Vanichi Magazine discovers how Clark & Madison evolves ideas of luxury travel accessories.

“We are connected to the source, there is no middle man, no bullshit.” Dina Epstein asserts with clear confidence. Dina is co-founder of Clark & Madison, a Los Angeles-based luxury travel and accessories line that combines beauty with practicality. “We are there every step of the process and can tell you everyone that touches the bags. That’s important to me. I think it is important to put good things into this world.” Alongside her business partner, Michael Frosti Zernow, Dina has been utilizing the skills she honed at Rhode Island School of Design [RISD] to create handcrafted, small batch leather goods sourced in downtown LA. Vanichi met Dina and Frosti at the Liberty Concepts Space pop-up entitled The Gentleman’s Collective. She sat down to share her thoughts on travel, the evolution of luxury and what’s next for Clark & Madison.

clark madison luxury travel bags

Dina Epstein and Michael Frosti Zernow of Clark & Madison.

Q + A

VM: When and how did you discover your interest in art and design?

DE: I have always been creative. My mother was an architect and studied art history so it has always been in my life. I went to RISD and I think that is when I realized that I could actually make a living from art and design.

VM: How did Clark & Madison got started?

DE: Frosti and I both quit our jobs and headed north in search of some inspiration. I packed everything in my late grandmother’s carry on bag that was passed down to me from my mother. We bought a vintage bomber jacket and an army tent in Idaho and I sewed the first bag on lake Payette in McCall Idaho. Clark & Madison was named with American heritage in mind after the explorer William Clark from the Lewis & Clark Expedition and President Madison, the Father of the Constitution.

The OAKLEY clutch from Clark & Madison. US $169.

The OAKLEY clutch from Clark & Madison. US $169.

VM: Why is designing and producing pieces locally important to you?

DE: We are connected to the source, there is no middle man, no bullshit. We are there every step of the process and can tell you everyone that touches the bags. That’s important to me. I think it is important to put good things into this world.

VM: How is Clark & Madison redefining luxury?

DE: Luxury is being able to travel with ease. It is not about expensive things, it is about the best things. At Clark & Madison we only make the best things.

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VM: How does travel influence your brand and your personal creativity?

DE: Travel is a huge part of our brand. We are always on the go and inspired by new cultures from the food to people. Sometimes inspiration can come from a trip to a new neighborhood in the city we live in.  I think we are constantly asking ourselves how, why, where. When you stop asking yourself these questions you stop being innovative.

VM: Clark & Madison is still a young brand. What have been some of your triumphs thus far?

DE: We had the opportunity to work with the Hammer Museum and Westwood village to help try and restore life into that part of LA. We also did a capsule collection for Anthropologie which allowed us to think about a totally different market. I am always excited about new challenges and pushing myself and my brand to do something better. This year alone our weekender was chosen as one of the top picks of Men’s Health and we were one of USA Today’s 10 Best new brands.

VM: What insights have you learned about yourself from starting your brand?

DE: Having a start up you try to do everything yourself and it’s is exhausting. It is hard to do everything well when you are doing it all, so I learned to ask for help and that it is okay to get it. I try to only surround myself with good people now, be it friends and/or business relations.

passport wallet clark madison vanichi

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Passport wallet in COAL from Clark & Madison. US $78

 

VM: What is one of the most adventurous things you’ve ever done?

DE: I could say traveling the world, I have been to over 25 countries, moved to New Zealand with my twin sister for our Junior year of high school, and done some wild things… but it has to be starting a company. It is one crazy ride, every day and it never stops.

VM: When was the last time you laughed until you cried?

DE: Last night, my sister came home from Malaysia and we had dinner together. It doesn’t matter what the conversation topic is, we always get into a laughing fit. It is one of my favorite things in the world. Sitting around the dinner table with family, good food, what could be better than that?

VM: Any juicy tidbits about what’s next for Clark & Madison?

DE: We’ve been traveling a lot lately, Paris, Greece, and Italy next week. We’re getting inspired by the world and everything that’s going on out there and trying to see how we can connect with it. We have some really cool collaborations coming up with several international brands that will be dropping spring of next year that I can’t wait for people to see. Stand by…

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The Classic weekender in COAL from Clark & Madison. US $895. See it in our editorial I MARRIED ADVENTURE with Rodney Charles and Yasmin Rams here.