How a German Engineer and a Mormon Missionary Fell in Love and Launched a Must-Have Handbag Brand

Anything can happen when you take a leap, quit your job, and move across the world

How did a structural engineer from Germany and a Mormon missionary seeking converts in Japan come to create a successful line of handbags produced in Silver Lake?

In 1999, Bavaria-born Holger Graf and former Latter-Day Saints disciple Daniel Lantz found themselves in Munich, where they were introduced by a mutual friend and fell in love.

Five years later the couple was living in L.A., and Graf had a job at an architectural glass company.

He was supposed to work on big-ticket interior elements like curtain walls. “I ended up making shower door hardware,” he says. “My boss was difficult, and one day I just quit. It was the height of the recession. I knew I had to do something. And for some reason I decided to make a wine carrier. I knew felt—it’s everywhere in Germany.”

He bought rolls of it and an industrial sewing machine, but he didn’t know how to sew. So he and Lantz took classes and stitched their first wine carriers in their living room. They were a hit, scoring a huge order from Dean & DeLuca.

Next they tackled the tote, clutch, and crossbody. Graf used his engineering skills, focusing on the structural nature of thick merino wool felt and various leathers, while Lantz put the designs through a Japanese filter. The result is a collection of bags that are durable yet lightweight, with crisp lines and origami-like folds. “We weren’t afraid to make mistakes,” says Lantz, sitting in their new factory on Temple Street in Westlake.

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