I’ve never been a fan of croc bags, mainly because they seem older and more mature (this is also why you will never see me with a Birkin). That being said when it falls into the right hands, the results can be magical. Such is the case with Singaporean designer Ethan Koh, who I would describe as a handbag “couturier”.
Ethan is no stranger to luxury. As a fourth generation member of the family that owns one of the world’s top tanneries, he grew up watching his father and uncle create skins for luxury brands including Hermes and Louis Vuitton (LVMH would later buy a stake in the business) at their factory based in Singapore.
By the time he was 13, he made his first bag. He later worked with his father as part of the exotic leather selection team for Hermès and Prada, before securing internships at Louis Vuitton and then Hermes in Paris which would bring out his artistic streak. Stints at London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martin’s rounded off his fashion education, and in 2011 he officially launched Ethan K from London.
From the very outset, Ethan knew he wanted to add a creative spin to the staid word of croc accessories. So with the help of his brother Albert, who works as a technician at Heng Long, and a group of skilled artisans in Tuscany, he developed a range of exclusive finishings such as the Bombe Shine and a marble effect that couldn’t be found elsewhere.
Then came the vibrant colours. Each skin is hand dyed for up to eight hours, resulting in an exotic palette of shades inspired by Koh’s Asian heritage, be it tropical fruits like Durian or Dragon Fruit, or heady spices like Tumeric. One of his latest designs, the Alla, features an ombre technique ranging from dark to light orange to mimic the sunset.
While the skins take pride of place in all his handbags (he uses the centre part of the belly for the smoothest finish and personally approves every skin used), functionality is also key. Each piece is super lightweight thanks to a hand-staking technique that reduces thickness while softening the skin.
While his designs are strictly for an exclusive clientele (prices range anywhere from 2,500 pounds sterling to 25,000 pounds sterling for bespoke creations) he also designs ready-to-wear collections, the latest of which is a collection of minaudieres called the Wizard of the Secret Garden collection. The clutches are decorated with animal clasps embellished with semi-precious stones chosen for their healing properties be it Onyx for strength or Tiger’s Eye for luck.
We could all use a bit of luck, don’t you think?