Alexandr Morgachev, founder and designer of the Kiev-based accessories company, Kruk Garage, believes the future is in his hands.
If you can visualise the desired outcome, you can achieve it. For Alexandr Morgachev, this is the conviction that has guided him throughout life and ultimately led him to found Kruk Garage, a company that makes quality bags and accessories using leather and vintage fabrics sourced from the military.
Alexandr possesses the gift to make beautiful, yet practical, everyday objects. Growing up, his pastimes were what you would expect a creative child to have – drawing, painting and reading adventure story books. Ask him what some of his happiest memories were though, and he would tell you that they revolve around moments with his grandfather with whom Alexandr spent every summer in his home village. Various projects kept the pair busy. There was always something to make and do, whether it was a chair, garden fence, repairs to the roof or even a brand new house.
His grandfather’s motto was if you wanted something badly enough, you would find a way to attain it.
This “can-do” attitude has stuck with Alexandr ever since. With such a positive outlook and an innate ability to turn ideas into things with form and function, he seemed destined to become a designer, a goal he harboured. This, however, did not transpire right away after university. In fact, it took 18 years before he realized his dream.
Upon graduation, Alexandr worked in an auto-parts distribution company. Despite a busy schedule, he somehow always found time for his hobby of designing and making things for his personal use. In those early days, he crafted furniture and jewellery but it was not until he fashioned a bag from a 1970s army tent canvas that his talent really caught people’s attention. When friends started to place orders with him for upcycled, military-inspired bags, Alexandr saw a business opportunity. He took the leap in 2015 and started Kruk Garage in a tiny workshop with one sewing machine and three staff. It was not an easy step to take. While most people around him stood behind his decision, there were some who were worried about the risks of leaving an established career, especially since Alexandr and his wife were expecting a child then.
The first couple of months were challenging and stressful; nevertheless, Alexandr forged ahead. He divided his time between his existing job and Kruk Garage, building up the new company to a point where it was doing well enough for him to finally leave the distribution business.
The success that Kruk Garage enjoys today would not have been possible without the support of his family and friends. In the journey from conception to a fully-fledged operational business, Alexandr encountered people who embraced the same design ethos to make things based on principles of simplicity, functionality and quality. To Alexandr’s surprise, people willingly shared with him their ideas and showed him how to work with leather and different tools, with some even volunteering their time to help out at the workshop. As a result, many friendships have been made along the way, an experience which Alexandr is very grateful for as he had not expected this when he started the company.
The essence of the Kruk Garage brand has evolved over time. What began as a business specialising in unique, handmade leather products has turned into a dynamic organisation filled with creative, passionate individuals who desire to improve the lifestyles of consumers. With a talented network of people in place, it is no wonder that Alexandr feels very confident about the future of Kruk Garage.
At the heart of Kruk Garage lies a philosophy: simplicity and functionality in design are keys to greatness.
In a marketing video for Kruk Garage, the founder and designer, Alexandr Morgachev, talks about the principles that act as blueprints on which their products are based. Every item they make conforms to fundamentals of good design. A well-executed bag, for instance, should be true to its purpose and embody a simple, timeless beauty. The location of a handle strap should not only provide practical convenience but also enhance the overall aesthetics in a restrained way.
Alexandr started Kruk Garage because he was spurred by the desire to create truly special bags. Unlike many of today’s fashion designers who bow to industry pressure to produce things that cater to current taste, he is more interested in styles that endure. Specifically, he is inspired by themes relating to nature, history and artistic freedom and wants to express his ideas in the things he makes. For his bags, he wants them to be lasting, functional and original.
To achieve these aims, he uses quality, hand waxed leather and canvas, taking much of his raw material from WWII and 1970s army surplus goods. Such bags serve a niche market which is presently seeing a healthy demand due to a trend in military style fashion. Additionally, given a greater awareness of and acceptance for consumer goods with sustainable attributes, customers of Kruk Garage like that the company upcycles material in production.
Furthermore, incorporating material such as tenting canvas, parachute bags and rifle straps also adds a piece of military history to the items. There are interesting details like antique hardware and rare military components. Markings and factory stamps give each bag a story that faux army camouflage prints are not able to do.
Kruk Garage’s first collection was a line of backpacks constructed out of hardwearing canvas material from WWII duffels. The relaxed silhouette and neutral tones underscored a casual, outdoorsy vibe that brought to mind weekend camp stays and afternoon hikes.
The debut collection was a hit. The positive response from his customers was such an empowering experience for Alexandr that it encouraged him to explore more ideas and make more things. Since then, with the help of a dedicated team of artisans, Kruk Garage’s offering has expanded into a wide range of products. There are over fifteen categories of items available for purchase on the company’s website, Etsy and Amazon. Besides backpacks, customers can now choose from a variety of products in its original and series collections that cater to different lifestyle needs. Their current selection includes, among other things, laptop bags, travel bags, wallets, belts, aprons, suspenders and even knife rolls. From time to time, Kruk Garage also releases limited, one-of-a-kind editions that are serialised with unique numbers.
