Q&A | Ratio et Motus

by Morgan Vickery

Conceptualized just seven months before it’s launch, Ratio et Motus, is proving to be a prominent up-and-coming leather accessories brand. Angela Wang and Daniel Li founded the New York-based company in March of 2018, inspired by the equilibrium of sense and emotion. Minimalistic, vintage-inspired bags have become the forefront of their burgeoning success with styles like the Twin Frame and Lady Bag. Mirroring their minimal design approach, Wang and Li aim to minimize their carbon footprint. Sourcing leather from meat industry by-products with low waste and water use, the duo enforce social responsibility for both design and supply chain ethicality. In their SoHo design studio, I sat down with Daniel and Angela to discuss their contemporary creations. 

How did Ratio et Motus come to fruition?

Daniel Li: Seven years ago, I used to intern for the company that Angela worked for, and then she hired me. I was there on and off for four or five years, and you were always there.

Angela Wang: I was there for seven years.

DL: We learned a lot of things about how to run a business and how to be mindful of different aspects of a small business. And because it’s a small team, we also would just learn a lot from each other.

AW: And also, I think we share a lot of the same opinions on things which leads to a good partnership.

DL: We became friends, as well--we just know each other inside-out, and she’s the person that I trust the most in my life, and vice-versa. Hopefully, it’s mutual…

AW: Of course, it’s mutual!

DL: Towards the end of our experience there, we were not happy at all, and the aesthetic of the brand that we worked for was different than what we strived for, and we decided to launch this together.

AW: We launched the brand in March 2018. Before the brand’s launch, we had been working on it for about seven months.

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The name of your brand defines the balance of “sense and emotion.” How was this name conceptualized?

AW: I think the sense and emotion comes from our life philosophy, both of us are trying to find the balance between these two elements, and we want to have a very emotional design that also makes sense.

DL: Ratio et Motus: reason and emotion. When we were trying to come up with the name, we were trying to find common ground between us. I feel like in anything we do it has to be an expression of our true self; otherwise, there’s nothing that you can use to correct yourself for every decision you make. I think reason and emotion, especially after we launched, the name resonated with us even more as we grew. We’re not trying to do anything crazy--all of the designs are very vintage-inspired but modern, and you can feel an emotion that is calm and peaceful. And every time we try to make a new design decision or make any decision, it’s like, ‘Does this have the balance?’ So it’s really nice for us to be able to check ourselves with this principle.

What design aspects influence your creative process from concept to creation?

AW: For the first two pieces of designs in the collection ( Twin Frame and Lady Bag), they come from the design ideas we’ve been having for a long time before we launched the brand. For the rest of the styles launched later, we started the ideas from the shapes/functionalities we needed for serving different purposes and occasions. Once the concept of the shapes is decided, we move forward with proportions of the silhouette, details of the construction and color palette for the whole collection.

DL: It’s definitely a process of many back and forth. All the elements get shifted around, regrouped to get to a place that seems balanced. The ideas keep getting enriched with every decision we make, and the final product is something that fits both of our vision.

Do the minimal designs reflect your personal aesthetics?

DL: For sure, I think anything we do for the brand stems from our personal aesthetics. It’s just a more complete and definitive version of it.

AW: I feel I can find little pieces of myself from every style in our collection. And I think it is important that we design the collection in accordance with our personal aesthetic.

Sustainability represents a core practice for the brand. Tell us about the importance of this practice and how your mission of a low carbon footprint is achieved.

AW: We only purchase raw materials from the vendors who have specific certification from Leather Working Group.

DL: This organization measures the tanners on traceability of raw material, water consumption, toxic materials used in production and toxic waste management...etc. We also only source hardware that is made of stainless steel and brass with nickel free plating. All these efforts have been made in order for us to put sourcing on a sustainable level. It has been quite difficult for us to make the best choices because when it goes down to the vendor level, not everyone cares about sustainability.

AW: And the choices are very limited, and the costs are higher, but we think it’s worth it.

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How do you source leather from meat industry by-products?

DL: We go to this trade show called Lineapelle in Italy twice a year and meet with in person.

AW: We talk to them to understand the process of their production from the source of the raw material to finishing. We learn a lot every time we go there. I think it’s very important for us to have these background knowledge.

As a young accessories brand, how do you envision the growth of the company?

DL: I mean, comparing where we are now to a year ago when we first started, we have grown so much both on a personal level and on a company level. Now we have moved into this studio and feel like anything is possible. There is just this energy going on in the studio every day where I feel like I want to make things and collaborate with talented friends. Maybe the growth will come from there.

AW: Both of us are very happy about what we have achieved so far, and feel even more motivated to experiment with a different product category.

Which bag has been the most successful thus far?

DL: Every style in our collection serves a different purpose, so it’s hard to pick which one is doing the best. But I think Twin Frame is probably the most special because of the versatility and functionality of the design.

What can we expect next from Ratio et Motus?

DL: Having our new studio really helps, because before we were just working from home. Now with a studio, I feel even more grounded, at ease and ready to do some exciting work. We also don’t want to limit ourselves to just handbags. We want to explore different leather goods categories, and we are excited to present something different in the near future.

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To see more by Ratio et Motus click here.

Photography by: Lyn Hersh