1. How did you first get involved with This is Ground, and what do you do here?
I permanently joined the team about one and a half years ago, after starting as a contractor. I saw the huge opportunity for growth and knew this was something I wanted to be part of—from the ground up, so to speak. I am the Production Manager, so I am in charge of workflow from the design lab to the warehouse. I also order the supplies and materials that make up our product lineup, so I scour the world for the best leathers and hardware.
2. What’s the best part of working at This is Ground?
I love the group dynamic of the company. We are all an integral part of the team, and we have the opportunity to make a direct impact on an ever-evolving industry. I also love working directly with our in-house factory. Coming from the world of corporate fast-fashion, I have always worked with overseas factories. So here, I get to see first-hand how each product is made. That has really deepened my understanding of the technical aspect of design. I learn something new every day!
3.What song should play when you walk into a room today?
“Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus and Chaka Khan. . . as we are eagerly awaiting some fresh prototypes coming off the sewing line.
4. Are you originally from LA? Do you bring any influences with you?
I was born in Germany as an Air Force brat, so I travelled extensively as a child. That really was an education in itself and it shaped who I am today. I landed in LA after my dad retired and have loved it ever since. But the wanderlust never goes away and I need to travel as much as possible.
5. What’s the most recent photo on your phone, and what struck you in the moment to take it?
A most amazing breakfast bialy from Gjusta in Venice. It was so delicious, I had to Insta-immortalize it for posterity:
6. Are you into cooking? What kind of food do you daydream about?
I love to cook, but my favorite thing to make is reservations. . . preferably to any restaurant helmed by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo.
7. Who are your personal icons?
Amy Schumer for her outspoken viewpoints, Grace Kelly for her timeless style, and my grandma Dorothy, who was a consummate Southern Belle until the last days of her 92 years.
8. What are you currently reading?
I am a big fan of listening to audiobooks en route to work to ease the burden of LA traffic. Just finished Girl Boss by Sophia Amoruso and Miracles Now by Gabrielle Bernstein. Girl Power!
9. What’s been your most interesting adventure so far?
A few years back, I went to Costa Rica on a solo surf/yoga retreat. I met wonderful people and came home with amazing memories and met lots of new friends. . . including this prickly little guy!
10. Do you have any creative projects or leisurely pursuits on the horizon?
I am on a mission to mix up my workout routine, so this weekend entailed paddle boarding in Marina Del Rey, where I had a little too-close-for-comfort encounter with some sea lions. I like to keep it interesting!
About a year ago we introduced the Mod Laptop. Our goal was to take the success of the Mod Tablet and expand it to accommodate not just a laptop, but all the essentials of the modern professional: phone, cords, cards, pens, a tablet, notebooks, glasses, keys, currency. It was the largest and most complex piece we’d ever made.
Since then, the Mod Laptop has become one of our most popular items, as well as one of the most frequently commented upon. We’ve spent the last year completing a detailed study of the needs of users, as well as of the feedback our amazing social community has shared with us. The result of this analysis is the Mod Laptop 2.
The reboot begins with a newly felt-lined pocket for the laptop itself. We needed a material that was high quality, durable and soft to the touch of both the device and the user’s hand, while also providing a sophisticated accent against our leather. We found the answer by working with Buffalo Felt, a heritage felt maker in West Seneca, NY. Buffalo’s team worked closely with our designers to develop a custom felt just for our Mod Laptop 2 made of 100% natural wool produced locally in the US. This felt lip protects the laptop from scraping against the zipper, while also providing a protective barrier around the laptop.
The next big change was the addition of our first ever cross-body strap. We’ve wanted to introduce a strap to the Mod line for a long time, but straps often clutter a design and we didn’t want to sacrifice the clean Mod profile. That’s why the strap on our Mod Laptop 2 can be removed and the hardware hidden away in back of the case. Our straps are 100% leather and custom made for the Mod Laptop 2 in the factory across the hall from our design studio.
