For years, I have used BAGGU totes and pouches for traveling, fetching groceries, and other incidentals. I wasn’t always a conscious consumer, but even back then it made sense to me to pay a little more to reuse a single bag as opposed to bust through and trash a bunch of cheap ones. Without realizing it, I had tapped into their underlying worldview. But it wasn’t until recently that I decided it was time to learn more about the brand and their underpinnings. As it turns out, BAGGU is far more progressive than I intuited.
Seeing as it’s two days past the equinox, it’s about time to dust off our rain gear in preparation for the proverbial April showers – or just the general spring/summer wet season depending on your location. Rainwear is rarely flattering, but as some of my favorite moments in fashion occur where design meets function, I’ve always felt it has a lot of potential. The grouping below includes some wonderful pieces that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also practical, sustainable, and just plain cool. Happy puddle hopping!
Clockwise from top left: water resistant waxed canvas backpack by Southern Field Industries; natural rubber rainboots by Aigle; handmade striped umbrella by Maglia Umbrella Co.; handmade contrast umbrella by Heurtault; Otter Wax (rubs onto fabric to make it water repellent); bike bag by Frost River; waterproof paper & notebook by Rite In The Rain; bamboo bike fenders by Planet Bike; casual/utility rubber hi-tops by Tretorn; biodegradable potato starch poncho by Equilicua (plant it on your garden when you’re done with accompanying seeds); men’s double-breasted raincoat by Norwegian Rain; women’s see-thru raincoat by Terra New York
Working in the film industry is an interesting prerequisite to launching one’s own fashion accessories label, but that’s precisely what happened for designer Tannis Hegan. Drawing on a decade of experience as a leatherworker and costume designer, she decided to break off and launch her self-titled line back in 2007. Since then, her work has won her a notable reputation for her immaculate eye and uncompromising emphasis on quality.
Her most recent collection certainly showcases both of these characteristics. To start, almost everything is completely handcrafted – even down to minor components like solid brass hardware. One of the more rewarding aspects about her designs is that she seems interested in the natural beauty of her materials. A particular favorite is her clutch (below), which features a hand molded wooden handle.
1. Handmade Natural Chromexcel Tote by Teranishi Handcrafted 2. Surfer Tote by Baggu 3. Gera Bag by WMJ Mills 4. Canvas Tote by MAKR 5. [Destination] Market Bag by Apolis 6. Handmade Chromexcel & Copper bag by Emil Erwin 7. Handmade 200 Bag by Doug Johnston 8. Handmade Red Tote by Lumina (in collaboration with Parrott) 9.Neon Carryall by Clare Vivier
It’s not everyday that you come across a pair of shoes that were made in a kiln. In fact, Japanese label Shoes Like Pottery is one of the few footwear manufacturers in the world that relies on rubber vulcanization. Yet in addition to firing each pair in house, the shoes are sewn and assembled completely by hand.
The process begins with their materials, which consist of raw natural rubber and durable canvas. To build the shoe, the canvas is first fit to its die and hand sewn by a skilled craftsman.
Whether you call it a limitation of technology or just an emphasis on quality, the all-rubber outsoles are attached by hand as well. Shoes Like Pottery then applies rubber adhesive cements to fuse the outsole and upper. This allows the shoe to be extremely flexible, yet durable.
Yet as I mentioned before, the trademark that guarantees the life and character of these shoes stems from a rare vulcanization (ka-ryu) process. In a fashion similar to traditional Japanese pottery, the shoes are fired in a kiln for 70 minutes at a temperature of 248 °F (120 °C). The combination of heat and pressure prompt a chemical reaction in the rubber, restoring its natural flexibility that would have otherwise been compromised during construction. What’s left is a soft rubber shoe that is reinforced for the road ahead.
Depending on the method, printmaking isn’t always the most eco-friendly process. With that in mind, Matthew Shapoff founded Handmade on Peconic Bay (HMPB), which is a one-man studio that specializes in Cyanotype and Vandyke printing. Relying on years of expertise, his work ranges from monoprints on paper to wearable accessories – each of which is crafted by hand in his Long Island studio.
In order to truly appreciate the work of HMPB, it’s important to understand the characteristics of both Cyanotype and Vandyke printing. Both processes were originally discovered in the 19th Century and thus require very little in terms of resources. All you need is a photosensitive solution, a receptive surface, natural sunlight, and a little bit of knowhow to create a print. Yet because there are so many variables (i.e. intensity of the sun or the strength of the solution), no two prints will be identical. In fact, it is in these natural variations of hue and value that make these processes so unique.
What I like about HMPB is that these characteristics are obvious throughout the entire collection. By nature, the photosensitive printing methods are extremely versatile in that they can be applied to different materials like paper, silk and canvas to name a few. In terms of imagery, Shapoff finds inspiration in his natural surroundings – whether in the form of lunar charts or zoological studies of marine life. Because many of these motifs are coastal, there is also a strong sense of place about his work that makes it that much more distinct.
In addition to honing the skills already mastered, HMPB is also embarking on new territory over the coming months. Shapoff is investigating ways to stimulate the American artisan economy by sourcing domestically produced linen and cotton fabrics for his own work. There are also plans to introduce different styles and goods – including an experimental collection of custom printed messenger bags.
If you are interested in learning more about Handmade on Peconic Bay, be sure to visit Shapoff’s website where you can find up to date information about new projects and inventories. In the meantime, feel free to scroll through some select images of his work in the gallery below.
Joshu + Vela is an emerging outfit in San Francisco which produces some of the most carefully considered bags and leather goods out there. While their mantra is to “highlight the beauty of function by creating simple and well made goods,” one would only need to interact directly with any of their products to understand the emphasis they place on quality. Though I wasn’t able to make the trip out, my cousin Rebecca was lucky enough to meet with Noah of Joshu + Vela in their studio to gain some insights into their brand and their process, which she detailed below:
One way of characterizing the brand as a whole is the idea of intimacy. Everything in their studio is made entirely by hand with the best materials available. In addition to custom-cast hardware and vegetable dyes, they source domestically grown organic cotton from Herbert Rice Fabrics Inc in NY, which has been in operation since the 1800’s. The manufacturing process relies on pharmaceutical grade waxes and oils for finishing, and thus is completely free of hazardous solvents. Similarly, they source 100% vegetable dyed leather from animals already marked for consumption in an effort to reduce their environmental footprint.
When it comes to producing their goods, the team at Joshu + Vela employs a plethora of different hand tools, eight vintage sewing machines, and an 80 year-old rivet setter. This reliance on antiquated machinery demonstrates that the underlying concern of the brand as a whole is not maximizing output, but creating small quantities of goods, which can endure the tests of time.
Although their line features a variety of different pieces, the entire collection is aligned by simple aesthetics and utilitarian designs. Branding is kept to a minimum and unnecessary lines are kept at bay. All in all, everything is clean and classic, but ultimately built to be used.
Be sure to take a gander though the gallery below to check out some of their collection and some glimpses into their workspace. Also, stay up to date on their upcoming releases by periodically visiting their website.