On a warm, sunny day, André Grundmann bikes through the streets of Amsterdam, mentally making note of each Smaak Amsterdam bag he sees. “Hey, she’s wearing my bag!” “Oh, that’s a Smaak too.”
Grundmann is the founder and owner of the company. A young label from the Netherlands, it sells high-quality leather bags, purses and accessories. Since its start in 2010, the label has set up four shops in Amsterdam and is carried by the high-end department store De Bijenkorf. Each season, Grundmann and his small, close-knit team of three full-time staff work to keep the brand fresh with new models, collections and colours.
“We pay attention to the details,” says Grundmann. He looks around his office and grabs the closest bag, a white tote, to show what he’s talking about. He rolls the bag over, points to one of the seams and explains that, for instance, his bags are oil-etched, meaning the seams of the bag are painted to smooth out any roughness.
Timeless and versatile
“The Dutch people enjoy life. They work hard, but after work they try to enjoy as much as they can. And Dutch women need one bag for their entire wardrobe,” says Grundmann. Keeping this lifestyle in mind, Smaak bags are designed to be capable of making a seamless transition from work to a boat ride on the canal.
Grundmann says he and his team always look at what other major brands are doing. Once they develop an initial design, they “put it in a mixer and then in a blender”—they continue to brainstorm, change and tweak the idea. Next, they choose the leather and the hardware.
Grundmann says the leather is the most important aspect of a handbag. “You can make beautiful designs, but if the leather is not nice then the handbag is not nice,” he adds.
Just do it
“Don’t talk about it, just do it,” Grundmann says in reference to giving advice to fashion start-ups. This is exactly what he did 12 years ago after quitting his job in the hospitality industry. The budding entrepreneur moved to Amsterdam where he started a women’s clothing and accessories store. At the time, Grundmann struggled to find reasonably priced quality bags to sell at the store, so he decided to design them. Now, looking back, “that was easier said than done,” he says, laughing.
Grundmann flew to Hong Kong for a fashion fair and was told he needed to order a minimum of 300 bags to have his design made, which at the time was an impossible amount. Three years later, he took preorders for the first Smaak bag and sold enough to have it made. The bag was called Rose: it was a leather tote that could be converted from a rounded shape with short handles to a square shape with a cross-body strap. The bag is now part of the icon collection. “It’s still one of our top sellers,” he says.
Recently, Smaak Amsterdam had its five-year anniversary, but Grundmann and his team were too busy to celebrate. On top of designing and selling handbags, Grundmann is working with an architect to give his stores a face-lift. He plans to get rid of the existing wood accents and replace them with marble, copper and mirrors. The life of an entrepreneur always means putting different creative hats on!
Smaak Amsterdam handbags