The trickiest item in a laptop’s arsenal, though, is often the blocky charger. We often saw people chucking their laptop case into a larger bag just so they could also fit the power adapter. We tried to find a way to house The Brick (as we call it) inside the Mod Laptop, but this proved impossible without substantially increasing the thickness of the whole case.
But we wanted the Mod Laptop 2 to amount to a complete carry; The Brick had to come along.
The answer came from an unexpected source: the Italian Spatialist Lucio Fontana. Known for his Tagli series, Fontana made actual incisions into monochromatic canvases the subject of his work.
To house The Brick we made a 35° angled cut in the back of the case. This opening is unadorned yet produces enough natural tension to hold the charger in place.
Once we started using this unique detail we found ourselves obsessed with all the other problems it solved – it’s perfect for boarding passes, notes, or anything else you want quick access to. We nicknamed it “The Pouch” because it reminded us of the noble and biologically remarkable marsupial.
Finally, the Mod Laptop 2 features our new, strong magnets from Connecticut based Romag. These magnetic fasteners are the best in the world at packing maximum power into the lightest and smallest package. They actually exert 8,100 Gauss, enough to require 21 lbs of force to remove, and they’re 100% safe for your electronics.
This final change means that the new Mod Laptop 2 is truly modifiable, able to seamlessly incorporate the full suite of Mod 2 inserts. This means it can be instantly customized to the unique needs of the photographer, the graphic designer, the adventurer, the bike commuter, the architect, the executive, the industrial designer, the writer, and to you.
Ground Control isn’t a popup. It’s not quite a community studio. Even though it might feel like one, it’s not a summer camp for killer brands led by David Bowie—though that may be close to it. But without a doubt, Ground Control is a new kind of space.
Tucked in the heart of DTLA, Ground Control looks across the street to our friends at the Ace Hotel. And with a fresh mural by our neighbors at Clashist, This is Ground’s namesake does get to watch over us. Every day we’re visited by a variety of interesting guests here to share their adventures.
From June 30 until the end of August, we’ll host a number of creative collisions both organic and orchestrated, including panels, parties, and even a dinner or two. Here’s a look at some of what’s going down so far:
July 14 / SPECIAL EVENT: This is a private event for press, but we’ve saved a spot to give away. If you’re available July 13-15, are at least 18 years old, and live in the United States, you’re eligible. We’ll randomly select a winner that will receive a flight, room at Ace Hotel, a spot at our private event, and a very special gift. Entry directions @_groundcontrol. And if you’re press and you’re interested in attending, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 9, 7:00pm to 10:00pm / New Product Launch by This is Ground: We’ll be celebrating the launch of our latest addition to the Mod lineup.
July 15, 6:00pm to 8:00pm/ REMIXER BY FIFTYTHREE: Come remix and meet the FiftyThree team. Featured Creator Mike Macadaan will give insight into his work from the prototyping process in Paper to real life products that you can find at This is Ground. Food and drink will be provided and bringing your iPad is highly recommended for some remixing fun. At the workshop, you will learn how to get the most out of Paper and Mix and meet fellow creators. We’ll be giving away our Pencil stylus and other fun prizes to a few lucky attendees. Hope to see you there! More info here.
Ground Control wouldn’t be nearly as fun without our friends. The rad team at Bold LA have kindly provided the loft space. Thanks to CaliWater , we have the coolest cactus H20 on the planet for our guests, and our pals at Diabolo have also stocked us up with some delicious all natural sparkling refreshments. As the evenings loosen things up a bit, there’s Ole Smokey Tennessee Moonshine. We’re also glad to have brand besties Shyp and The Motley with their flawless men’s grooming line along for the ride.
The doors of Ground Control are open, and it’s shaping up to be an amazing summer. We’re making Ground Control a lightening rod of creative collaboration that’s as fun as it is smart—if you have an idea for an event, don’t be a stranger, and we hope to see you soon. This is a space oddity for us to create together.
