M
ax Houtzager, the CEO and creative director of Terasu, has a passion for storytelling that is displayed online, where vignettes and interviews covering surf, snow, adventure and food illuminate a community of creatives across the world. Transitioning from the screen to print, Terasu’s stories manifested in a tangible product — a 120–page book printed in Nagano, Japan — called Early Hues released this past summer. “After putting together and designing Early Hues and seeing people’s response, we immediately knew there were other mediums through which we could communicate, but with a different impact,” Houtzager said. “The medium of bags and leather accessories in particular speaks to a different person than a photo book or publication, and will inevitably communicate different ideas as they use it day to day.”

The same attention to detail found in Terasu’s publication is present in their first collection of accessories, made up of tote bags (two styles) and leather portfolios (three styles) made in Washington state. Houtzager shared the impetus behind the collection, and why building relationships with artisans was a logical extension for his brand.

Q:
What inspired the collection of goods?
A:
We were sick of backpacks for daily use. They’re restricting. We don’t have any reason to pretend that there is an adventure between home and the office or the parking lot and the surf, even in cases where it’s a mile walk to the water.

Tote bags are more conducive to spontaneity and flexibility. They can fit more while also having an element of minimalism that reminds you there isn’t a need for all that much stuff on most day- or even weekend-long excursions. There weren’t any totes out there that quite hit the spot for us, so we started making. For the Cascadia Tote, sometimes you do need to free up your hands or jump on a bike for a short distance, in which case it is also wearable on your back.

Along with totes, Terasu is partnering with craftsmen to make a line of leather accessories.

Q:
How did you find artisans who aligned with your vision?
A:
We met them through our friends that have a farm, Circle Rock Ranch, on Vashon up in Washington. After regular trips up there for hanging out and shooting some food-related videos, working with artisans from the area was one more good excuse to go create in a different area with ideas that were ultimately rooted in California.

Working on Early Hues taught us the magic that can come from collaborating with designers and makers with a completely different, yet overlapping background, in Japan; I think this time around riffs on the same trait, as our homes, bases and activity in SF and LA provide very different inspiration and needs than that of the Pacific Northwest.

Q:
Why was this collection important to do now?
A:
Right now is an interesting time to be making any sort of product or provide any service where you can see the outcomes on a visible, everyday level. Fashion and lifestyle brands have been stagnant for a while in terms of creating anything that’s truly new, and with the connectivity of the internet it’s easy for it to seem like it is remaining so with someone else out there always doing something similar.

In reality, right now more than ever, we need to look at the interconnectedness of it all; think about our behavior and decisions in relation to everyone else culturally, environmentally, politically; and understand the effects on those immediately surrounding us and those overseas. With this in mind, through this first small collection, it feels like we’re just starting to uncover the right kind of process, materials, types of collaborators and makers, and retail partners that we’re comfortable with and that align with our vision.