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Eastern Exclusivity

Precious and natural fibres and fabrics make the most desirable bags, writes Kitty Go

After years of totemic, branded leather 'It' bags, swinging from every other elbow like a uniform, a slew of lesser-known designer handbag ranges - predominantly from Asia - are coming to the fore, thanks to their focus on original design and the finest local materials.

Take Chako, for example, a small Hong Kong and Tokyo-based company that uses only antique kimono and obi [the sash worn around a kimono] fabrics. "I really want to be unique," says the woman behind the label, Kazumi Nakanishi.

"This one-of-a-kind element is what attracts my customers. Being limited and not mass-produced has given me an edge. The patterns within the material are already diverse, so every piece that is cut for each bag is very different."

Indeed, there are only five clutch styles in the line and no two are alike, because the length and width (4m x 30cm) of obi fabric and the availability of antique Japanese textiles limits production and consequently dietates design. "There is so much symbolism in motifs, seasonal colours, patterns and images," says Nakanishi. "I don't want to ruin the representation in a bigger bag."

Nakanishi of Chako also sees the link between east and west as helping her designs. "Being Japanese, I understand the meanings and value of obis," she says. "I've lived abroad for very long and working with Japanese fabrics brings me closer to my heritage, but I can also bring this tradition to the modern world.

...And you thought a handbag was only a bag.

One-of-a-kind clutch bags made from Japanese obi & kimono
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