With our debut NYC popup in the rearview mirror, many thanks are in order and the nostalgia has begun. After all of the fun we had there, it was hard to pack up and say goodbye.
DAYTRIP’s goal was to introduce This is Ground to New York. We’d already been fast internet friends, and decided it was time to get to know each other better on the ground. In what ended up being a gorgeous storefront in Nolita—a custom-designed space made specifically with DAYTRIP in mind—all sorts of people got a chance to interact with our products and embrace all the laid-back adventures the popup had to offer. Nolita was abuzz with an interesting mix of tourists and locals—a perfect spot for us.
Alongside This is Ground’s classics (plus some exciting new addition
s), guests got to see Priority Bicycles’ famed maintenance-free bicycles up close and personal. Partnering with Priority for DAYTRIP was a blast, and being on their home turf made it all the better. Dave, Lauren and the whole team from Priority were superstars—true professionals and party animals who brought so much passion to the project.
Blessed with some perfect early-summer days, we got to spend our time playing sidewalk ping pong and throwing some amazing block parties—complete with cold brew from Nobletree Coffee, The Macallan Scotch, and catering by Nolita’s own Cafe Habana.
And then there were the kinds of adventures that are funnier to talk about afterwards. Like our tiny Airbnb littered with glitter and potato chips. Or being greeted by the sheriff upon arriving to the popup space to learn it had been subletted illegally (we found the building’s real owner and sorted it all out in less than 24 hours, but oh what a 24 hours they were). It wouldn’t have been New York without a few surprises.
There was actually a little confusion around the name DAYTRIP, which might’ve obfuscated our brand identities to East Coast newcomers. TimeOuteven called us a “cycling innovator” (sounds fun!). There’s also a bit of what we might call popup fatigue going around, which is one of about one hundred reasons we’re excited to be doing something completely new with our next adventure: Ground Control.
Ground Control is right across from the Ace Hotel in our own DTLA. Neither a conventional brick-and-mortar nor a flash-in-the-pan popup, Ground Control is a liminal, flexible space where creativity will have plenty of room to run wild. And not only our creativity, in fact: Ground Control is a focal point for all the incredibly creative entities and ideas springing up around This is Ground. DTLA hasn’t yet had a physical place for its startups, its innovators and its dreamers to converge and collaborate. With Ground Control, we’re excited to change that.
A recent collaboration with the wonderful folks at Priority Bicycles culminates in a pop up just in time to get adventure-ready for summer. We’re excited to announce this weekend’s launch of Daytrip in NYC.
Visitors to Daytrip can pick up each company’s signature pieces, including Priority’s critically acclaimed low-maintenance, chain-free bicycles and This Is Ground’s newest DTLA-made craftsman leather carryall, the Mod 2.
Day Trip also features co-branded, limited run products that are invitations to gear up for summer and get on with the carefree escapes and excursions the season promises. Daytrip will debut a new TIG sunglasses case as well as a range of classic Cord Tacos and Corditos bearing Priority-themed designs.
At the heart of the collaboration is our custom-built This is Ground x Priority Mod 2 insert. This magnetic insert houses a range of serious bike essentials to safely tag along with your tablet, phone, and other everyday items. There’s also a new leather clasp that attaches the case neatly to the bicycle, making it the perfect getaway accessory.
What: Daytrip: A This is Ground & Priority Bicycles Popup
This Is Ground is a thoughtfully made leather goods brand designed and manufactured in downtown Los Angeles. What started as creative solutions to everyday problems, their first products the Cord Taco and the Cordito gained instant love and attention for their simple, logical designs and catchy name inspired by everyone’s love for Mexican food. Known for their dependable quality and timeless aesthetic, This Is Ground’s designs are favored among creative bloggers around the globe and have been featured on The Today Show, Uncrate and Real Simple as “clever ways to simplify your life.”
