Designer Q&A: Killspencer bags by Spencer Nikosey

Ben Kaufman’s company Quirky is all about finding great ideas from regular people and turning them into real, marketable products. Throughout the Quirky series, we’ll be bringing you stories from designers, inventors and entrepreneurs who’ve either already brought their product from concept to completion or are right in the middle of that process – and all without the help of a company like Ben’s, like Spencer Nikosey and his Killspencer line of bags made from repurposed military truck tarp.

Tell me about Killspencer. Where did you get the idea for it?

During a 2007 visit to an American Military Museum just outside LA, I saw the common M988 Humvee + Truck Tarp, which became the catalyst for the first Killspencer Repurposed Collection. This common, multi-purpose vehicle superseded the jeep with light-armored variants, ambulances, communication vehicles and tow missile carriers, but what was most interesting to me wasn’t the truck at all. It was the waterproof, wind resistant and ultra-durable cargo cover or “used in combat military truck tarp.” I thought: what happens to all the used combat materials over the years? Where does it go?

At that moment I knew I could repurpose this battle scarred material as the basis for a collection of durable, waterproof, contemporary, sustainable artifcats that were completely unique. Each tarp tells its own story and I wanted to tell that story.

How did you get it made? Tell me about the production process.

I got my first tarp, took it home, scrubbed it down with soap and water and laid it out on the lawn. I became familiar with the material and began figuring out ways to cut it up as to minimize the amount of wasted material. I then added patented performance buckles, the highest grade military spec webbing, metal d-rings, and in a relatively short period of time I designed and hand-sewed my first Killspencer bag.

Now that it’s out there in the world, is it pretty much out of your hands at this point?

These products are really special for us to make. We take a 18 foot used in combat military truck tarp and cut it up and make bags out of it. Its a pretty involved process especially considering the weight and size of the materials. Most bags are made out of roll goods which is super easy to use. The process of acquiring the materials is very time consuming and often times I feel like a scavenger or detective of sorts. Getting used, deadstock, or vintage materials has become quite the challenge because its becoming popular in the industry.

What are you working on now? Any upcoming projects?

Some of the projects we are working on now are top secret, because we will be patenting a lot of our work. In short, we are working with Cal Tech to build our own machines to advance the production process and take traditional practices to the next level by adding advanced mechanical engineering and technology. This is what I’m most passionate about. Innovation. Doing something that hasn’t been done before. We are going to be launching a new manufacturing platform which will be the catalyst for an entire scope of new product. The whole goal is to make the experience of travel, using everyday items seamless and less of a hassle.

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