Name: Shujan Bertrand
What is your day job?
While I’m a full-time mom, I’m also all of the jobs that are associated with running a company. So everything from CEO and Design Lead to messenger and intern.
My children come with me to the studio-factory at least 3 times a week after school. The whole family is helping grow àplat.
How did you get started making?
I’ve been making things ever since I was a child growing up in Manhattan Beach. My Korean immigrant parents didn’t have the means to buy “frivolous” things; if we wanted something, we made it ourselves. I made my own wood toys, even a barbie Olympic stadium from wood scraps, and I sewed clothes for all of my dolls. That led to my first entrepreneurial business of selling hair scrunchies at the age of ten. I re-purposed scraps from my mother’s tailoring business and sold them to local surf shops for $2.
My vision for àplat came to me almost instantly one afternoon when I had created a delightful bouquet of wildflowers for a friend’s gallery opening. I’d created this beautiful bundle and it was presented back to me in a crackling cellophane bag that seemed to diminish the spirit of the gesture. Between the register and the curb, where my car was parked, I’d envisioned a simple, beautiful bag that would wrap around the stems and celebrate the blooms. The sac à fleur, Jardin Tote was born. The rest of the collection literally unfolded around my kitchen table with the encouragement of my family.
What type of maker would you classify yourself as?
As an industrial designer and a parent, I’m a problem solver and inventor by nature. For example, people have suggested that I create aprons and napkins for my line. However, these things already exist. I want to create a product line that address the need and uniquely solves the problem.
What was your favorite thing that you’ve made?
That’s a hard one, but I’d say the sac à fleur because it embodies the spirit of why àplat was created – it is the “raison d’etre.”
What is something you’d like to make next?
I’m currently working with a top chef on a new product in the culinary line and I just want to keep designing things that enhance the culture of good food, wine, and gardening. I want to encourage the “art de vivre” – a lifestyle where there’s an appreciation for living in the moment, and where simplicity is meaningful.
Do you have advice to give to other makers?
Have faith in yourself, go with your gut, and dive in. Don’t think too much. Absorb everything that you can from your colleagues, friends, and the people that you’ll meet along the way. My company and my own creativity have thrived because of the people who continue to inspire me.
Product photography: James Carriere
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