About Priority Bicycles
Priority Bicycles is a New York-based company dedicated to making cycling simpler for the recreational rider by offering high-quality, low-maintenance bicycles. Founded by industry veteran and former software CEO David Weiner, Priority launched on Kickstarter in 2014 by raising $550,000 in 30 days and selling over 1,200 bicycles. Since the launch, Priority has been featured top publications across the globe garnering praise for the bicycles’ beautiful design and innovative engineering, at a fraction of the cost of traditional bicycle companies and retailers. For more information, visit prioritybicycles.com.
“The manufacturing energy in downtown LA is palpable right now,” says Mike Macadaan, founder of the fast-growing leather tech accessory brand This is Ground. “It’s a treasure trove of raw material and talented craftsmen.”
This is Ground has seen a remarkable ascent since its Etsy roots in 2013, going from a spontaneous side project to a serious brand so coveted by the tech crowd that it appeared in the online Apple store in under a year. And not only has product design been the key, the execution has also been implemented in with an innovative approach: reinventing the notion of local production.
By partnering with a new start-up factory owned by leather artisans in DTLA, they’ve remained remarkably nimble and exploratory while scaling the business. That means more room for experimentation and flexibility each step of the way, and faster time to market.
This reinvention has also happened fast. In just a little over two weeks, This is Ground’s lightbulb moment — facilitating a factory space to be owned and operated by local craftsmen just across the hall from their office — came to fruition. The Figueroas, a family of leatherworkers whose legacy of refined skill and creativity makes them the perfect fit for the company’s nuanced pieces, is now at the helm of production for This is Ground’s newest release: a compellingly customizable leather organizer called the Mod 2.
From One Taco to 55k Followers
This is Ground began when Mike was asked by a design friend for a creative solution to an all-too-common problem: cords, everywhere. Having just gotten tacos from nearby restaurant Loteria when the inquiry arrived, Mike had a moment of tortilla-induced brilliance: the Cord Taco. It’s a simple concept — a small, folding leather circle that snaps a roll of cords into place for easy travel or a beautifully organized workspace.
“I didn’t realize that it was going to spark this new business,” Mike says. “At the beginning, I was making things by hand. My nights and weekends became about teaching myself a new craft.” Eventually the Cord Taco begat the Cordlupa, the Cordito, and a host of other Instagram-worthy leather goods designed with both functional ease and aesthetic self-expression in mind. “It falls in the middle of functionality and fashion, of organization and technology.” This is Ground — a Bowie-inspired moniker from Mike’s early days as a blimp operator — truly took off.
As This is Ground gained traction it became a priority for both Mike and the company he co-founded, Science Inc. Mike’s background translates intuitively to this work — he’s been using the tech implements that This is Ground’s products house throughout his career, so he knows the nuances of the problems they can present. The company’s approach also gracefully addresses the aesthetic side of tech accessories, as most cases for laptops and tablets on the market aren’t known for being easy on the eyes. Mike says that, “it’s about beautifying what would normally be pretty boring.”
Local Production as We’ve Come to Know It
While This is Ground set out to create beautiful things that solve problems for creative consumers — they’ve ended up doing so on the production level, as well. As the company looked to scale their operation, they were encouraged to explore overseas production. What they found was a clunky process where prototypes are shipped abroad to distant factories divorced from both the designers and the primary customer base. Beyond the impacts of outsourcing on the domestic economy, this was simply an inelegant system that made products slow to market and led to ultimately inferior goods.
Instead, This is Ground doubled-down on local production, leveraging the heritage of expertise that’s been passed down through generations in support of their distinctly contemporary designs. In doing so, This is Ground joined forces with the movement of locality that’s become increasingly important to their customer base — that is photographers, designers, and other creative professionals who care about both personal style and functional utility.
