Math + Fashion? Ampersand as Apostrophe’s Unique Design Concept

This Seattle designer takes the conventional and transforms it unconventionally.

It’s strange to read the words. Ampersand. Apostrophe. They’re not words you frequently see. Even as you say them in your head, they’re hard to get out. It’s possible you’ve not seen these word in print before, but what you most likely have seen are the symbols, & and ‘ on your keyboard.

In the same way, 27-year-old Seattle-based designer Jessica Park takes something conventional and morphs it into something much different, more unconventional.

Photos: Jessica Carter

“Once read aloud, the phrase reveals itself as three common symbols: ampersand meaning addition, as meaning equal to and apostrophe meaning multiples of,” reveals Park. All represent functions of transformation.

It is this concept that Park uses when taking an everyday item she sees beauty in and transforms it into something even more beautiful. “I am very simplistic in the way I design and the way I transform [things] using multiples of, equal proportions and adding,” she explained.

Park used this concept in creating a line of over-the-shoulder handbags that double as clutches and feature envelope-like characteristics for functionality. Each is handmade from English mail-carrying duffel bags believed to be around 100 years old. The comfortable design allows the leather to mold to ones shoulder. Park saw the beauty in the duffels instantly. “I was thinking about the times, 100 years ago in England, where letters were carried in the duffels. Whether they were love letters or contracts.”

All of this came about after Park was laid off from her interior design job at an architecture firm a year and a half ago, and she was trying to figure out what she was going to do next. She went to Tokyo on vacation and when she returned to the states, she curated a gallery in Ballard for a short time.

It was during that time, she was walking down the street in Ballard and noticed a small store where a man was selling an array of antique items. That was where she discovered the old duffels. Three quarters of the bag was made of canvas adorned with graphic numbers and the bottom was reinforced with genuine leather. She fell in love with their rich texture and the canvas and leather contrast of the vintage material.

Park purchased three of the duffels that day but didn’t do anything with them initially. Instead, she placed them in the trunk of her car and they continued to age for yet another three months until she started to visit Seattle area canvas shops inquiring as to whether any would take commission to help her sew a handbag out of one of the duffels, intended for her own use.

After a friend saw her creation and convinced Park that she should make more and sell the handbags, Park called the duffel seller and purchased the remaining 100 he had, tucked away in storage. And Ampersand As Apostrophe was born shortly after.

Although Park does not have a fashion background, her knowledge in interior design has helped pave the way for both her design concept and her success. Coming from an architectural versus a fashion background, she uses the methods of construction when designing her handbags. Her passion is creating minimal and raw style, influenced by architecture.

“In interior design, I was about staying true to the honestly of the material,” she says. “I didn’t try to make it look like it was something else.” This concept shows in the basic detail of her handbags. Where the fabrics come together (in this case, the canvas and the leather on the duffel) is not something she hides but rather exposes to show the detail as an accent.

With the majority of the duffel bags used and her search for more came up empty, Park came to the conclusion that those particular handbags were meant to be a limited edition, yet another aspect of what makes them unique. Park continues to move forward into her next ventures which include an upcoming collaboration with Urban Outfitters, a new collection of handbags and her retail pop-up gallery, Coming Soon.

Park’s goal is to establish a brand. With her sheer determination to master each project she dives into, this seems like a given. After she master’s handbags, her plan is to move on to shoes, coats and jackets and eventually, clothing. After resting one of her handbags on our shoulder, we’re excited to see what’s next for Ampersand As Apostrophe.