Maker Monday: An ASPIRE Exclusive Interview With Daniel Lantz

Merino wool is the hidden gem that has anchored and catapulted Graf Lantz as a leader in sustainable design. From daily household accessories and handbags, to now handcrafted masks, Graf Lantz can do it all from their home in the heart of Los Angeles. Their impactful motto “Keep it simple. Keep it natural. Keep it different. Evolve,” is clearly something founders Daniel Lantz and Holger Graf practice in their daily personal and professional lives. Graf Lantz has been featured in many major publications such as The New York Times, Forbes, and now ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME. Introducing this week’s Maker Monday, one half of the dynamic duo that makes up Graf Lantz, Daniel Lantz.

Graf Lantz uses wool because It’s water-wicking, stain-resistant, antimicrobial, and sustainable. Above are the Bierfilzl coasters that not only keep your table safe, but also repel water from the condensation of your drink!

Andrew Joseph: How would you describe your personal style?
Daniel Lantz: Holger and I are high-low enthusiasts. Luxury brands and second-hand goods carry the same weight. It’s all about how you put them together and live in them. A pristine Dries Van Norton shoe with a beat-up pair of old painter pants (and ideally a rare Paul Harnden jacket where applicable) is pretty much our vibe. We always dress as if we might have to run directly from the cutting tables to a night out with no change necessary. Granted, we have both ruined clothing with this practice, but even the occasional accidental dye splash can add to our feel for careless chic, because that’s just who we are and how we live. We know how to work it. In the end, clothing is meant to be used and we do just that. Nothing is too precious. We never sport logos. And we are not all about being flashy or trendy. Screaming anything is not our thing.

Andrew: What would your dream project or dream client be right now?
Daniel: All we have are dream clients, actually. We seriously have the most loyal, enthusiastic, understanding and supportive customers in the world. They consistently tell us what they think. Their influence on us has been incredible and guiding, and we are still here because of it. Our customers are the ones who initially asked us to make masks and got that project going. We have no choice but to function in a consistent circle of gratitude to all of them.

Andrew: What’s your biggest fear in life?
Daniel: Besides dogs that chew shoes, our biggest fear is losing curiosity. Giving up a sense of wonder. Complacency. We see it with a lot of people. It’s real and it’s always sad to see. If we can be an inspiration for not letting that happen then we will have succeeded indeed.

Andrew: What’s inspiring you in life (in the industry) right now?
Daniel: More creative people striking out on their own and doing things in their own way. Hard times have a silver lining, and this is a bright one. It opens doors for great ideas, methods, collaboration and shared success that keeps everyone afloat.

Andrew: What is the last book you read?
Daniel: “Consilience” by E.O. Wilson. He is a personal hero. It’s about how the sum of human learning in multiple fields begins folding back to influence and evolve one another. One example is the ever-closer relationship between computer science and medical science. Not bad for a naturalist whose thinking was partly derived from the social observations of the 400 ant species he discovered and named.

Pictured above is Graf Lantz’s utilitarian Kawabon trays. They are sculpted with a combination of leather and merino wool which create a timeless, sophisticated, and durable piece to place in any room you fancy.

Andrew: If you weren’t a designer, you’d be a ….?
Daniel: Duh. David Attenborough’s personal Travel Valet. When you think of all the places he has been, all the beauty he has seen, and how many creatures he gets to cuddle all the time, I really can’t think of a better fallback career.

Andrew: What’s the best thing that happened to you this month?
Daniel: It changes every day but I think we have a winner for the end of the month. Today we received cool emails from Feeding America with really good news about our work with them. It’s pretty great when you come face to face with the good you’re trying to accomplish in the world.

Andrew: What’s your favorite cocktail?
Daniel: Neither Holger Nor I drink in any regular way. But we miss our friends terribly. When we start hanging out with them again it’s definitely going to be old fashions for everyone. It’s the one cocktail we both seem to like.

