It’s unusual for designers to kick off their careers with barely any agenda, but that’s exactly how husband and wife duo Coco and Johnny Mannix established their Brooklyn-based handbag label Catzorange in 2017. The pair began designing objects and clothing for themselves after moving in together in New York; a leisure pursuit that quickly turned into cash. “What we were doing, especially the bags and home goods, began to take off and we were quick to jump on that opportunity,” Johnny tells ORDRE.
What worked for them was simplicity, intuitively sculpting their bags like artists by hand-weaving thick cotton ropes into ultra-paired back shapes. Three years on and the brand is growing steadily; their minimalist approach transpires through clean circular clutches, net totes to hold weekend groceries, and timeless bucket bags, a best-seller. “Our classic bucket bag definitely sells best. With its distinct shape, elegant outline, and overall accessibility, it sets itself apart from many comparable products out there,” says Coco.
She explains that their designs draw from their polarising perspectives: the rush of New York, Johnny’s native, and the experimentalism of Berlin, where Coco is from. “New York is bold, fast, and a place where anything is possible. Berlin is an incredibly open city, letting us be more experimental in our practice,” she says, adding, “every piece starts with a shape and is then informed by the limitations and special qualities of the material itself.”
“Every piece starts with a shape and is then informed by the limitations and special qualities of the material itself.”
This artisanal way of making, along with keeping volumes limited and production in-house, ensures that Catzorange is truly sustainable; a core ideal which Johnny insists came before the brand materialised: “Sustainability and producing ethically were fundamental for us prior to starting Catzorange, so the values of the brand are the same as how we live in our private lives.”
Coco continues, stating that their made-to-order model allows them to form stronger bonds with their clients whilst staying on top of their overall output, including responding to flexible order sizes, turnaround times, and mid-season deliveries. “By making direct personal connections between the studio (where we make every piece) and our customers, we keep them aware that how they choose to shop has a profound effect on the way their goods are produced,” she adds.
But aside from having a firm grip on their production processes, the duo places special emphasis on sourcing quality materials – including recycled and deadstock textiles – from family-run businesses in Europe that strive to make a positive impact on their communities and the environment. “We choose our vendors very carefully and are not afraid to say no to anything that goes against those principles, no matter how convenient they might be,” Johnny stresses.
This mindful approach has been a hit with specialist luxury boutiques across the Americas and Asia, such as Garmentory and Anthom in the US, Isetan in Tokyo, and Net-A-Porter online. “Our biggest sell-throughs are in small boutiques in the US and Japan and are powered by the informed and passionate customers that frequent them,” Coco explains. “These customers want to support independent and sustainable brands that come at a reasonable price point.”
“We keep them aware that how they choose to shop has a profound effect on the way their goods are produced.”
Having already seduced some of the world’s strongest consumer markets, the pair now want to focus on developing their European presence. Last year they strategically opened a second atelier in Coco’s hometown of Berlin to facilitate growth in the region. “We both have a shared history in Berlin, but this means we also benefit from having access to the wide range of materials available across Europe, and we can build closer relationships with European markets,” says Johnny.
In terms of the evolution of its collections, slow and steady makes sense for a brand which came to fruition on a whim and grew through carefully considered designs and production. “We plan to slowly expand the range of our collections and would love to collaborate more with organizations, stores, and designers who are improving lives, pushing limits, and are thoughtfully run,” Coco muses.
And while they often dabble into other accessories like jewellery, for now, they are keen to maximise on their strengths; creating modest yet elevated handbag essentials that traverse eras, seasons, or simply from day to night. Sometimes less really is more, and Catzorange provides the ultimate staple in quiet luxury.