When a stylist and a cartographer fall in love and get married, what do they make (besides babies)? In the case of Brooklyn couple Rachel Rheingold and Michael Berick, they create Maptote, a line of products decorated with maps of locales both domestic and exotic. At Maptote, Rachel and Michael get asked the same questions over and over again. Below is a Q & A that will help you better understand them, their brand and the process that goes into making a Maptote.
How did Maptote get its start?
In 2006, we went on vacation to Germany where we noticed grocery stores were selling simple cotton reusable tote bags. All the cities we went to had their own totes, so we purchased several and brought them back as souvenirs for our friends. Everyone loved them and so did we, but we wanted a tote for our city – Brooklyn. We’d been toying around with the idea of starting our own company, but we weren't sure what it would be. Then this Brooklyn tote idea came into play, and voila - Maptote was born!
What are your backgrounds?
Rachel escaped the mean streets of Boca Raton, Florida for New York City to study art at New York University. After graduating from NYU, she earned a degree in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design. Rachel immediately began working as a designer and transitioned into a fashion stylist.
Michael grew up in sunny San Diego, CA, and attended the University of Oregon, where he cultivated his love of nature and the outdoors. He then studied Geographic Information System (GIS), a cartography program, at the University of Melbourne, before working for engineering design firms back in the US.
How and where are Maptote products made?
We personally source our fabric. All our totes are made with US cotton. The fabric is cut, sewn and printed here in Brooklyn, NY. We love visiting our factories so that we can watch our products being made and know exactly who is making them. We’re very hands on with the entire process even though it makes us crazy sometimes. It gives us a real connection to our products.
What products do you offer, how do you decide what location to do next & what is the design process like?
We started with a simple cotton tote bag - our grocery tote - and that grew to various styles of tote bags. We continued expanding to wine totes, zip pouches, note cards, posters and baby one-pieces.
At first we chose cities and locations we had lived in, loved or visited. Now we get commissioned to do new locations. We also have a poll on our website where people vote on what they think should be the next map. Once we decide on a new place, we find insider information through research and talking to locals. We try to have fun with the design. It’s more about the feel of the city and a local’s perspective, rather than being a completely accurate, technical map. And its for locals and visitors alike. For instance, we always feel like we’ve done our job when a Brooklynite sports one of our Brooklyn products.
With whom have you collaborated?
Over the years, we’ve collaborated with J. Crew, Martha Stewart, SFMoMA, the MOCA in San Diego, Kitson as well as many others. We also have some new exciting collaborations in the works.
What's next for you and Maptote?
Our most exciting addition to date is our four month old baby Naomi. We plan to continue to add new products and locations. There are so many more places out there that we want to do! We strive to balance our work and family, while getting some sleep every now and then.