Q&A: Albert Yuan of Wotancraft
Based in Taiwan, Wotancraft makes a wide range of luxury products: from leather watch straps, to Cordura camera bags, to a $1,000 leather travel pack. Every thing they manufacture is immaculately constructed and made of custom spec’d materials.
In our humble opinion, Wotancraft makes the most aesthetically pleasing “heritage” gear, bar none. We’re big fans of their WWII-inspired designs and were fortunate enough to be able to ask their legendary Chief Designer, Albert Yuan, a few questions.
Wotancraft’s visual appeal is truly stunning – you’ve taken WWII rucksack design and updated it with modern materials and a minimalist aesthetic. Where did you find the inspiration for this one-of-a-kind style?
I was always a military gear enthusiast and bought quite a lot of second hand vintage sacks, gear, clothing, etc.
Since I also had a love for photography, hiking, and biking, these vintage bags were fairly bulky for modern use and specially made for carrying military gear… so I had decided to design some lightweight military-styled bags for camera and daily use.
What’s your design process like and what are the key stages?
There are basically 4 key stages to my design process:
First, design inspirations start from my daily life. For example, when I’m using bags from another brand, I take what they are good at and find ways to integrate the pros into our designs.
Second, involves adding functions and features to the design. From years ago, we’ve added the interior module system to our bags and most recently, we’ve come up with the Wotancraft add-on module system. This way, customers have the opportunity to organize their bags inside and out, according to their needs or the scenario they’re going to jump into.
Third, deals with improving the aesthetics. After adding the functions and features, I then start to improve the aesthetics. However, there’s no specific standard for this – as long I’m satisfied with the looks, then I’ll proceed to the next step.
Fourth, is testing the design in real life. I usually take 1-3 months to test a new prototype and see if anything needs to be fixed, or scraping the design entirely. I often send out some bags for pros to test in different fields, such as photographers, hikers, climbers, etc.
Can you provide insights on how long it takes to complete a design from start to finish?
For a series, it usually takes around 3-6 months, testing included. And if I think that the designs are a no go, I might start from scratch and repeat the whole process.
What are your most important design features and how do you stay consistent across product lines?
Functions always come first. The design represents me and it really depends on what I’m thinking at that period of time. You can take the Pilot Series and Trooper Series as an example… although both series are aimed at camera and EDC users, you can tell that there’s a huge difference in the aesthetics.
What inspired the new adventure-focused Pilot Travel Camera Backpack?
My inspiration came from traveling and going on adventures (taking trips to other countries, hiking, wandering in the woods, etc.). I wanted to design a bag system (add-on module system) that can fulfill all my needs in different scenarios.
For example, if I wanted to go hiking, I might bring along the Fighter03 to stash an extra pair of shoes. Or If I just went to work, I could just carry the backpack only to fit a laptop and some personal belongings. Or if I wanted to go on a 2-3 day trip, I could add all of the Fighters to maximize my carry capacity.
Your use of mil-spec grade Cordura is pretty unusual for EDC and camera bags. Why did you guys choose this bombproof fabric?
I like using canvas bags, but before I came up with my own designs, canvas bags often wear out in a short period of time. So we had to come up with a durable canvas fabric that had a vintage military vibe, thus made some custom orders from the Cordura company.
With UL design philosophies growing in popularity, what are your thoughts on building gear that prioritizes durability over lightweight?
I’d prefer durability over weight because I like things that last and that’s why we have chosen the Cordura fabric. It’s not only durable, but also relatively quite light in weight.
For Wotancraft, things that last have “history” written over them… and that’s what brings out the vintage vibe.
How do you test your gear? What thresholds does each product have to pass before its released?
I test them out myself on a daily basis and ask pros to test them out in their field of work. For me, the product has to be easy to use (ergonomics), durable, and as long as I’m happy with the looks, it passes.
Which products are you most proud of? Which ones get the most frequent use?
I don’t have a specific favorite or most proud of bag that I frequently use. Sometimes, I pick up previous designs and test them out and even test out other brands as well. I’m always trying to learn more about how to improve our products
As a hidden gem in the carry world, one that’s starting to gain a lot more highly-deserved attention… what are your goals and expectations for Wotancraft?
Despite the pandemic, my hopes and expectations are for WOTANCRAFT to keep on working happily as a team and extend our enthusiasm for life, to our customers.
Finally, what’s next for Wotancraft? Any new product lines or projects you can tell us about?
We are planning to release some new designs towards the end of this year and this time, focusing more on vintage aesthetics.
Pilot Travel Camera Backpack
Rebel Lightweight Daypack
Pilot Camera Sling Bag 7L
Legend Watch Straps
Easy Rider Sling Bag 9.5L