This week our Menswear Dialogue Series continues with Mr. Basil Racuk, designer and leather artisan of the self-titled handbag and accessories label. Basil is dedicated leather worker with a unique view on design and life. We were pleased to speak with him. Image Granted -How did you get into this business? What about your work makes you get up every morning?Basil Racuk -I went to Greece and got lost while out on a hike. Although I was concerned for my safety, I became more concerned about what had come of my life. I had forgotten to create, and made a decision to rediscover my passion for building things. When I made the decision to reconnect with my passion, I felt an immediate shift in the way in which I interact with the world. I feel fortunate that my work allows us (my customer and I) the opportunity to get to know one another. And I have to say, I am in awe of my customer. To say “accomplished” is an understatement. The person who comes to me is well-rounded thoughtful, engaged. Getting to know this group makes my job exciting. IG -We hear that you are a supporter of the film Men of the Cloth which we've written about in the past and patiently awaiting to be released. How did you get involved with the film? How is your brand affiliated with the film and the director Vicki Vasilopoulos?BR - When Vicki told me that she was doing a Kickstarter fundraiser, I said to her something like “whatever you need just tell me”. She’s a great pal and more importantly, she’s doing important work. I suppose that my brand is indirectly related to the film in that the work that I do is also about working with customers directly. There is no supply chain between my product and the customer. Vicki was my DRN market editor back when I was designing a menswear collection. She came down to my studio on Ludlow Street, had a look around, and we probably went to El Sombrero and got a margarita. She’s a “man’s man”, and we all know how important it is to have people like that around. Her perspective on fashion and style has always shown a curiosity extending beyond the obvious appeal. She has always expressed an interest in the process of design. The adage that the simplest things are the most difficult to execute well is true. Men of the Cloth will succeed for the simple reason that Vicki has always advocated for a learned approach to design. IG -How has your aesthetic changed or evolved over the years from your first collection to now? How has life affected your work? Do you take inspiration from current events and life's daily grind, or do you keep your emotions separate from your work?BR - I get that question a lot. I suppose I will ask a rhetorical question in return: how much more do I know now than I did when I was twenty-two? I’m forty-seven now, so that’s more than double the time. In the years that have passed, I've lived plenty. The real question has more to do with how open I have been to the journey. I’ve spent many years struggling as a designer. Is design more about art, or commerce? Of course the answer depends on who you ask. Regarding current creative direction, I continue to think about California as the center of pure design, or design in essential form. Looking back to the 60’s and 70’s, California proved an essential part of the design shift that happened at that time. I believe that many of us who are working here continue to create based on a principle of essential design, stripping away everything that isn’t required. Miles Eastman, a metal worker from Ojai who supplies me with belt buckles, is a great example of this ethos. He casts bark from local trees, or shake that he gets from harvests that he takes part in up in Humboldt. My life is my work. Design is a constant, which means that we must continually be engaged, ready to experience any moment to its fullest. In hindsight, there were a number of cultural zeitgeist that I was part of that didn’t seem noteworthy when they were happening, but which are now considered culturally important. Current events are important for me, and for obvious creative reasons. Full disclosure: I am currently suffering from political fatigue. I went overboard in the lead-up to the election, so now I’m apt to skip the politics section in the paper. But of course the events of the day have a direct impact on the way that we as a society perceive our relation to design. IG -How are your bags constructed? We've spoken with many leatherworkers in the past and they all claim to use the best methods. However, every craftsman is different. How does the make up of your bags compare to other luxury retailers or boutiques?BR - My product is available in the states at Leffot in NYC, NWBLK in San Francisco, and CX2 Project in Miami. The collection is also available at Edition in Tokyo (Omotesando Hills). Bags are $1,000 and up, depending on the degree of customization required for an order. My collection is for the select few. There is something very sensual that comes with the experience of having something custom-made. Having spent the time to find an artisan to make a bag for you is luxury, in the truest sense. This isn’t news- this is old. And by old, I mean that bespoke product was a way of life for many centuries. Now that I’ve been doing this for a few years, the idea of having things made for you just makes sense. And as importantly and I believe that even the tailors in Men of the Cloth will attest to this those of us who are making things will always be learning something. IG -What can we expect from the Basil Racuk brand in the future?BR - There’s plenty of great product in the market, and much of it is built very well. Because my background is in tailoring and not in accessories, I bring a very different approach to the way that I build my product. Having spent a number of years working for a leather outerwear company gave me a clear understanding about the properties of leather, and what is required to use skins to their best advantage. I hope to continue creating beautiful product, and having the good fortune to work with the coolest men and women around my customers for many years to come. P.S. Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts. This has been a real pleasure.