/ Wednesday, November 12, 2008 _Telescopes 101

When you walk through the front door of our flagship store you are immediately greeted by our telescope. Although not the modern telescope you may imagine, this RV-6 Dynascope made by Criterion has become a sort of classic from its day in terms of telescopes. First introduced at the end of the 1950’s, it quickly became the popular telescope among amateur enthusiasts in the 1960’s. 6-inches in diameter and at a price tag of $194.95, it was a great entry point into the world of astronomy. Its popularity came from the fact that it provided surprisingly accurate and precise views of the moon, stars and planets. It’s white bakelite tube, a nostalgic material many will remember form the 60’s, brass eye piece and metal legs all combine to create the classic beauty of this telescope. In fact, we get many visitors to the store who revel at the aesthetics of the telescope but question why we have it aimed at the floor rather than the sky. This telescope actually brings in the image through the large opening at the top and reflects it off a mirror mounted to the bottom end. This image is then viewed through the eyepiece located near the top, creating a scope that looks like it’s always facing the wrong way. If you’re ever in San Francisco, be sure to stop by our store and check out the telescope for yourself. Rest assured, we will have it pointing in the right direction.

Tonight we will be bringing out a telescope to view the night sky at our first star party at our flagship store in San Francisco. We will be reporting back to you on its success (we’re hoping for clear skies in the city of fog), so look for our blog next week for all the details!
/ Wednesday, October 29, 2008 _SCIENCE FIELD TRIP

Constantly inspired by science, the welcoming of the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco was an event that all of us at Hlaska were excited to experience. With all of the inspiration our company pulls from science, we were admittedly a little more excited to visit the museum than most design companies might have been. While we will leave all the details up to you to discover on your own, we will divulge that the new planetarium offered us a source of admiration but also a reminder of how change is so powerful that it can almost erase memories of the past.

Taking a virtual journey from our planet to the furthest reaches of the known universe was quite an experience, especially in the new digital projection dome, complete with reclining seats and pre-show mood lighting.

But it also made us think. Why is it that sometimes, when things are built anew or reinvented, using all of the modern day technology and gloss, we yearn for the way it used to be? We have to admit; we did miss the nostalgia that the original Morrison Planetarium offered, with its 5000-pound star projector as the anchor of the room. There was just something about the intensity of the bright lights on the dome and being able to watch the projector tilt as the “sky” rotated that reminded us of the humble beginnings of space exploration. It felt more tangible in a way, to listen to an actual person speak of the stars instead of a recording of a famous actor reading from a script. You were able to talk with the operator after the show, to ask questions, to take a closer look at the projector. It was more an experience than a light show, more an exploration than entertainment. So, while we highly recommend exploring every inch of the new Academy of Sciences, we will always hold a special place in our hearts for the way it used to be.
/ Monday, October 13, 2008 _Hlaska Store Opening Party
Flagship Store Opening Party

Friday, October 3rd marked the Grand Opening Party for our Flagship store on Fillmore St. in San Francisco. With the impending rain holding off just long enough for everyone to enjoy a shower free evening, the party proved to be a great success. Appetizers and drinks were flowing as our guests were treated to several of our newest collections along with some new design elements that had recently been added to our store. The whole Hlaska team was on hand to answer questions, mingle and enjoy the night with our family, friends and neighbors. We were pleased to welcome many local magazine and blog writers who were able to learn more about us as a company and view all of our collections.

Founder and CEO Anthony Mazzei offered the crowd some insight into his name choice (a combination of Helsinki and Alaska) and design philosophy (scientific inspiration mixed with thoughtful design) with a speech that also acknowledge all those who have been a part of his dream and were able to witness its culmination in the opening of our first store. Vintage skeleton keys were handed out at the door; two special keys were mixed in with the lucky recipients receiving $500 off their purchases that night. The staff also donned the keys as a way to identify themselves as those who could help everyone with questions or purchases, and as a slight nod to our scientific and classic inspirations. The night wound down just as the rain crept in and all our guests departed with well wishes for the future and their new bags and wallet in tow.

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank all who came out to see our store, support us or just say hello. We look forward to many many years here on Fillmore and hopefully we'll be coming to a city near you soon.

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/ Friday, June 27, 2008 _Is Science Really Dead, or Just Forgotten?

