Backpack – a very useful and timeless ware which helps you to store your personal things in one place. Known since the ancient times when it has been used to carry a hunter’s larger game and other sorts of prey. Looks like nothing has changed through the ages just with a small difference that nowadays, we can not claim anymore that it is just the clobber of the classroom. Backpacks are having a real fashion moment right now. Undoubted pioneer of colorful, 60’s and 70’s era inspired old school backpacks in Budapest is Balázs Lakatos – founder of the brand – YKRA. If you don’t see him hiking, he can be surely spotted in Telep – Budapest surfer’s mecca, where he has his store, upstairs.
Since I was (and still I am) a frequent guest of Telep (few of my friends were even joking that I deserve my personal chair there), I was always wondering about what all those guys coming regularly, carry in their backpacks? Today I realized, that even if their backpacks are absolutely empty, they are just too engaging to be left at home. Why? Because they are from YKRA, and this brand speaks for itself. When I saw their first look book, I was in a serious shock – never seen more beautiful and innocent (at the same time) photo shoot. Looks like in XXI century capitalist world, you are still able to find an enthusiastic group of people who are the living proof of purity and life in harmony with nature. This is something really good and worth to follow.
My curiosity won as usual, and here we go with my newest interview with designer of YKRA bags – Balázs Lakatos
The Spoiled Queen: ’Ikra’ in Polish means fish eggs, but somehow it’s hard to believe that this could be an inspiration for your brand name. Could you tell me what does YKRA stands for?
It’s actually the same in Hungarian and in most languages! When I came up with the brand i was looking for a good name. For me that meant, that it had to be short and easily memorizable. But I quickly found that most four letter words are taken by big brands. So I started at words with letters that were not so popular. Y is like that. You don’t have that many words that start with Y. Then it was just a play with letters essentially. It popped out of my head and even though it means ikra or fish eggs in most languages, I though it sounds and looks good, so I went with that. It was a very conscious choice and looking back I feel it was a good one. I feel that we are giving meaning to this word, that for many people it has no connotation other than our backpacks.
The Spoiled Queen: You are the main designer for YKRA backpacks. Why such kind of accessories? What was the first impulse to start your brand?
I studied history at the Sorbonne in Paris and felt like I just had to come back to Budapest, because there were so many awesome projects going on. I worked for some time managing a design store, then partnered into a design shoe business and as it was falling apart, I felt that I could do much better. I learned to sew and started making the prototypes for my dream backpack. At the time I spent a lot of time just researching fashion trends online. I was convinced backpacks were coming back in a big way. I knew I didn’t want to work with shoes again for a while, because of all the issues with the sizes. I wanted to make a brand that would be successful out of Budapest. We don’t really have any Hungarian brands that are internationally known and I wanted to change that. It turns out it’s easier said than done!
The Spoiled Queen: Not sure if you are aware of fact, that your backpacks are not only durable and practical items while hiking, but they are also extremely fashionable. What is your main source of inspiration?
I had this vision of mixing my eastern block soviet era inspired aesthetic with the traditional mountain climbing backpacks. For me that meant bright primary colors and traditional materials. I am inspired a lot by vintage backpacks, and accessories. I do tend to find inspiration almost everywhere, I am pretty open in that way. I dream things up in my head, then put it on paper, then I make models, and finally prototypes. Then I look at the finished product and search for the flaws. I’d say that for every successful design there are five that go into the trash because I am not satisfied. But the one we will actually sell will be awesome. For our seasonal collections, I like to work with graphic designers that I look up to. I like to give them a clear idea of what I want to see then I tell them to ignore what I said and interpret it freely. It’s a little mind trick but it works magic! Some of the art on the backpacks we are working on now is mine but I am a bit shy about using it. I am a very visual person and it would be impossible for me to describe the multitude of inspirations, but I think a glance at my Pinterest account says everything about it very clearly.
