Carry Conversations

Carry Conversations :: Spencer Nikosey

by , April 12, 2012

KILLSPENCER is a small LA-based brand that continues to evolve their charismatic carry pieces, further improving already good bags and cases. Spencer Nikosey is the creative source behind this military-inspired carry brand, making original bags for mostly urban pursuits. Spencer is a pretty interesting person, in our opinion a great example of a craftsman. On top of creating an amazing brand in KILLSPENCER, Spencer also makes, from time to time, his own jeans, shoes, wallets and other various pieces that pique his interest. Add to that a thirst to learn (did you know he can play the drums? He mastered the Gruber Method when he was younger), desire to have fun and an infectiously positive persona and Spencer is one rad guy. So rad that we wanted to share a little of Spencer with you guys as our first ‘Carry Conversation’ – a neat segment where we talk to people who inspire us in and outside of the carry world.


What’s your current bag choice?

Right now I’m using a mix of a KILLSPENCER Original Wax Black Filter Twill Utility Backpack, KILLSPENCER Black Leather Weekender 2.0 with a KILLSPENCER Parachute Shoe Bag and a KILLSPENCER DOPP Kit to round it out.

Three people/brands you’d love to work with and on what type of project?

Marmol Radziner. *Build a Complex.

Astronauts & Indians. *Have a custom collection of clothing made for me.

OVM.  *Anything creative.

When you’re not working, what takes most of your time?

Music. Sketching. Tours.

Where do you find inspiration?

Museums. Workshops. Studios. Nature…


Other hobbies include?

Hand weaving. Classical instrument lessons. Swimming.

Three non-work related places you frequent the most?

Handsome Coffee Roasters, James Jean’s studio and the Natural History Museum.

I am?


Tell us something you dig and disrespect in the world of carry?

I dig new processes and methods. I disrespect volume and people in the business who aren’t pushing themselves to make better products.

“There’s so much competition, but most companies aren’t trying to make the best products they can. They’re trying to make products good enough to make money.”

What wallet is in your pocket?

A prototype.

One tip about carrying better?

Less. But better.

A website like you?

OVM Love.


What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the upcoming products and relationships I’ve built with the members of our SPECIAL PROJECTS INNOVATION TEAM.

What percentage of your time are you on a computer?


When and where are you most creative?

I’m most creative after midnight. That’s when I’m away from the office and the machines and ideas flow.

Who do you bounce ideas off and/or get inspired by?

I have a small group of mentors. These people are amazing at what they do. I give them products and they use them, and give me feedback on how to improve the designs, construction, etc. I’m so lucky to have such amazing people interested in supporting the vision.


Do you work from an open, closed or home office?

I work in our workshop in downtown Los Angeles. It’s got a lot of natural light, tons of tools and machines, and a powerful creative spirit.

What’s the process and time of going from initial concept to finished sample for a product?

I set up our factory or workshop so I can design, develop, manufacture, photograph, launch, sell, and ship a new product all in one day. What’s cool is that I can do that, but the reality is that designing a perfect product in one day isn’t smart. So typically I spend a few weeks or months on a product. Make a prototype, test it out. Make changes. Make a revision of that prototype, test it out. Make another revision etc. Some products take 6 months of testing and revising and others take about a month. Once I feel that we’ve reached perfection and there’s nothing I can do to make this product better, then we launch it.


Do you work best alone or in teams? Day/night?

I work best alone, but in order to keep up with the demand of the business I have a very strong team I depend on to execute daily tasks. I work best at night when coming up with new ideas or developments, and work best during the day executing the ideas I come up with at night.


What fascinates you?

I’m utterly fascinated by and still don’t understand how commercial air travel exists. Flight in general is so amazing and mind-boggling. Also I’m fascinated with how big the world is and how many people, cultures, ideas, and ways of life there are.

Explain what makes good carry sense to you?

Simplicity. Ease of use.

What challenges have you become aware of when designing products?

Longevity. Endurance. Consistency.

Access to materials, quality of finished product?

Putting together all the pieces to the puzzle, then assembling that puzzle, photographing and launching it, then selling it and shipping it is SO COMPLEX. There are so many parts + pieces that it’s overwhelming.


Organization, better carry related materials and actually helping us carry better?

I don’t want to carry anything. Ever. But we have so much shit to lug around with us. If I can get to a point where I don’t have to carry anything with me, then I can stop designing bags.

Selling against established brands, online versus offline?

I guess the challenges of selling anything is getting the word out there. There’s so much competition, but most companies aren’t trying to make the best products they can. They’re trying to make products good enough to make money. So there’s a ton of room to win in the marketplace if you focus on making truly remarkable products.

We’ve read previously that you create all samples by hand yourself. Why?

With product development there are many parts of the process. I work with my team very, very closely to execute the vision I have for a product. So it’s like having 10 hands all working at once on one idea. The power of this allows us to perfect an idea much faster. I am there cutting patterns, sketching out designs, details, modifications, designing all the graphics, branding, and packaging; pretty much everything creative I’m in charge of that.


