhood, so I thought we should rename MRKT into an acronym. Thus, M.R.K.T. was born.

I'm a bit of a creative free-spirit, so I always have the proclivity to use ridiculous names for serious work. Our architecture firm is called MRT or Monkey Rides Tiger, so you can see why "Mad Rabbit Kicking Tiger" makes complete sense to me. For everyone else, the name conveys a sense of purpose, drive, and creativity in everyday life. We want to make products for people who live and breathe that daily hustle.

Do you still take on architecture projects? What led you to creating a bag line, and were you already considering a foray into fashion while at Harvard?

Aside from M.R.K.T., I represent developers in working with architects. In others words, I don't have a firm anymore, but I still practice architectural design. At school, I realized the subjectivity of the creative process and the final product is as much about storytelling as it is about inherent physical qualities. I think that is the basis of brand building, which is very interesting to me — consumers need to know within a few seconds whether they want to buy your product and story. I like that challenge. I have always been conscious of fashion, but it's not what drives me.

Why is it important for you to use vegan-friendly materials?

We live in the 21st century, and the fashion industry as a whole has created a lot of great materials that perform much better than animal skin. As a contemporary brand, it's our responsibility to create the most convincing and durable products for like minded consumers. The cruelty-free and environmental friendly results of our material choices are a bonus.

What inspired you to (finally!) release a women's collection seven years after starting the brand?

There's an understanding that women use men's things, but men don't use women's things. So we had to build our base as a men's and unisex brand before focusing on a women's-only collection. That said, we are very proud of our first collection, and wished we had done it earlier. (Editor's note: Us too!)

What specific landscapes/locations inspired the collection, and how has LA had an influence in your designs?

I believe that there is this contemporary look and style that is inevitable. This is true for all design disciplines — whether it's the iPhone, Tesla cars, Tadao Ando architecture, or COS clothes — the minimalist clean-cut environment, products, and fashion seem to be most rational and tasteful for urban inhabitants. M.R.K.T. works with this stylistic diaspora and searches for the best form and utility that best express this ultimate contemporary movement.

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