And that’s where Gerardo Figueroa comes in. Gerardo started working with leather in Mexico over twenty years ago. Back home, he owned his own business. When he and his wife Patricia permanently moved to the US, he found himself working as an employee for numerous leather companies. As Gerardo trained his son Juan to be his apprentice, he became increasingly interested in opening a leather goods start-up of his own here in the US. In Gerardo, Mike saw an opportunity to put the means of production in the hands of an expert.
Local Production the This is Ground Way
As This is Ground looked to assist Gerardo and his family in starting their own business, Mike first got to know their needs as artisans. He says it became apparent that a few things would have to be in place for the project to feel right: “The craftsmen need to own their own business. They also need to be happy — to have it be sustainable for them. Their happiness correlates to the products they build.”
Another important factor, of course, is proximity. “When you’re close to your factory, everyone can be more intimately involved in design and development,” Mike says. “You must be able to sit down at a table together.”
Basically, the factory functions as a small startup embedded within a larger one. This is Ground has taken it upon themselves to facilitate all the nuts and bolts that it takes to make a great factory in a growing neighborhood like DTLA.
In collaborating with Gerardo, This is Ground saw an unorthodox way to invent a more personable system. What’s sleeker than a setup in which a designer can walk across the hall to the person actually making their product to discuss a detail? And, since Taco Tuesday is a major weekly event for the company, perhaps over actual tacos, to boot.
This light organizational structure has allowed This is Ground to control costs and increase efficiency, without taking on the inventory risks posed by large-scale overseas production. They also get a rapid turnaround ensuring they can rush new products to market. A recent collaboration with Taco Bell saw the company progress from first contact to full production run in less than a week.
“We’re excited to have everything up and running,” Gerardo says. “We already make a great team. We’re really helping each other out.” Gerardo’s son, Juan, is also deeply involved with the new factory. Juan says that, “lots of people are starting to want their leather products made in Downtown LA. If you walk down the street, you’ll see bags, jackets — all sorts of products being made and sold.” What sets this new space apart, though, is that here the artisans actually own the factory. They’re their own bosses, and that changes the game for them, This is Ground, and the people who ultimately incorporate these products into their lives.
On the Horizon
Last May, This is Ground debuted the Mod — a delicious spread of all-in one organizers for laptops, tablets, and phones. The Mod makes room for not only your tech, but your sunglasses, pen or stylus, cash, cards, notebook, and of course for all those tangles of cords. Shifting to a bigger and more complex product was a risk for their brand, and it turned out to be an extremely advantageous one. In the new factory, under the savvy supervision of Gerardo and his family, everyone on board is excited to start production on their newest large organizer, the Mod 2.
The future holds more partnerships with companies like Grado, whose headphones are featured in This is Ground’s product photography, which you can experience through their immaculately gorgeous Instagram. Through social platforms like Instagram, This is Ground is able to communicate directly with customers — a refreshingly transparent and modern alternative to the more impersonal feedback channels companies have used in the past.
The use of embedded technology is in the works, too, which will help keep tablets and laptops both charged on-the-go and much safer from theft. “We’re looking into chips and beacons that, embedded in your Mod, can be tracked through IOS or Android. You’ll be able to monitor battery levels or sudden changes in motion. Of course there’s solar power, too,” Mike says. “We’re definitely on the path towards embedded technology.”
Plans are also in the works for an Apple Watch accessory. Response to new technology is fast due to the intimate proximity of design and production. Rather than getting in touch with a manufacturer thousands of miles — or even tens of miles — away, Mike only needs to head across the hall. “I watched the Apple Watch demo this morning,” Mike said. “I was able to extrapolate all the specs we need for an organizer, and gave those to the designer. She’s at the factory right now. By the end of the day she’ll have sketches, and by tomorrow a prototype.”
This is Ground’s startup-within-a-startup model shows the benefits of taking local production one step further. “For us, it’s about tapping into generations of makers and craftsmen,” says Mike, “It’s inspiring just to look around your neighborhood just to see what’s possible within a ten mile radius of where you live. You’ll find there are some incredible skills, that people are capable of so much.”