Friday Five with Tom Pen of M.R.K.T.
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Architect Tom Pen founded Los Angeles-based lifestyle label M.R.K.T. (MAD RABBIT KICKING TIGER) in 2010 and has been designing bags with architectural-inspired shapes and details ever since. Pen acts as design director of the brand, overseeing everything from concepts, to product development, to manufacturing, while ensuring they continue to push the boundaries of design. Prior to launching M.R.K.T., he received his Masters of Architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and went to work for Peter Marino in New York, before starting his own architecture firm in 2001. His training and practice in architecture are what drives his creative vision for the brand. Here Pen share his love of European sedans, in this week’s Friday Five. Take a look at some of his favorites that inspired him.

From Pen:

When I was a kid in the early 80’s I fell in love with European sedans, not sports cars nor coupes, but 4 door passenger cars. This lead me to my interest in design then eventually inspired me to be an architect. To me, car design, in general, has been going in the wrong direction ever since then. Contemporary cars have too much emphasis on aerodynamics and sleekness and not enough on space and personality. Since I can’t design cars as an alternative to buildings, I design bags. Same ideas: exterior silhouette that’s about creating a persona, whereas interior is about function. Here are 5 cars that inspired me.

Left: Photo source \\\ Right: Photo source

1. 1985 Saab 900
I used to own one. Still dream about it sometimes because it was so cool and beautiful. It drove terrible, couldn’t make a proper left turn. But it didn’t matter.

2. 1982 Mercedes Benz 300D
I don’t see anyway to design a classier car. Every line and proportion here is perfect and logical. I believe practicality is beautiful, that’s why I like sedans more than sports cars. It’s easy to make sports cars beautiful because that’s cheating. It’s easy for Hermes to make a beautiful bag, can they do it for 1/50th the price?

3. 1984 Aston Martin Lagonda
Too Sexy!

4. 1982 BMW 735i
Back to earth. I was part of the Bimmer cult growing up. Nowadays, they look like fancy Hyundais. Much of the magic is gone. The shark nose and the tilted interior console are what built this brand, not just engineering. Before the 90’s the driver looked dignified sitting in a cabin with tall “green houses”. Look at the glass to door ratio. Today, most sedan have you sit very low with minimum glass ratio and slanted roofs, all in the name of better aerodynamics: very undignified.

5. 1983 Maserati Quattroporte
I wish straight lines can make a comeback in automotive designs. In the meantime, I’ll work on straight lines in bag designs.

Caroline Williamson is Editorial Director of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.