Du Zen!

Du Zen!

Melbourne’s Samantha Rogers is an industrial designer with a background in furniture, lighting and, naturally, elite gymnastics.

“I was an elite gymnast from the age of 6 until 14 years old,” she says.  I can still hear my Russian gym coach ringing in my ears: ‘Do it better! Do it again!’

One look at her work and it’s obvious the coach carried some weight.  Samantha and her team of six are the crew behind new Melbourne it-bag brand, Du Zen! – a company two years in the making thanks to Samantha’s desire to get her products right. (And, of course, their complex design – something that becomes immediately obvious when her bags are held in the hand.) 

“It literally started with some sketches of these bizarre conceptual handbags,” Samantha explains. “It’s been a long journey bringing the ideas to the 3D plane.”

The pigskin-lined Flat Stanley bag, for example is made from flexible, supple leather that can fold over or stand up tall depending on the soirée’s requirements, while the Compadre Clutch skirts the line between grab-bag and shoulder bag thanks to a removable strap that one can’t imagine off when it’s on, or on when it’s off.  

Each one looks like the work of a creator with several seasons under their belt, but Samantha says her path has not been not a straight and narrow one. 

“To be honest, I was halfway through the [RMIT industrial design] course when I took a year hiatus because it was ‘too hard’,” she says. “Then just as it was time to renew or lapse my enrollment, I came around and decided that ‘hard’ was a good thing, and so I returned with a more mature and motivated outlook.”

It set her up to work across lighting, furniture and graphic design in roles ranging from design and development to account management. Because she found working in a single industry inhibiting and unfulfilling she made sure she varied her roles – yet she still hit something of a wall.

“I was at a point where I was feeling stuck in what I was doing and [needing] to do something totally different [while still applying] my design and manufacturing skills,” Samantha explains.

Once the idea for Du Zen! was seeded, all she had to do was find Melbourne’s best leather craftsmen to bring her candy coloured, user-centered designs to life.

“Basically, I thought, ‘If I were a magical leather making unicorn, where would I be?’ And from there I managed to recruit our talented craftspeople.”

The colour palette, like the exclamation mark in the company’s name, is as charmingly in-your-face as a labrador at puppy school.

“I like to wear colours that reflect my mood and make me happy,” explains Samantha. “It’s way too easy to wear all black, and should be used sparingly, but its also a bit depressing on its own without colour.”

Combined with Samantha’s own sartorial penchant for mixing cool casual with flashes of luxe, the Du Zen! collection is like tasting strawberry and balsamic vinegar together for the first time.

In Samantha’s words: “Combinations that are unobvious are the most exciting and refreshing.”

 

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Check out the first ever Du Zen! collection here.