How To Make A Handbag

The beautiful thing about someone’s creative process is that it can never be taught. You can learn how to replicate something, but inspiration is a different creature entirely.

I love learning about how different people do the things they do. I had the pleasure of working with the founder of Nappa Dori as he showed me how they designed one of their leather handbags. It was a fascinating process, and they were fine with me sharing what I learned here.

Making a leather handbag is a five-step process: It involves Cutting, Skiving, Buckling, Stitching and Edge Colouring.

Cutting The Pattern
Cutting a pattern out of leather involves using a stencil to outline a shape for the bag, the front panel and the straps.

The leather was then cut along the outline. The holes for the buckles were created using a hollow chisel to punches through the leather.

Skiving The Leather
Skiving involves using a flat blade to the strip leather down and thins it along the edges. Important, because skiving allows the leather to be folded onto itself and create the shape of the bag.

Fastening The Buckles
Once the leather is folded, small brass buckles are inserted into the holes where the leather has been skived. The buckles are then hammered tight.

Stitching The Leather
The buckles hold the bag’s shape and stitching the leather along the panels creates the finish.

Colouring the Edges
The last step involves coating a thin layer of dye along the edges of the leather. The colouring protects and tans the cross-section where the leather has been cut.

The Final Product

Indian leather was used to make this bag. Despite being almost identical in composition, texture and finish; Indian leather is often overshadowed by its Italian counterpart as a premium material for making luxury garments and accessories.

I had the pleasure of making this bag in the Nappa Dori workshop in New Delhi. Since we did this fun little project together, Nappa Dori has opened an online store, and a range of new harness bags have been added to the collection.