Burgundy Backpack

My 3rd bag project. This bag took me about a month or so to complete. It would have been finished sooner but I gave myself about two extra weeks of work when I decided to change all the edges from black to white–which I don’t regret because I like how the white lines instantly made the bag more sporty and modern and ‘awake’.

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I began with sketching out designs inspired by the Reece Hudson backpack, the Proenza Schouler backpack, and adding transformable wings a la Céline.

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After sketching, I worked on the technical patterns, measurements, and my paper prototype. Normally the prototype is made from a material called “salpa”, which is a cork-like material made from recycled leather. It’s thin and pliable like fabric and allows you to sew up a cheaper prototype before producing your design in leather. Because salpa is available only in bulk (or really expensively if you purchase it by the meter) and I wasn’t able to go out to buy some, I decided to just clip together my paper patterns (#makeshift) to create my prototype.

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The paper prototype. Because the leather I planned on using was rigid, the paper (I think) more accurately mimicked the shape of the bag as opposed to salpa, which is softer. Neither prototype material is perfect, of course, and you still have to keep the leather to be used close at hand to test it out. If you’ve got the budget, you can make a leather prototype (and you wonder why designer bags are so expensive to produce), or the cheaper alternative I suppose is to have small swatches of the leather for test sewing, test folding, etc.

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Once my teacher OK’d my paper proto, I proceeded to cutting my leather

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I chose this lovely burgundy/wine colored croc-stamped leather

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Setting the components aside to dry after dyeing the edges

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Attaching the hardware to the different components–the bag feet, closure, etc.

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Parts ready for sewing

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My bag’s inner pocket

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Spent an extra two or so weeks when I fell in love with the idea of white edges on my bag. White paint on dark leather is a freaking bit of hell to work with, but in the end, worth it.

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Attached the bag’s back pocket, top handle, and backpack straps

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Adjustable backpack straps

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Clipping together the side panels, the very last parts to be sewn

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The completed backpack. I hadn’t actually planned on making the side panels gold, but I ran out of the burgundy leather and decided to use a complementary color instead. It turned out better, I think, although those wings were crazy hard to sew onto the bag :((

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The backside, with the back pocket and adjustable straps

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Details: edges painstakingly painted white, and magnets installed in the wings to allow you to change the bag’s shape

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Grommets to reinforce the bag’s pressure points, as well as reinforcement via hand-sewing

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I also encountered a variety of issues in making this bag, from the decision to recolor my edges, to running out of leather (you don’t think you’re going to use up as much leather as you’re going to end up using), to tackling the limited capabilities of the school’s sewing machine. This bag also ended up a lot larger than I had anticipated, much larger than I would make it if I were really going to produce it commercially, but all in all, I’m pretty happy with it, and I look forward to making new and improved versions of it soon.

Update: I actually sent this bag home with my sister last Christmas, and asked her to do a quick photoshoot of it for my year-end portfolio (since she’s the one with the fancy camera equipment, and I’ve only got my phone with me here). Here are the photos!

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Details on the back handle (notice that I used both black and red thread–I initially started with the red thread but realized the shade was a bit off, so I switched to black)

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The adjustable straps

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Base and bag feet

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The bag.

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