One of the my favourite things about the internet is that you sometimes you stumble upon something exceedingly beautiful. That’s what happened when I came across Nisnas Industries – producers of some of the most elegant, unique, intricately-crafted messenger bags and notebooks I’ve seen.
But Nisnas is also a statement; a refreshing, inspirational, community-focussed project shining from a region that is normally at the forefront of the world’s attention for all of the wrong reasons.
DC: Hi Yossi and Max! So what is Nisnas Industries all about?
We’re a small community shop in Haifa, Israel. We make wood and leather commuting gear, stuff you take with you on your daily commute. We’re based in the Wadi Nisnas neighbourhood in Haifa and our manufacturing is both inspired by and dedicated to local culture.
DC: So how did Nisnas get started? What was your inspiration behind it?
Max and I (Yossi) have been friends for about 15 years and have been kicking around the idea of creating our own brand for years. We started Nisnas in 2010 and it is very much the combination of both our talents. Both of us come from a cycling background, at some point we both raced and then moved on to the industry side of the work, either on the shop end of things or design. Max stuck with design and has spent the past decade making some amazing wood, ceramic and composite designs. I turned my attention to community development work and focused on Israeli/Palestinian issues for much of the decade while still managing to work in bike shops and commute daily is some sketchy places… We decided to combine our passions and talents to create a community oriented workshop that would produce the very best gear.
For us that meant that the designs needed to be immensely functional, beautiful and connected to the place where we work. It took us several years to perfect the process and make our wood and leather gear exactly how we wanted them to be – elegant, useful but also not so expensive that they would be out of reach for the commuter crowd. It is very important for us that our product remain as useful tools and not just fashion statements.
We use the Wadi Nisnas neighbourhood where we set up shop as a magnifying glass for inspiration and design and the social struggle of the place along with the aesthetic makes its way into our final product.
DC: Your bag and notebook designs look absolutely stunning; how did you come up with the designs?
Thanks! The designs and material choices for our bags and notepads come directly from the streets where we ride and the culture of craftsmanship all around us. We are surrounded by some extremely talented leather artists and we just wanted to cooperate with them to create a wood and leather design that would complement both materials. We saw that the colour and texture of both materials really seemed to work well together and wanted the final designs to be as functional as possible while still keeping the beauty of the materials.
Our skyline designs are a simple and elegant way of doing this, we sketched out a Haifa city skyline onto our wood and laser etched it into the final product on both our bags and notepads. Some of our other designs really let out the activists in us like the “Man V Tank design” on our bag along with a broken chain symbol on our fender tell a story of a community struggling for identity, that’s also part of the daily life here in Nisnas.
DC: Are your products available in the UK and further afield? If so, where can you get them from?
Right now we’re taking orders through Kickstarter for our first run; all items from here are shipped worldwide.
DC: So what next for Nisnas?
We’re growing! In the next few months we’ll be setting up a larger space that will double as a manufacturing centre and remain open after hours as a community space. We’ll be producing gear during the day and remaining open in the evenings to teach classes on bike upcycling, commuting, activity stuff (or drinking with friends…). We’ll be making some new bags in the near future that explore more bent wood spines in leatherwork. It’s a cool medium and we think there is so much potential for creative, functional gear with these materials, look out for those in June- July.