This month Wired magazine declared “The End of Science”. No, they didn’t mean that we have finally managed to gather all the information ever in existence and can now safely sit on the couch and watch reruns of Twilight Zone without feeling guilty that we aren’t out there solving all of the world’s mysteries. What their many articles sought to explain was that the end of the scientific method as we know it. We used to have to hypothesize, create models to recreate real world scenarios that we ourselves could not experience (outer space, tiny molecules), and then base our theories as accurately as we could on these models. In today’s world, though, the computer has allowed us to gather mass amounts of information, have worldwide access to this information, and crunch this huge amount of data in a matter of seconds. Trial and error has been erased and replaced with mathematical equations that can do everything from finding new planets to finding new ways to market data to us through websites. While all these advancements in science are certainly beneficial, we found these articles to be slightly disconcerting. With a cover shot of a telescope, globe, card catalogs, and magnifying glass, this issue seemed to single handedly erase all notions of what we here at Hlaska are trying to revive.

Part of the age-old novelty of science was precisely the adventure and uncertainty of it all. The splitting of the atom or the first trip into outer space weren’t accomplished by a computer crunching numbers but rather a team of scientists and hundreds of years of knowledge that lead to these events. The Empire State building was designed by architects on drafting paper, not modeled in a 3D program. It seems as though the romance and mystery of science has been traded in for computer programs and spread sheets. Not that new or more efficient means of acquiring knowledge is wrong but it seems to no longer be a process whereby we discover (often by accident) the meaning to phenomena or the cure to diseases. Penicillin, the small pox vaccine, and plastic were all accidental scientific discoveries. If we rely solely on computers for analyzing data, the mistakes that often lead to discoveries may be lost on the computer's excellent ability to make few errors.

While we fully support this information age that links us across the globe in less than a second, we want to keep in touch with science’s humble past, its glory days of “quaint” items such as telescopes and Petri dishes. Thanks for the help, computers, but there’s a reason why science labs and archeology dig sites still exist, there can never a replacement for good old-fashioned discovery.
/ Thursday, May 1, 2008 _How The Evergreen Grows

In the rush of everyday life it’s often hard to take the time to think about where exactly everything originates, from our cars to our food to our bags. From a blooming idea in our designers’ heads to the actual product arriving in stores, our products have lived a whole life before they even arrive home with you. Part of the beauty and richness of our wallets and bags is precisely this life cycle, and one of the most integral parts of this cycle is how it’s all made.

For our Evergreen briefcase, we have artisans in Canada working diligently to hand-sew each briefcase perfectly. One of the first challenges our designers ran into was being able to emboss such a large area of leather with a single die similar to the one used for our wallets. The solution was to create 3 separate dies, one for each panel. With an eye- for detail, the factory workers carefully match our wood grain so that the three separately embossed panels on the front and back fit together seamlessly, giving it the look of a single piece of “wood”.

For such a luxurious piece our designers also wanted to make sure they got everything just right, from the top stitching to the lining to the embossing. The Evergreen briefcase went through 5 revisions to get to where it is today, each one improving the shape, feel, and quality of the bag, from the inside out. We spent just as much attention on the interior as we did on the exterior, ensuring it was beautiful as well as functional. For the lining our designers chose 100% cotton Kvadrat European fabric. The picture above shows the internal gussets being hand sewn, offering extra strength and durability at a key stress point.

For that extra special touch, we created a limited run of each color and individually serial numbered each briefcase for authenticity. These key elements may seem small on their own but each is as important as the next to guarantee that our Evergreen Briefcase is flawless in looks, function, and resilience.

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/ Monday, April 21, 2008 _Discover Artifact
We can't begin to describe how excited we are to be launching our women's line. Knowing that our customer has a discerning eye and expects nothing but the best, we've designed to impress with our first women's collection, Artifact. Inspired by the simplicity and functionality of an archeologist's field kit, our bag hearkens back to the days when international travel was new and boarding the plane was half the excitement of a vacation. Reminiscent of an old world work bag but with an updated look, these bags are perfect for the weekend or as an everyday bag. Grab the Weekender for your off the cuff weekend away or the Handbag for a stroll downtown. With smooth Italian leather, plenty of pockets (don't worry, we didn't go overboard) and distinctive contrast stitching you'll be the envy of everyone at the dig, or just your local restaurant. We know that this bag will be a hard act to follow, but we're up for the challenge.

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/ Sunday, April 20, 2008 _Hole-punched and Handsome

In the 1950's, telephones were available in 8 "exciting"colors, handset shoulder rests were being distributed nationwide, and the first Transatlantic telephone cable was installed between Newfoundland and Scotland. A lot has changed since then but the telephones from this era still serve as the inspiration for our Brisbane wallet collection. Available in wine, moss and black (for some reason we decided against "flesh-tone" and "cameo mint green" despite their popularity in the 1950's), our 100% Italian leather wallets are every bit functional as they are stylish. Taking its cues from the handsets of these retro phone, the punch cut design brings a modern twist to an old classic, proof that inspiration can be found anywhere.

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