A Conversation With: Catzorange

An ongoing series of conversations to explore a dialogue on inspiration, passion, community, travel, and life in general.
Intuitive and free are adjectives not often associated with fashion, but they're apt descriptors of our newest addition to the shop, Catzorange.  Recently, Coco and Johnny Mannix, the married couple behind the brand, founded their line of gorgeous, woven bags.  Handbags reflective of lives guided by gut feeling as much as mindfulness, self-expression, and a need to simply create.  
Meet the charming duo below.
Congratulations on the launch of Catzorange!  Tell us about your backgrounds and how you started the line.  Where did the name come from?
Thank you!
Johnny: I grew up in New York City, and Coco was born and raised in Berlin, Germany.  We met a few years ago while I was studying literature in Berlin.  Coco was working for an art and fashion magazine at that time.
Coco: The name originated from the time and place when Johnny and I first met.  We always used it as our secret code word, so it developed organically to what it is now.  If you know us, it also represents our two backgrounds.
What inspired the bags?
Johnny: When we were moving from Berlin to New York in 2014, we found ourselves in a beautiful but tiny West Village apartment with nothing.  No furniture, nothing.
Coco:  I came with a suitcase of clothes and a small package of books and keepsakes from my childhood.  Having few possessions and New York being an expensive terrain, we started creating our own aesthetically pleasing place.  Everything that we couldn’t afford or was not how we envisioned it to be – we just made.  We picked up a sewing machine with the money we got at our wedding and started sewing clothes and objects.  The bags formed naturally out of our needs.  While we were working on a farm and living close to the beach, the bag was the perfect in-between object carrying everything from flowers and carrots to beach reads and sunscreen.  We got so many compliments that we thought people might like to have it too. 

Your ethos and aesthetic are tied to a slower, considered approach to life.  Why is this important to you?  And, how does this extend to your personal life?  

Coco: I think that once you take on a big risk or change, everything becomes more clear -- who you are and what you want from life.  You also realize that all the power lies in the decisions you make for yourself.  For me, the big change was leaving Berlin and everything behind and coming to New York just because I fell in love and my heart told me to.  And it was not easy.  Now we are attentive to what we want and consciously choose how we want to live and try to adapt that to our daily life.  There will always be things in your life, but you can create around them and work with them.  There will always be issues, like making rent, etc.  It’s just really how you look at them.

Johnny: Living in New York can be fast, loud, and full of anxiety, and we are aware of that – so we rely on creating our own space and pace.  We choose to live simply so that we can invest in our own freedom.  It is easy to get trapped in your own life without realizing it. 

Where in Brooklyn do you live?  How does the city shape you and your work?

Coco: We live in between Williamsburg and Bushwick.  We moved to the city in February after working on a farm.  We chose Brooklyn this time because it has the affordable luxury of space and light.  We actually have windows now and get sunlight all day.  We chose an old industrial loft that fits our needs, where we can be creative, and where we create.  All our bags are made in the same studio where we live.  A place that we can form, a place where we can move things around and use as our own canvas.  

Johnny: Being back in the city also means being able to connect with the creative world on a daily basis.  Most of our friends are designers, makers, and creative in some way – being surrounded by this force is very inspiring and nurturing.  But it is also important to take time away from it – that’s why Brooklyn is perfect right now.  We can be in and out in a second.  

You mentioned working on a farm.  Can you tell us more about the experience?

Johnny: We worked a full season last year from April to January.  We did everything, from germination to transplanting, caring for the crops, harvesting, and in the end selling.  Sharing fresh produce with others that was harvested by your own hands that same morning and being aware of the work that went into it is a powerful experience.  Working in such an old and necessary profession with an absolutely clear sense of purpose and a clear head lets you see yourself and your priorities in a new light. 

From Germany to the Hamptons to now Brooklyn, you've led quite the nomadic lifestyle.  Do you have a favorite?  If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be? 

Coco: A favorite doesn’t really exist – no.  But I am happy to say that all the places where we lived were perfect in the exact moment.  We were living in places with just a mattress, and places that had everything.  And we loved them all.  Even if we look back, we still get excited about the memories, but we don’t really miss them.  We always left when the time was right.

Johnny: We were thinking of moving to California at some point.  Something deserty and warm.  A different vegetation from what we are used to. 

Coco: Maybe we will never settle.  Maybe when we are in our 80s and we get a couch.  We never had a couch.  It’s just too hard to move with a couch.  Maybe we will miss this place where we are right now someday.

Fuggiamo is Italian for “let’s escape”.  In the spirit of escaping, what are your favorite ways to unwind?

Johnny: We really like to make things with our hands, and we never really stop creating.  So I would say creating is sort of a way to unwind and organize the mind.

Coco: There is also this thing, kind of like a search walk, where we go for a long walk with no goal but with the purpose of finding, whatever that might be.  It can be an old mirror on the side of Houston Street, a hidden yard sale, or finding simple sea glass at the beach.

Do you have a mantra you live by?  


What is your favorite:

Brooklyn secret spot?  Johnny: The old warehouse we live in has a big rooftop.  They play movies on the roof on summer nights, old and new, that are open to the public.  The neighborhood we live in feels like Neukrolln/Kreuzberg in Berlin – but you’re in Brooklyn.  It’s weird.  We love it.

Beach?  Coco: I think we have to say the beaches in Amagansett!

Souvenir?  Coco: Not a real souvenir, but we got these Frank Gehry chairs from Johnny’s Grandmother.  They are probably the only thing that will always come with us, where we are.

Fruit?  Johnny: Papaya with lemon juice, but that will probably change again with the season. 

What’s next for you and Catzorange?   

We have some projects coming up that we are very excited about.  Lots of new shapes and colors…but mostly we will trust our own instincts and see where they will take us. 

Thanks, Johnny and Coco!  Follow them on Instagram, and shop their debut collection of bags here.