Photography by Lasse Fløde
After watching too many tutorials on YouTube, product designer Vuong Tran felt stuck. He found himself so concerned with finding smart techniques and learning the skill of his craft, he'd forgotten to focus on what interested him the most: the possibilities of the material. One day, as he was sitting at his kitchen table, staring at a small piece of leather, he asked himself: ‘instead of sketching and planning everything first, what if I just work with the material?’ The same day he made his first two-piece constructed cardholder, in high-quality leather. Five years later it still exists as the core and bestselling product of his brand, Essential Articles in the Making—EAM.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Vuong Tran and I have a background in fashion. I went to Esmod for three years, but I didn’t always show up to class and was regularly late, so I was forced to quit before the last semester. To be honest, I was more curious about learning the art of patternmaking than the business of the fashion industry, so now I’m not sure if it was a smart move or not. Basically, I got kicked out for not playing by the rules. And I guess that’s who I am: doing what suits me as a designer and making the rules as I go.
Besides running my own brand, EAM, I’ve been working as floor manager at Hunting Lodge for the last five years. It’s a concept store in Grünerløkka, Oslo. During my time here, I’ve learned a lot about retail and trading, as well as expanding my network. As my first stockist in Norway, Hunting Lodge has definitely boosted my confidence to put more energy and trust into EAM.
I’ve always been aware of the aesthetics of everything. Details and function are the most important factors in production design, however, the touch, feel, weight and smell of things is, for me, equally important. Unexpected details become visible when your subconscious is stimulated by the senses. I guess that’s when and why a product is recognised for what it is. Simple, but good craftsmanship is the hardest thing to achieve. When I sit down with a piece of leather and a knife, I always try to find ways to make something that’s good, but as simple as possible.
What is EAM?
EAM is all about daily necessities we can all relate to—no matter who, where and when. The philosophy is not about making new products or creating new trends. It’s rather about living with, and forming a bond with, an object that will become an essential part of your everyday life.
The collection is constant in both its presence and its evolution. The development of each product flows from a natural stream of curiosity, influence and discovery–all nurtured over a long period. It’s something that gets defined only through its perpetual refinement.
EAM is simply a brand with a clear vision, where research and improvement flows naturally with time, hence the name: Essential Articles in the Making.
Explain your fascination with leather?
Leather is my preferred material because of its durability and flexibility, without being artificial. It’s simply without any limits. It’s an honest material that leaves traces of handcrafting through cutting, shaping and stitching. The final product is not only beautiful, it’s functional and sturdy and grows more beautiful with time.
It takes a lot to run a company by yourself. From production development, design, production and branding. How do you manage?
It requires me to put all of my energy and guts into the project. I need to be truly dedicated. I constantly tell myself this is how it is to be a one man band. I chose this, and I knew it would be tough. However, patience is key. Also, I wouldn’t have made it this far without the support I’ve received from friends, family and customers. Their feedback and guidance is really helpful. I’m also thankful for being based in a city like Oslo. It’s a small creative community where, if you’re trying to build a startup, you’re constantly surrounded by other helpful, creative minds.
What are your aspirations for the brand?
ot doing everything by myself! I dream about a large multiple workbench, divided into several creative assignments, all linked together. It would be a dream to have designers, production, a showroom and a store—everything under the same roof. It’s almost hard to imagine having employees with key responsibilities and I could go to work knowing everyone is there for the same reason: to develop EAM—to build a brand and products that can stand the test of time.