Dina and Frosti just created a pop-up store in Westwood, L.A., and are working on their next concept soon
While designing sex toys for Kiki de Montparnasse and Doc Johnson, Dina Epstein learned a thing or two about working leather into a quality product. Now the RISD graduate brings this design expertise and her love for locally produced goods to her LA-based line, Clark & Madison, started just over a year ago with now-fiancé, Michael "Frosti" Zernow.
"It was definitely an industry switch...though I did work with leather at both previous companies," she says.
The duo behind the brand weave inspiration from their travels into their handiwork, adding pieces of reclaimed fabric and rugs from around the globe and incorporating design aesthetics pulled from other cultures into everything, from the shape of the bag to the stitching. The last time Dina and Frosti visited Japan, for example, they went from Tokyo to the mountain town of Koyasan, finding everything from vintage kimonos to robot dance parties along the way. "What we truly experienced was an attention to detail. The architecture, the presentation of your breakfast…every detail is considered, each choice made with intention. We try to simplify our designs down to the bare minimum and make each stitch and curve matter," Dina says.
This trip also happens to be where Frosti officiated Dina's sister's wedding after hiking up to a Buddhist monastery on Mount Koyasan. When he returned to the States, he started looking for rings and proposed not long after on a trip to Tahoe surrounded by her entire family.
It's fitting that the proposal took on a two-part form that started across the globe and ended back home, just like the collection. Falling in love with cities like Singapore and its hawker markets or the intimacy and sensuality of Paris, Clark & Madison still has its roots back in the U.S., named with American heritage in mind after William Clark, from the Lewis & Clark Expedition, and one of America's founding fathers, James Madison. "The history of ancient cultures and their multicultural descendants that live today is a constant source of inspiration for the brand," Dina says. "The West was built by explorers, wild spirits riding into the sunset and off the edge into the unknown."
The leather Weekender bag is designed as a carry-all for all types of travel
Mix the spirit of the American West with the energy and fearlessness of their home in Los Angeles and you have the recipe behind the hand-made designs that not only focus on classic silhouettes and leather craftsmanship, but also support the local manufacturing industry, working with small, family-owned brands to source fabric.
Dina and Frosti are itching to get to spots like Argentina, Mallorca, the Amalfi Coast and Amsterdam, and while travel is one of the backbones behind their design ethos, they draw just as much inspiration for their "Made in America goods" from their home in L.A. as they do hiking mountains in Japan. "The laid-back California culture is all about the spur of the moment getaways…a socially diverse mix of people come here to chase their own dreams, creating an environment where freethinking is celebrated and anything is possible. Where other cities play it safe in grayscale, L.A. has never been afraid to make its mark; the air is alive with creativity and the streets are always hungry for the next big thing," Dina explains.
Take their Oakley clutch, for example, perfect for dinner or date night and named after American sharpshooter Annie Oakley who "pushed boundaries and made her mark on history. The clutch is both bold and classic and will certainly impress whatever company you may find yourself in, just like Oakley," Dina says.
Clark & Madison founders Dina and Frosti