"To be honest, I’ve not been using a 'real wallet’ for a long time," Chieh Ting Huang tells Co.Design. In order to circumvent the unwieldy—and largely unnecessary—bulk of traditional billfolds, the London-based designer took to toting around a thin, plastic travel-card holder stuffed with bills and credit cards, but the flimsy thing couldn’t handle the strain (and as I’ve actually done the exact same thing, I can vouch for the fact he’s not alone, and those cheapies split at the slightest give). Huang needed a stylish solution—so he developed one himself.
Using leather was a no-brainer—it’s durable, with a familiar look and feel in the world of male accessories—but construction required in-depth consideration. "When I looked into the making of leather wallets, I noticed that it requires a lot of man hours cutting and stitching a lot of materials, which sometimes results in a lot of waste," he says. The project was then an exercise in strategic simplification, eliminating all clasps, closures, and superfluous sewing until he was just working with the hide itself.
During the R&D period, Huang substituted comparably thick and durable foam sheets to try the various patterns, continually refining the folds until he found the right template. Then, inspired by iconic images of bank notes bound together with a rubber band—"like they do in the Hollywood movies"—he decided to incorporate a custom elastic loop to pull the whole concept together. "Some heavy shaking and throwing tests were carried out," he says of the rigorous trials to make sure everything stayed perfectly put, while (lucky!) friends were given prototypes for some real-world action.
If the result looks effortless, you can thank Huang for doing all the beautiful back-end refinement. "The question I’ve been asked the most is ‘Why can’t I just go home and make one myself?’" he says. "I actually encourage people to do so. What I’m doing is offering an idea and a way of seeing your everyday objects. I’d love to see if it inspires people to make one with the materials they find or come up with other solutions."
The Nothing Fancy series features a coin case, an iPhone holder, and a passport holder, and Huang is hoping to find a manufacturer to help out with the future of the collection: "I almost feel that the possibilities can go on and on."