How important to you is the craft aspect of KILLSPENCER?

Craft to me is a method of execution. If you make something sloppy then you can’t say it was ‘crafted’. But if you take your time and make sure every detail and every stitch are perfect and thought out, then the craft of what you are doing gets taken to a whole other level. I am a big fan of sculpture. Sculpture that you can’t figure out how they did it… That’s craft. Or making anything that’s not easy to replicate. That’s craft.


How have you managed to merge together the two elements of aesthetics and utility?

I think every product starts with a set of problems you try and solve. For me it’s how can I organize all my shit and not look like a slob in the process. I think it’s all instinctual and done with the heart.

Is sourcing your materials hard? And are the materials limited in quantities, thus making pieces limited?

Sourcing may be one of the hardest parts of the process. You have to be fierce in the search for a consistency and quality. So we are, and the product shows. We are so proud of our work and everyone who owns one of our pieces responds. The use of reusable army materials is one of the most talked about elements of the KS story.

What in your mind is also helping create the KILLSPENCER brand and making it stand out from others in your market?

I think when you have all the pieces to the puzzle in order, people take you seriously. I think our work speaks for itself and that is the core of what carries our brand.

“Craft to me is a method of execution. If you make something sloppy then you can’t say it was ‘crafted’. But if you take your time and make sure every detail and every stitch are perfect and thought out, then the craft of what you are doing gets taken to a whole other level.”

Can you explain the idea behind the Gruber method and are you still able to practise it?

The Gruber method is a drum technique that was originally developed by Freddie Gruber, the original drum teacher of Buddy Rich. This method teaches you ‘limb independence’ so you can have control over each of your limbs at the same time. When practiced, you can be playing five different patterns at the same time.

Music/carry seem to be major loves in life. Are you thinking of ways to combine the two?

I’ve invented a bunch of products for the drums and made them. It’s my goal to make all the music for the films we make, but that hasn’t been fully realized yet. I’ll have a music studio in the next phase of our workshop expansion. Hopefully before 2013.

“I can design, develop, manufacture, photograph, launch, sell, and ship a new product all in one day…but the reality is that designing a perfect product in one day isn’t smart. So typically I spend a few weeks or months on a product.”

Is the military/utilitarian thing something that interests you outside of bags?

Oh yes. I appreciate that level of performance, function, and operation. I’m very detail-oriented and meticulous, and have always responded to all things technical.



    Great Interview! What a great space to work in too. It makes such a difference to have a great work environment…but sadly my own is probably about the size of killspencers bathroom. :]

    • John Canfield

      @BAGMAN I feel your pain. I am in a low light/no light back room in Seattle- where there isn’t any sun regardless. Sure would love a ping pong table, a click press and a crew of cool people in my loft.

      Agreed about the article. Spot on. I’ve been following Killspencer for a long time now and fell in love with their dead-sexy use of Cobra Buckles. Nice touch having them custom stamped.


      • BAGMAN

        I’m in an attic now…my biggest problem is a low ceiling! :]
        I couldn’t even fit a crew of cockroaches in there with me once my new benches are finished!

        As a Cobra user myself I can’t help but like them on Killspencers bags. :]

        • 31t®um

          you’re lucky bagman, i’m still working on the kitchen table.

          great interview, and workspace


    @BAGMAN @John -You guys are doing it right. So many people dont care about making stuff. Just so you know I started off just like you. I setup a sewing machine and cutting table in a section of my kitchen in my first apt, then in my next apt I turned the living room into my pattern making room. It was tough but well worth it. Small spaces keep you organized and when you can one step at a time leads to growth! Hit me up if you guys have any questions….

    • BAGMAN

      I think I’m doing something wrong…I’ve been making bags for the best part of ten years, I’m on my third workshop, and it’s my smallest one yet! :]

      To be honest though, I do everything myself so having a streamlined, compact workshop just means I have less distance to walk for things. :]

      I have a great deal of respect for you Spencer…I only discovered your brand a few months after I started ordering from Austrialpin…it was them that told me about your company. But the more I read, the more I respected your approach and your passion.
      Keep up the good work! There aren’t enough people out there who care more about the product than the profit.

  • MattInBerlin

    This is really inspiring, to an aspiring soft goods designer.

    Focus, detection, and the pursuit of quality. It sounds like an earnest life.

    Im so inspired, I am considering doing my senior thesis over the creation of a soft goods brand so hopefully one day I can be amongst those like Killspencer and Billy Kirk.


    Did you study produckt design before starting the company? When were you first exposed to sewing?

    Your work inspires many.

  • M.S

    Yes excellent interview! Very interesting read and of course inspiring to see people that put so much love, sweat and tears in order to give us the best product possible. Now i also understand the price better! 😀

  • Pingback: VINTED | Carryology()

  • Pingback: Road Test :: KILLSPENCER Special Ops Backpack | Carryology()


Carryology delivered. Your inbox. every two weeks. Only the best stuff, we promise.