Project 15x30 - Leather Tote Bag

Year: 2017

Designer: Timothy Ung

Project Brief:

Aside from architecture, one of the fields that I’ve been fascinated by is fashion design. More specifically, I’ve been interested in leatherworking and handmade crafts because of the beautiful process of transforming a material into a functional object. As I continue working on my 30x30 design goal, I’ve decided to invest my time in learning leatherworking and designing several items. This will help me step away from architecture every so often and focus on another creative passion so that I avoid burning out.

The first leather object that I’ve designed and fabricated is a tote bag. By designing this simple bag, I was hoping to learn the necessary skills and purchase the basic tools to learn about leatherworking. After fabricating the first leather tote bag, I decided to refine the design and crafted a second tote bag where I attempted a subtle detail.

Project Design

My first leather tote bag was made of thick full grain brown leather with handles that were stitched into the sides of the bag. During the design and fabrication stage, I learned one common method of constructing a leather tote bag is to work with the leather from the inside out. This means that the leather would be cut and sewn with the flesh side facing outward as if it were going to be the exterior of the bag. I also decided to sew the lip of the bag down to create a soft curved edge. Once the stitching was complete, the leather was turned inside out so that the skin side of the leather was the exterior face of the bag.

Moving onto the final version of the tote bag, I purchased thinner leather with a smooth and water resistant skin and attempted a new method of fabrication. I decided to use rivets for the bag’s straps and a button at the top of the bag to keep the top together. In terms of design, I added a leather pouch on the inside of the bag and overlapped the edges of the leather to reveal the stitches that holds the bag together.

Ultimately, the final design for the tote bag is minimal with very few elements and a pure aesthetic. The stitches, which are revealed along the seams of the bag, become a focal point of its design. The rivets, which hold the straps and the interior pocket of the bag together, are a focal point of the sides of the bag. Lastly, the form of the bag is uniform and the material is water resistant and smooth. This fun and time consuming leatherworking project has led to other ideas that I’ll be exploring with some of my future 30x30 projects!

Learn more about the design process of this project by clicking any of the images below.