The Fle.X is a unisex leather bag that can be worn cross-body, as a clutch or waist pouch and is the latest in a long-running collaboration between Zaha Hadid Design and Italian design houses. Renowned for its iconic designs for brands from Alessi, B&B Italia and Cassina, to Bulgari, Fendi and Lasvit, that relationship was celebrated alongside Zaha Hadid’s architectural projects in Italy in an exhibition at the (Zaha Hadid Architects-designed) MAXXI museum in 2017, a year following her death. “When you look at our portfolio, most of it has a connection with Italy,” says Maha Mutay.
The bag designed for Up To You Anthology, an offshoot of Boffi that has worked with some of the design world’s brightest names, represents a continuation of that partnership but also a turning point for the studio. Like the bag, which has a sinus strap and curvaceous detailing that moulds to the contours of the wearer’s body, the project is about trying to a cultivate a closer relationship to the customer.
While design has formed a large part of the studio’s output since its inception in 1978, the separate entity Zaha Hadid Design was established in 2006 to dedicate to fashion, jewellery, furnishings, installation and exhibitions under co-director Woody Yao and Maha Kutay, who joined Zaha Hadid Architects in 1993 and 1995 respectively.
Until the launch of the studio’s own label, the Zaha Hadid Design Collection in 2014, its focus had been on creation of one-off or limited edition pieces, but Yao and Kutay see a shift towards more accessible collections with the launch of the sold-direct-to-consumer Fle.X and its new e-commerce platform later this year. “We want a line of products, not just specialised for certain clients. I really think it’s what Zaha would want,” says Woody Yao.