10 YEARS OF ADVENTURES
10 years of YKRA, 10 years of adventures!
For our birthday, we’re going back to the roots. To celebrate, in the next few days we’ll be taking a trip down memory lane. Join us as we show you how YKRA started out and what we’ve been up to since!
Working in a shoe store by day and planning a backpack brand by night, Balázs Lakatos—our founder—quit his job and launched YKRA in 2011.
In his workshop in the basement of a bar, he made his first 50 backpacks on an industrial sewing machine—which we still use for prototyping in our studio today.
Balázs's goal was to create a vintage-style hiking backpack for everyday use. Growing up in Budapest and Belgrade, he was inspired by childhood memories spent in nature and the colorful hiking culture of eastern Europe in the ‘70s.
Our brand name comes from a graffiti pseudonym used by Balázs during his student years in Paris, while the logo was inspired by classic Japanese woodblock prints.
It was in the basement of a bar that Balázs made his first YKRA backpack prototype with help from friends, who taught him how to sew, and work with leather. To this day our MATRA MINI is based on this prototype!
After trying to impress his now wife Juci with his self-sewn prototype backpack, they started dating, so that went well. Lucky for YKRA she was a design manager, and they started working together. 100 backpacks later, they registered YKRA as a company in 2012.
The first years of YKRA were spent partying in our basement workshop with friends seeping down into the basement from the party in the bar at Telep.
It was like a VIP lounge, with friends enjoying their drinks, while Balázs was busy with sewing the orders. We soon opened a store above the bar, where we sold the backpacks, along with Kezemura ceramics, and Gestalten books.
It was in 2012 that we created our first branding design, with Eniko Deri and got to work with the super talented Eszter Laki who designed posters for a launch party. Notice how much we partied back then!
2014 was the start of YKRA’s international success, with our backpacks going overseas. Our gear got stocked at Merci Paris, Voo Store, Langbrett Berlin, and even Beams just to name a few!
The MATRA MINI was also featured in The Outsiders publication by Gestalten, where we were listed among the new wave of pioneering outdoor brands.
It’s also when we started a series of limited edition collabs, like the “House Plant” collection with the designer of Dori Tomcsanyi and the “Camo” collection with graphic designer Tamás Pál
Our photo shoots were focused on strong 70’s vibes, with polyester jackets and knitted sweaters.
By 2015, we were flying high on adrenaline after going to Seek Berlin, a progressive fashion trade show where we got to know many of our stockists we still work with today!
Thanks to our then agent Jacob Valdemar we had the opportunity to create a collaboration with the world famous Danish fashion designer Henrik Vibskov!
As a tiny fashion startup, still making each and every piece in the basement workshop under the bar, by hand in an artisanal way, appearing at the Copenhagen Fashion Week alongside Henrik Vibskov was at the same time absurd and incredible. We felt we received a seal of approval that we were looking for.
Back home, after taking part in a mentoring program, we realized the importance of sticking to our own path and staying independent—by saying no to venture capital funding.
In 2016 we introduced our treasure map themed collection by Gergő Gilicze which was our first try at a pattern targeting a younger audience, and foreshadowed what was to become YKRA Kids.
In 2016 we left the basement of Telep behind, and we moved our headquarters to the spare room in the 3rd floor flat of our founders. We closed the workshop and moved production to a factory in the east of Hungary.
We continued our collabs by working with the incredible London-based fashion designer LF Markey . In 2017 we launched our skate-themed collection with Polish illustrator Marcin Kolejko!
Our products started being sold in the coolest department stores across Europe, from Selfridges and the Conran shop in London, to Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marche in Paris!
By this time the workload was no longer manageable by just Juci and Balázs. The team grew by two new members, Kati our production manager, and Andris our sales manager.
As our team grew and we were stacking boxes from the floor to the ceiling everywhere, it became obvious that the time had come to move once again, this time preferably to a ground floor location.
We found our new office, in the XI.th district, a green and laid-back residential area of Buda, with a garden filled with birds below our windows.
After a few years of constant challenges and success stories, in 2018 we reached a point where YKRA had to change and renew itself.
YKRA has always been a family owned independent label, without investors, or outside funding.
With the brand gaining momentum and expanding fast it became a challenge to keep up financially.
By this time our founders were married and expecting a baby, so something had to be done, and fast!
Eszter Lebó, who started at YKRA as an intern back in the “basement days”, joined us, as our hotshot CEO, and got our operations back on track.
We launched a collab with the world's coolest kids apparel brand BOBO CHOSES to celebrate their 10 year birthday anniversary!
Levente Csordás returned with a new design for our KEMPING’73 collection, which celebrated the hiking culture behind the iron curtain.
We also launched the BAKONY collection, named after one of Hungary’s beautiful hidden hiking destinations.
In 2018 we were back at Seek Berlin showing off our brand to prospective retailers, and getting a lot of love. Most of the current 100 stores we have worldwide, we met at this time, and they have been with us since!
By 2019, with the brand stabilized financially, we got back to doing what we love to do best: designing and creating new products. We introduced the SIDE POUCH and it became an instant best seller.
To revive the memories of hiking in Hungary in the early 80’s, we teamed up with Piros Animation, for our Hikers Tale Collection, who created an incredible animation for the campaign.
Our OP/420 pattern by Balázs Viola, payed homage to the adventurers who sailed through Hungary's Lake Balaton in the 70’s in the OPTIMIST & 420 dinghy.
2020 was a wild year, with so much going on in the world. We stayed focused on work and hoped for the best from our home offices!
In the last moments before the pandemic hit, we travelled to Playtime Paris, a kids fashion trade show to launch YKRA KIDS our children's brand.
We debuted our JETSET collection, designed by Balazs Viola inspired by the golden age of air travel! We created a special limited edition poster in it’s style to promote our hometown, BUDAPEST!
We updated our wrapping paper, a topographic map designed by Ivett Lenart, and features the map of the Matra mountain, with the path we took on our first YKRA ADVENTURE hiking trip!
It’s silkscreen printed, so you can upcycle it and frame it on your wall!
Our collaboration with Gretas Schwester was a huge hit in Germany.
This year couldn’t have started better, as we kicked-off the spring with our POSTERLAD collection, designed by Vrati Pecka and inspired by pop art from the 70’s.
We launched the BEACH BAG, a large shopper for the summer, and it became an instant hit, and we debuted our first YKRA KIDS collection “Friends of Trees” with illustrator Anna Kövecses.
After months spent at home and behind screens, we were grateful for being able to return to our office, only to find that we have outgrown it!
Over the pandemic we have grown to an 8 person strong team! We decided to do some remodeling, and after knocking out a few walls, a new space is under way.
We are now back at work, busy with secret projects that we just can't wait to share with you!
Thank You, for being part of our journey and supporting us over the years! Here’s to the next 10 years of adventures!