Andrew: Who was the nicest person you worked for? Dare you want to share the worst?
Daniel: Luckily, we’ve both always made our own way and steered clear of having bosses. It’s not for everyone but for us it’s been great and necessary. We highly recommend it whenever possible. Our company is one where our employees feel lifted up by the boss rather than downtrodden and fearful. It’s a never-ending process but we believe it makes for a successful company. We now have enough history to prove it.

Andrew: Secret talent?
Daniel: Accidental Empath. Seeing problems through other people’s eyes is the way to peace, progress and solutions. Our backgrounds and history have given that to us and we try to push the idea in our culture as much as possible.

Andrew: What’s one thing you hate admitting that you love about quarantine?
Daniel: The ability to focus on work and creativity in a quiet, deserted office, definitely. With everyone working remotely the distractions have been greatly reduced. Our meetings are more focused and effective and they always end on time with tasks and projects defined. This is not a slight to any of our team because we’ve discussed it with everyone and they all pretty much agree, so we’re in good company. We are currently planning our new office set up when the team returns and it definitely includes more private workspaces and work from home days.

It’s important for placemats to be stain, heat, and water repellent. But as an added bonus, these beauties are also effortlessly aesthetically pleasing. Above are the Oval placemats that provide both a modern and minimalist touch.

Andrew: What did you rediscover about yourself during COVID?
Daniel: Like so many people have experienced, COVID has clarified what is important and what is not. Although we have no idea what to do with ourselves when things are going well, we are especially calm and focused when things get weird. It’s always good when you find out a little more about who and how you are in hard times. There is a heightened sense of gratitude that comes with that clarity and it leads to better long-term planning as well as in-the-moment decisions.

Andrew: What are some creative ways that you have kept yourself busy during quarantine?
Daniel: Keeping busy has never been a problem for us. Now we are concentrating on making all the busy-ness more effective and efficient so we can always focus on the fun of creativity. We’ve been given the chance to re-structure and build a company and we are running with it. Our advice to anyone starting their own business adventure is to first visualize how you want your company to be structured. What are the most important roles that need to be in place, ideally, for work to flow smoothly. In the beginning, of course, many roles are filled by the same person, but if you have a picture of each role and its functions ahead of time you will know exactly the right time to bring other team members on. We didn’t start this way. We just kept our heads down and worked. While we are proud of what we accomplished that way, in hindsight we now see that visualizing a company as we hope it to be leads us to solutions and right choices much more efficiently.

Andrew: Who’s the better therapist, your pet or your wine?
Daniel: Frankie, our dog, is absolutely hands down the greatest therapist ever in all the time and history of the whole entire universe, period. Especially in a pandemic. Graf Lantz exists because of a certain group of amazing people and Frankie is definitely one of them.

Retrofitting their practice for our new reality, Graf Lantz has created soft, sustainable and chic mouth-nose coverings. With every purchase, they are donating 10 meals to the Feeding America charity, and have thus far been able to provide over 2 million meals!

Andrew: Do you prefer to wear loungewear when doing work-from-home or still prefer jeans and a shirt?
Daniel: Dressing up for any occasion possible seems the best way to go. Besides, we’re mostly terrible at lounging while it’s daylight. It’s very confusing. It’s like living in a constant in-between-time.

Andrew: What new skills have you taught yourself this quarantine?
Daniel: I’ve been working to create a forcefield around my head that acts as a lens to correct for subjective distortion. It seems I’m a master at it because I continue to be right about everything.

Andrew: Who/what was your biggest supporter or motivator in these unsettling times?
Daniel: It is a very long list. But we would have to say the folks who are doing their best to keep themselves and others safe with our masks. It always feels like a confirmation of our work and what we love: quality, beauty and utility that makes life more liveable.


About The Maker | Holger Graf and Daniel Lantz founded Graf Lantz in Los Angeles in 2009. Prior to founding Graf Lantz, Holger Graf earned his PhD in structural engineering from his studies in Germany, while Daniel Lantz let fate lead him to grow deep roots in the shokunin world of Japan. German precision, Japanese perspective and California soul influence their collections.

Andrew Joseph is a regular contributing editor for ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine. See more of his work here.

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