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.

Helping Google

Google Maps in India wanted to run a marketing campaign that targeted a select group of leading businesses in a place called Hauz Khas Village in New Delhi, India.

Google’s mapping department makes money by putting companies on their map and then selling them advertising so they get noticed.

The existing campaign structure aimed for mass appeal; they invited me on board to help calibrate it for a more intimate dynamic.

Their initial campaign involved approaching businesses, showing them how to get on Google maps and then asking if they wanted to spend money on advertising. I helped redesigned this structure so that each encounter with a business was broken down into three stages.

The first point of contact was to be a maximum of 5 minutes. It involved congratulating the company for being one of the few in the area that was using Google Maps to their advantage. We wanted to help them leverage this benefit by giving them business a sticker for their entrance that showed their customers that they were on the map.

The team I worked with chose the image above as the sticker. It was one of the three designs we presented. The idea was to have it placed beside the usual ”We accept Mastercard” stickers on the main entrance. If the business was not on Google maps, then we asked if they would like to be and got the job done for them.

The point of the initial encounter was to establish face-to-face contact with the business owner or an executive for the company’s marketing budget. For the first encounter to be successful, all we needed was the executive’s contact details so that we could arrange a second meeting.

We arranged the second visit in advance and asked for less than 20 minutes of their time. It involved showing whoever controlled the advertising budget stats for the traffic on their Google Maps marker. We then explained the benefits (as opposed to features) of investing in a small Adwords campaign, followed by a menu of three different Adwords packages.

We prepared a pitch where the key message we wanted to get across stood out and interesting snippets could easily be easily repeated. If the person we were speaking to was not an executive, we made it easy for them to champion our service by telling someone what we discussed.

We were asking for a considerable amount of money and the chance of a cash transaction on the spot was low. The goal of the interaction was not a hard-sell but to show the advertising executive just how simple and efficient online advertising could be.

If the sale was successful, the third meeting involved returning to the business one month later and reviewing the results of their AdWords campaign (to either continue or increase their spend). If the sale was not successful, then the third phase involved showing them the benefits that other businesses were reaping as a result of investing in Adwords.

Google worked with a media agency called Pensa Media. Their designers fleshed out the design for the stickers.

Designing A Fashion Collection

I had the honour of working with a fashion designer as she designed a fashion collection from scratch. This post is a peek into someone else’s creative process.

The project took six weeks. It was broken down into five steps: Developing the story, creating croquis, cutting the patterns, making the actual clothes and designing the Lookbook.

Develop Your Story

Shreya and I share an appreciation for the best kinds of non-commercial, independently-produced psychedelic music. In search of inspiration for her new collection, we decided to take a song we both loved and turn it into an elegant collection of women’s wear.

The track we picked is called Faerie Spell by Lost Keys. It is a story about a dragon being born. It talks about Magic as the life force of our world and how it keeps nature, and everything around us, in balance. Fantastic food for the imagination.

I learnt that the goal when gathering material for a storyboard is to find (or invent) things that help ideas flow. The more interesting the ideas, the more involved you become with the rest of the creative process.
We played with the dragon theme by deconstructing a collection of dragons into as few lines as possible.
We paired the dragon with the presence of a strong female character. One that inhabited an arctic, fairytale, wilderness.

Macchu Picchu and Gaudi’s architecture got mixed in. We found a story about a man who builds a hobbit house for his family with less than 3000 pounds. A lot of these organic, natural forms found their way into the final collection.

Once we had a character and a setting, we began stockpiling clippings of images we liked. Colours that worked, shapes that caught our attention, patterns that intrigued us, basically anything that spoke to us. We continued to rearrange elements and build on ideas as we sculpted our story. Over the course of a few hours, different shapes, colours and contours started to emerge, and ideas began to solidify.
Once we settled on the ideas that we liked, we stripped away everything else and were left with a collage of our favourite concepts.


The next step was to translate these design concepts into actual forms. These forms were drawn on a sketch of a female model (called a croquis) before we agreed on the designs that worked best.
Here are a few samples of the croquis we settled on.


Cutting your patterns involves understanding how fabrics interact. Rather than just picking textures and colours that you like, you have to know how they will drape into the shapes you want to create.
There is no shortcut to this process. Shreya went to the London College of Fashion to develop a foundation of technical skills (like pattern cutting, sewing and embroidering) before designing and manufacturing her clothing. She has worked with people like Manish Arora, Rohit Bal and Roberta Resta (currently the Senior Editor at Masquerade Magazine) and now she spearheads a creative team of skilled artisans.

Ultimately, the patterns you cut will depend on your experiences, your tastes and the kind of work that inspires you.

Here are some of the patterns at this stage of development:


It took a team of nine people to create the collection in six weeks.

As a fashion designer, you will inevitably need to outsource your production to a team of artisans that turn your ideas into art.

The important thing is to stay on top of the process. Shreya did this by involving herself at every stage of the production. Some pieces went through three of four redesigns before they became part of the collection.

The Look Book

Once the collection was complete, the final step was to create a Look Book. We hired a photographer, found a makeup artist and picked a model to showcase the clothes.

Creating a lookbook also involved wording an introduction to the collection. This introduction usually serves as a press release if the collection makes it into a fashion show.

When wording the introduction I made sure to outline how the collection was inspired, who it was for, the palette we used and the feel of the collection (how we cut and manipulated the cloth).

The Final Collection

Out of 56 pieces of clothing Shrea and I chose the following five to represent the entire collection.

Links to things mentioned