Interview: Rupert Smiles

Interview: Rupert Smiles

Will Hyndman @ Slick Willy's

I have kind of been in this polygamous relationship with art and fashion for a few years now, so naturally I try to merge the two whenever I can. This week, I’ve had a really new and major obsession with handbags … as art. I simply can’t get past that moment when Kanye gave Kim a Hermes Birkin with a privately commissioned George Condo on the front; it gives me heart palpitations.

I am one of those annoying people that insistently believe a bag is an essential item for any given occasion. I have numerous bags for the daytime, a bag or two for overnight, a bag for my make-up, a bag for my laptop, a bag for Uni, a bag to take to twenty-firsts, a bag for the rubbish in my car, and a few others that float around my apartment. I have so many bags I need a break. But like a good painting, a great burger, a perfect sculpture (or significant other?), a bag that makes you really happy is really hard to find. Yet, I have found one.

Will Hyndman, University of Otago graduate, local designer and budding bagman – who you also might have seen selling stuff at Slick Willy’s – has come up with a classic duffel bag that can be used in every situation. Will has spent the past few months designing and hand sewing bags by himself in his basement. Inspired by vintage mountaineering, vintage skiing, exclusivity and the obvious travesty that is Country Road luggage, Will has created a range of bags (small, medium and large at this point) that are basic, black, leather, monogrammed, and totally baller. I stopped in for a quick juice and chat the other day with Will to get some moody and inspiring insights on his brand and bags. Here’s what he had to say:

Your bags are beautiful! How would you describe them?
Well, it’s really just a classic duffel bag that combines adventure with style, using waterproof canvas and New Zealand leather, with heavy hardware detailing. Ideal for guys at the gym and gals on the go!

Where did the name “Rupert Smiles” come from? It’s a bit cute!
Rupert is my middle name. And Smiles is my first love’s name – although she never really took the time to love me. Hopefully she likes the bags!

How bittersweet. How do you make them; are they all hand made?
HAND MADE! Yes. Blood, sweat and tears. At home, in the basement, no windows, concrete floor – cold feet. On a sewing machine. It all happens.

That sounds … really raw. Why monogrammed?
Yeah, the monograms are really just a point of difference. I guess it just makes them exclusive to each person. And it’s just real baller.

I love having my shit monogrammed. It makes me feel important. In what instance has your Rupert Smiles bag been particularly great?
It was real perfect to take to R&A because nothing important got wet …

At the moment Will is reworking some vintage wetsuits, brought all the way from Cali, into some limited edition Rupert Smiles duffels – in colour! Breaking out. You can order and buy your Rupert Smiles bags online at or in store. And be sure to follow Rupert Smiles on Instagram @Williamrupertsmiles for updates and funny hashtags.
This article first appeared in Issue 3, 2014.
Posted 4:35pm Sunday 9th March 2014 by Hannah Collier.