Sticking with the Plan

Coming from an engineering background, I always draw up a plan when I am doing something. This allows me to conceptualise the process and visualise the end product. Usually there are numerous iterations of a draft before I settle on a prototype. Once a prototype is made, I will do a test run before deciding if any further improvements are required. This may sound like a tedious way of product design but why cut corners and produce something that is both a waste of time and unsustainable. This is a call for well made products that emphasises on the function, quality and durability. Profit as a driver usually produced products that are destined for the land fill.

With every item made, I am now quite conscious about the need for the product. The mantra “Do I need it or do I want it?” sticks in my mind and because of this, I have been making less products as I realised because I can, doesn’t mean that I should. I seemed to have amassed a wardrobe full of cool garments and accessories but they rarely get worn. To be honest, I seem to be wearing the same garments in and out during the pandemic and I guess this is what has shifted my view of my wardrobe. Make something timeless that you will want to wear over again, repair it when it is damaged or swap it with others when you no longer need it. It might even be an exceptional item that is handed down through the generation.

Anyway, enough preaching. So what did I needed so badly to warrant a complete redesign? A back pack. The camo fabric back pack I made has lasted me nearly 5 years. It’s my go to bag when I go to work but I also use my black leather tote (my favourite). Recently, I noticed that I am in need for a more formal leather back pack to bring to work but something sturdy enough to not collapse into a heap. So I went into my world of functional creativity and drafted a few designs before I settled on this prototype.

The main thought for this idea was to have detachable leather straps with continuous cotton webbing forming the weight bearing element of the bag. Imagine the webbing like a belt looped around a stack of books. The webbing would also have the purpose of increasing/decreasing the length of the leather strap at the back and securing the flap on the front. The leather would act as a casing to hold everything in. Well, that was the idea and the proof is in the pudding.

When the working design had been drafted, I proceeded to sourcing the right materials for this project. I had the right leather in the attic (saved from the bin many years ago) and after browsing various online sellers, I found the exact type of findings that I needed for this project.

When it came to sewing the bag, it was a mess. I thought my sewing machine would be able to handle it but after a few go, I realised that it wasn’t going to happen so I just pierced the stitching holes with the sewing machine (treadless) and proceeded to sew by hand. This took me ages and with my fingers hurting from the needles, I tried the sewing machine again. This time, I changed the sewing machine needles back to an ordinary fabric needle instead of a leather needle. This seemed to work although I still stitched the corners of the bag by hand to avoid any structural defects (and to avoid piercing more holes in the leather).

The sliders on the strap at the front allowed the flap to be flexible depending on how full the bag is.

You can see that a pocket is sewn in at the inside of the bag. The adjustability of the straps are hidden on the inside but I can already see a problem. The bottom seemed squashed as the leather was too soft and trying it out confirmed my suspicions and eventually I glued another piece of leather on the inside to strengthen the leather from collapsing.

Actually, there is a lot of reinforcing when it came to making this bag. I didn’t want a collapsed heap of leather like my fabric bag so doubled up on the flap and the bottom. Eventually this was also extended to the back and a small part on the front. My other concern was the thin leather straps and a worry it might cut into the shoulder but as the edge of the strap was rounded, it was quite comfortable on the shoulders. There was ample of space inside although I would have liked the clasp to be a smidge bigger.

Overall, sticking with the plan worked. My future improvement, a sewing machine that sews leather properly.


About syvyaw

Eat, sleep and think Fashion.


  1. Hi Stephen,

    I’ve followed your incredible work ever since we bumped into each other in Farringdon in 2012.
    Do you make items to order?


    Sent from JK’s iPhone

    • Hey Joshua. Thanks for following me. I hope you are enjoying the post. I’m not making anything to sell at the moment as I am prioritising work. However, I am thinking of making things to sell in the future but it’s still in an embryonic stage at the moment. Hopefully I will have more time to focus on this.

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