Have you ever pulled apart a computer to see how it's made? I have. Have you ever tried to make your own Vicks Vaporub? I have, it turned into a black goo in the saucepan. I'm forever wondering how things are made, where they come from and where they go. It's one of the reasons I love fashion - I'm fascinated with processes. I'm obsessed with detail and discovering how everything is created. I want to know how lipstick is made, and if I ever manage to sneak into a cosmetics factory I'll tell you.
For years now I've wanted to know how a bag was made. Not just a basic PVC clutch, but a serious, hardworking leather bag with hardware and all. I recently had the chance to find out when Liam of Deadly Ponies opened up his workroom for me. Not only was he going to show me how his bags were made, he was going to let me experience the process myself - I was to design a bag. This post is dedicated to all inquisitive minds out there who have always wondered, like me.
Our first appointment together was to nut out the design. I arrived to Liam's work table strewn with a rainbow of colourful leathers."I got all the crazy colours out for you," he said, "I thought you'd design something crazy."
Liam showing me his secret folder - the plans for every bag he's ever made.
There was so much to choose from - rainbow leathers in different breeds and grades, a whole farmload of different hairs and fur, tonnes of hardware and even quilted leather. Already I was beginning to understand the dilemma designers are faced with at the beginning of every season - so much possibility, what to make?
Weighing up the pros and cons of different bag details.
I had one chance to make a bag. One chance. Ooh the pressure! Or was I overthinking it? It was going to take Liam and his team six weeks of hard work. What if I hated it? I used a habit from my styling work and made a moodboard of bag styles that I was drawn to. Apparently fashion designers do this too. Rather strangely, I noticed that most of the bags I was saving into my moodboard were not super crazy, but classic with a twist. I also seemed to gravitate toward dark green. It's going to be big next winter.
Not only did I have to pick a colourway and fabric, I also had to work out the size and style. What did I need in a bag? What do YOU need in a bag? I thought about my usual bag problems, and decided that a medium-sized bag would be great. I needed it to have a good inner compartment for my phone, lip balm and essentials, and be roomy enought to hold an A4 folder should I suddenly feel the urge to carry one about. I wanted handle straps, but also a shoulder strap so I could sling it across my body when rushing about on shoots. I also wanted it to go with practically every outfit I will ever wear in my life. Tough huh?
Laying the leathers on to an existing bag in an attempt to get a feel for what it would look like.
I ended up basing my design on Liam's Mr Cross stitch Romper, but making it a little smaller with the zip just running along the top, a large heavy-duty zip, hardware on the handles, and a square base. I also added Buckles on the sides so the bag could be large and square (in case of the A4) or be buckled down to be smaller, rounder and more compact.
My funny drawing and my final chosen materials.
I locked in (after much deliberation and drawings) my much-loved dark forest green hue, and gave it a glamorous edge with black fur and gold hardware. The chain was to act as the cross body strap when I needed it.
Cutting out the pieces for the bag. Just like with clothing, paper patterns are made up first. And when Liam is experimenting with a completely new design he makes a prototype from PVC first to get a feel for what it'll be like.
My pieces all cut and ready to be stitched together. You can see the piece that will become the base of the bag on the right, and the sides are the long pieces. The hourglass-shaped pieces are folded over and used to attach the handles to the bag.
One of Liam's brilliant seamstresses (bagstresses???) making a handle. A length of super-strong marine rope is put through the middle before the leather is stitched over to cover it. This way your handles will never break.
Someone else stitching the actual body together. Liam has five staff in total, all working in his workroom. The only stuff that's made off site is the zippers and hardware. The cotton lining is stitched together separately and then sewn into the bag. Bunt is often built into the lining to add structure and shape.
Stitching the leather.
Adding the hardware - buckles, domes and all the glitzy bits.Here they're making Mr Fill N Zip Twists. You can see the stack of cotton linings that the girls have pre-stitched with the DP logo in the background.
Last they apply all the hardware, and stamp the leather with the gold DP embossing. The chain is finally attached and cut to the length I wanted.
And voila! My finished bag, in its large size...
...And its compact version.
I was so amazed by the amount of steps that go into making a bag, it's one of those things you don't often stop to consider. The next thing I'd love to discover would be how exactly you make a shoe. I'm always fascinated looking at those rare behind-the-scenes videos that are sometimes shot in shoe factories. I particularly love this one by Bally, and this one by Shoes of Prey.
Which gets me on to thinking about custom-made things. Did anyone read that article in Viva a couple of weeks ago with Dan Carter talking about his custom-made Louis Vuitton shoes? And there was also one in Sunday Magazine by Wallace Chapman talking about his custom-made LV bag. How do you guys feel about the whole custom-made thing? Is it worth the hype? The money? To know it was made especially for you?
I'd love to hear your thoughts! And what do you think of my bag? New career move perhaps? Kidding. Not. Not.
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