Varied in form and function they may be, they all bear the hallmarks of expert craftsmanship that Kruk Garage has come to be known for. The products all feature easy-to-match, neutral and earthy tones of black, forest green, brown and navy blue. The items exude a rugged yet modern appeal and are the perfect stylish accessories for use anywhere.
A creative and collaborative process at Kruk Garage
Kruk Garage has humble beginnings. Started in a small workshop no bigger than a garden shed, the place had just enough space for one sewing machine and three people. Inspiration and talent are not constrained by physical space, however; the small setup was all Alexandr Morgachev needed to create his magic.
Alexandr founded Kruk Garage, a company that specialises in unique, upcycled bags and other accessories. A tote and duffel bag that he had handcrafted for himself impressed his friends so much that they began placing orders with him for their own customised bags. This gave Alexandr the encouragement to embark on a business in making bags. In the cramped workshop, he designed and produced bags using vegetable tanned leather, vintage canvas sourced from the military and antique hardware.
Fast-forward to today and Kruk Garage, having launched several successful collections, now occupies a much larger working space. The interior design of the studio is basic but helmets and gas masks that have been turned into lamps add a touch of decorative whimsy. There is more equipment and tools. Wooden racks line the slate-green walls – here is where sheets of leather, canvas rolls and bits and pieces of rare military components are stored, waiting for creative hands to make them become part of another beautiful accessory. To fulfil customers’ orders are five permanent makers who are sometimes assisted by friends dropping in to volunteer.
A typical work day would start with Alexandr sharing details of fresh orders with his staff. There are also brainstorming sessions during which everyone contributes new ideas. All suggestions are welcome. Most times, they are based on actual experiences that people in the group go through like finding a need for a storage bag that can be strapped onto their bicycles.
Sketches of the final item are then made. After that, the production process is split among them with each person responsible for the making of one component. At this stage, it is not unusual for design decisions to be made on the fly. For instance, Alexandr often determines how the final item will look only when he starts working on the materials. To him and his team, the whole process is a very tactile experience - hands feel and “see” the design.
When all the pieces are assembled and the item is completed, there is a sense of collective pride and achievement in the group. Depending on the complexity of the process or techniques, it usually takes up to two days to produce an item. To keep the offering unique to customers, the company does not normally keep stock. The items are made as and when an order comes in.
For brand new designs, the prototypes are always tried out first by the staff before the actual items are photographed or included in a Vimeo video, and released for sale online.
Kruk Garage serves a clientele that has a very selective taste. Like the members of Kruk Garage, the customers do not see themselves as slaves to fashion. Instead of mass-produced items, they prefer one-of-a-kind designs. They demand items that they can call their own. As such, many of them put in requests for customisation. Sometimes, their requests serve a lifestyle-related need like adding extra pockets on a travel bag so that they can pack more things for their trip. Most times, they want their items personalised and would ask for a name or special date to be added.
The combination of original designs, quality craftsmanship and unique materials means customers are bound to find something special for themselves at Kruk Garage.
The Kruk Garage Family
Kruk Garage is a family-run business whose founder, Alexandr Morgachev, is passionate about making unique, upcycled leather and canvas bags and accessories. Alexandr’s passion is infectious; since 2015, the year Kruk Garage began operations in Kiev, Ukraine, several individuals have joined him in his mission to produce quality, handcrafted items for customers around the world. From a one-man operation to a staff of five today, the company has transformed into a tight-knit organisation that values creativity, artistic expression, collaboration and friendship.
The name “Kruk” comes from the surname of Alexandr’s grandfather. A role model for Alexandr growing up, his grandfather imparted good work ethics to him. Importantly, he taught Alexandr how to always love what he did and be proud of his work. These are attitudes that Alexandr instils in his company. While he leads the team in areas of product development and marketing, everybody at Kruk Garage gets to contribute fresh ideas or demonstrate newly-acquired techniques. Everyone is regarded as an invaluable member of the team. During the work process, each individual pitches in to make the various parts that go into the final item.
There is a community-centric culture in the company. The happiest times are when the studio is busy. Makers work and chat as their favourite music plays in the background. They constantly stop to check on one another and offer help if needed. Outside work, they meet for birthdays, festive parties, anniversaries and bowling matches. They talk about common interests such as travelling, photography, biking and trekking. Most of all, they bond over their love for leather and vintage fabrics, for the art of handcrafting and their enthusiasm in coming up with exciting new items for Kruk Garage.
To date, Kruk Garage has sold thousands of bags and accessories via the company’s own website, Etsy and Amazon. New and limited edition collections are launched month to month. To keep their customers up to date with new items, sales and other news, Alexandr and his marketing team regularly blog and put up postings on social media.
To expand the company’s reach into other markets, Kruk Garage participates in collaboration partnerships with offline and online retailers in countries like the US, Netherlands and Japan. Back at home in the Ukraine, Alexandr is constantly on the look-out for new niche markets to target. A recent collection of hand waxed leather aprons made specifically for food and beverage establishments received positive customer reviews.
With new markets and product developments in the pipeline, Kruk Garage and its strong creative team look poised for greater growth and success.