The Spoiled Queen: I am absolutely in love with YKRA look book. It’s really pure and gives me the feeling of cradling in the bosom of nature. Could you tell me how the complete process goes like?
We are too small a company to go head on with the big competitors. We don’t have a ton of money to fly out somewhere to do a photo shoot. We’ve never done a shoot more then 30km from Budapest. Also from the beginning We’ve been working with my best friend Gabor Somosköi who now does Kezemura ceramics, but who has an incredible eye for photography. I like to credit him for our wonderful lookbooks, because he knows exactly what I want to see, and then some! It’s super exciting to work with him because of his awesome eye for beauty! We ask friends to come hiking and dress them to match this 70’s inspired YKRA style. The goal is to make it look real, like we still wore those clothes and went hiking like that. It’s because I am totally in love with that era in fashion. Not haute couture but street fashion and outdoor clothing And sports accessories. All colorful and nylon! Our lookbooks are a dream world where that era never ended.
The Spoiled Queen: Recently, you have collaborated with a famous Hungarian designer – Dori Tomcsanyi. How did it begin and what can we expect in future?
I’ve known Dori Tomcsányi for a long time and she’s a good friend! It was a natural choice to work with her! She’s awesome! I think she’s super talented and I am very proud of her success internationally. Some of our most beautiful backpacks come from collaborating with her, so we will keep this partnership going. For this season we will be making a new limited series for her upcoming PET Bottle collection! I can’t say more but there is some exciting things to come! Definitely something to watch out for for the fashionistas!
The Spoiled Queen: When I visited YKRA store last time, I spotted few clothes. Do you have some plans to diversify your scope of designs?
Yeah, definitely! We’ve been thinking about making clothing from the beginning but that’s something we’ve not yet been able to achieve. It’s our plan to stick to backpacks and accessories for a while. YKRA is just now starting to grow. We’ve been working very hard in these past 3 years and we are very proud of going so far from virtually no money and small workshop in the basement of a bar. But it’s very difficult and I’ve not yet had time to design clothing. It’s because we do everything ourselves! Last year we had the opportunity to work with HENRIK VIBSKOV on a special limited edition backpack of his Africa print , and for a long time I didn’t really know who he was, I just liked what I saw. I don’t follow fashion cause what we try to do is pretty timeless to me. For me it’s like our backpacks are a snapshot from a time gone by. It’s a classic. We won’t change them just because the trends are changing. Then recently I got a book about HENRIK from Gestalten, and read it, and was super impressed and inspired. Like I had the chance to work with a renaissance master, who is so way ahead of everyone else, a real avant-garde artist without really knowing it. But I’ve been studying what he does and it’s very very inspiring. I would love to go into clothing, but I still have to learn a lot, and maybe it won’t be anytime soon. For now I’m making new backpacks for men, wallets and other carry items. I’d like to take YKRA to new heights, before I start something new.
The Spoiled Queen: What is the biggest dream of YKRA crew? And what would you like me to wish them?
It’s hard to say. It seems like the world has changed so much in the past few years, and I now see thing in a very different light then when we started. We will never be a mainstream brand, and that’s ok. We’re special and we like that. Our long term goal for YKRA is to stay this way, and at the same time be able to live well from our work. We like to work, and we have a super talented and motivated young team led by my fiance Judit Balogh who is the talented woman behind the success of YKRA. We just want to stay true to our brand and grow it in a responsible and sustainable way! Wish us a long life and many kids!
Even if the founder’s intention was to create a useful and durable item, wrong might be the one who claims, that backpacks are useful only while hiking or going for some trip. Personally, I think that this product can easily replace any of your bags or clutches and become your new, stylish pouch.
If you are a boho girl
Wish to be updated with the latest news? Follow YKRA crew on their Facebook and Instagram, and don’t forget to pay a visit to their store (Madách Imre út 8) while visiting Budapest! Curious about the rest of unique designs? Just visit their online shop.
What’s your opinion about backpacks? Would you wear it instead of bag?