Blaq Design started off a couple of guys in Kent, OH making rough looking messenger bags. They have come a long way since then (out to Portland, OR in fact), and have now opened their first retail location. Blaq Design is made up of Paul Johnson, Jeremy Neal, and their partner Aaron Painter. This year, their biggest project was building up inventory and moving into the retail location. You can find them at:
1100 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97202
Visitors are welcome Tue – Sun, 11am to 7pm.
And, until Christmas Eve, you can have 25% off all inventory in store only.
I stopped by to meet up with Paul and Jeremy for a tour of the new shop. Make the jump for a photo tour and some interesting details.
The front portion of their space is this cozy retail floor filled with backpacks, messenger bags, and accessoriess all produced in house.
Jeremy, hard at work sewing up a bag.
Paul, finishing up a custom order bag.
Organization! When you make bags, you have a lot of small hardware pieces around. This is a great way to keep all the small parts in order. Speaking of hardware…
Blaq has moved away from using repurposed seat belt buckles they were pulling from junk yards, and have upgraded to a much classier set of hardware. The new hardware is sourced from Austria. From left to right: This machined 7075 aluminum slider is standard on messenger bags now. Next are the black and grey buckles also made from 7075 aluminum, and these are an optional upgrade. Last is the stamped stainless steel nautical buckle (also shown in use above.) Having put my hands on this hardware, I can confidently say I have seen nothing better used on a bag. This stuff is quality. A website update is planned for the very near future and should have the new hardware options and costs listed once it’s pushed out.
It can be hard to tell what bag is right for your needs based off numbers and specs online. It’s great being able to walk into a store and test them hout however. Blaq has made a point to build up inventory that spans their entire product line, so if you are curious and in the Portland area, swing by and check them out. I left the store with a Blaqpack (the black bag in the upper right), so stay tuned for a full review soon.
When building up inventory for the shop, the guys got a bit adventurous with the colorways. They have colors galore, and can make a custom bag in just about any colorway you can think up.
Custom screen printing is available as well. These designs were done in colaboration with local PDX artists RX.
“RX (or Arrex) is a local street artist. We met him when he purchased a bag. After seeing his art we started a collaboration where we are doing 10 custom bags w his art and he’s getting a very special bag in return. He introduced us to the whole Visual Assault (VA) crew who made the mural for the shop. We are going to be doing collaborations with artists on a regular basis now that we have the store setup and room for inventory, starting with “the lost cause.”
The VA crew really nailed this mural. It looks great in the shop.
Blaq Design has worked with PDW to design a bag that fits the Takeout Basket.
If the Takeout bag isn’t large enough, there is this rack bag that fits nicely in a Velo Orange front rack.
The Velo Orange bag is $140 and the rack is $160. It is available in the store and soon on the web. The PDW bag is $75 or $130 with the rack. Also not on the web yet, but available for custom orders. A bag for the CETMA 5 rail rack is in the works, as well as a bag for the SOMA and possibly a few other popular rando racks.
Besides bags of all types, Blaq produces a few acessories as well. They make belts, hip pouches, tool bags, and these pedal straps. I have had a set of these on my single speed for some time now, and they hold up great. The lack of hardware means (besides the pedal itself) there is nothing wearing on the fabric, and that adds to the longevity Plus, you can get a pair made to match your bike. The Freestyle straps run $54.
I didn’t expect to see this when I came into the store. The guys have teamed up with House Coffee here in Portland to roast a single origine Brazilian bean in your choice of a medium or dark roast. A 12oz bag runs $14.
Making its Internet debute is the Blaq Design hydration pack dubbed the Blaqrock.
“It will retail for ~$140 without a reservoir. They are available now in the store and on the web soon (spring). They fit a full-face helmet for when you are riding slowly or hike-a-biking up a mountain. It is designed for DH, but could be used for other things. There will definitely be a range of hydration packs geared towards mountain biking and gravel grinders once we’re fully satisfied with the Downhill version.”
Blaq Design’s growth is no fluke. These guys work hard at innovating, refining, and producing quality bags and accessories. I was very impressed with the product in store after having some hands on with the bags. That, factored in with custom colorways and screen printing, means you can always get exactly what you want. Keep your eye on these guys as there are more things to come starting this Spring, such as a new website, both reflective and natural materials for the bags, and even electro luminescens.