Made and Crafted

10 August 2017

Update your wadrobe with these handmade bags that champion local artisans.

From shell and woodcarved art clutches to minimalist totes and more, here are a few local bag designers and makers, each with their own philosophy and style to offer. Bag them before they’re sold out.

A fan of fashion and art will find much satisfaction upon the creative works of Shana Azahari and her team, who strive on acrylic painting and shell laying and carving. Constructed in limited batches, each bag is meticulously handmade and painted, taking up to four weeks to complete, before finished off with a glass-like layer that protects the painting. Call it functional art.

The ornamental designs on Azooi’s art clutches are inspired by Southeast Asia, and a running theme with the bags are the use of shells like abalone, rainbow pen shells, kabibe and mother of pearl, as well as woods like mahogany and roble. Their most recent collection is for international fashion tradeshow, TRANOÏ Paris. Titled Garden of My Childhood, the collection features Shana’s early conception of happiness, showcased as part of the tradeshow’s Women’s Pre-Collections last June 23 to 25.

Earth Heir
An idea in sustainability and development fueled by founder Sasibai Kimis and supported by co-founders Xiao Cheng and Shan Shan, every piece of Earth Heir’s product carries the craftsperson’s story behind it, alongside the disappearing craft he or she practises.

Earth Heir’s range of silk scarves, clothing, accessories and bags are of fair trade principles and involve ethical partnerships with disadvantaged and marginalised artisans. Aside from empowering these makers with the means to provide for their family, it also brings their artistic creations back into the limelight.

Earth Heir’s collection of bags include the Nelly Bag – named after the first artisan from Sarawak’s Kenyah tribe to work with the brand – handwoven from recycled plastic strips normally used for packaging cargo. Besides that, there are also clutches carrying the handwoven silk ikat fabric from Uzbekistan by disabled artisans in Cambodia and bejewelled embellishments hand-stitched in Malaysia, and mengkuang bags featuring the tulang belut technique handwoven in Terengganu.


What began as a humble blog shop in 2010 is now a full-fledge online store for handmade leather and canvas bags and accessories, run by founder and designer, Sze Jie. Featuring clean and minimalist designs, fourjei specialises in  stylish handcrafted bags of genuine leather and canvas practical for everyday use.

Made in limited quantities, popular products include the Dokument Bag 2 made with crazy horse buffalo leather and cotton canvas with an adjustable ergonomic strap, and the Paula Carryall hobo bag made from soft Nappa cow leather. Besides that, fourjei also stocks holders for passports, cards and pens.

Designer Clare Smith’s deep admiration for vintage kimono fabrics lead her to start her own line of clutches, purses and wristlets made with authentic kimono and obi fabrics. These traditional fabrics are personally handpicked by Smith during her many trips to Japan, which are brought back in limited quantities to go through the Malaysian-based brand’s creative production that honours the Japanese traditional design aesthetic of iki, a concept of restrained refinement seen during the samurai-dominated social order of the 17th century Edo period.

For Moniko, iki translates to designs that are original, exquisite and sophisticated, yet not overly complicated.

In the process of recrafting a piece of Japan’s history that everyone can carry around, Moniko also works with development groups and social projects in South East Asia to benefit underprivileged families and communities, particularly craftspeople in Malaysia and Cambodia.

By Celeste Goh
Images courtesy of respective brands featured.

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