[Images courtesy of Esther Porter - the Grebe, Linnet and Lark bags in the studio; the Robin bag from the Women's lookbook; the Barrel bag from her other collection, Tent]
The quest for the perfect bag is something which, like many women, I find embarrassingly all-consuming. It's hard to find the right space for all of the detritus we carry, and for that space to be as nicely decorate as possible to ensure we don't commit social suicide in the process (n.b. steer well clear from those furry Chanel bags which resemble dry ice cubes, and will set you back £1,000 for the privilege of looking like the Ice Maiden). However, one woman has a few suggestions which marry practical, sturdy styles with classic cool, and that is the designer behind the new label Esther Porter. Created by Esther Ball (she chose the name Porter to mirror the crafting heritage of her maternal grandmother and also to emphasise the functionality of her bags), the products are made in East London and reflect the urban-rural clashes within Britain. The great outdoors and the not-so-famous indoors become united in her designs, which she says pay tribute to birds in the countryside. "Each bag from the Women's collection is named after a different bird, showing that they have unique personalities," she tells me. "I use hand-crafting techniques and traditional leather work to really bring them to life. It's simple but effective."
Not only is Esther's love of tradition very refreshing in an age of fast fashion, but it also reminded me of the great timeless bag shapes that I have yet to own (yes, my mother will hate me, but even she can't deny that you can't beat a good push-lock bag). What's more, after the Royal Wedding and with the 2012 Olympics only months away, it's about time that we celebrated the best of British, and this involves acknowledging new talent. Importantly, the bag-making process also considers environmental impact at every stage, with vegetable-tanned leather and British waxed cotton being used alongside reclaimed shirting material. The leather, which is chrome-free and has not been made using toxic chemicals, is much softer than anything on the high street, owing to its natural benefits. Esther tells me it requires little maintenance and will age beautifully over time. I get the feeling I should start saving now, and consider this the kind of bag that will last a lot longer than a fashion season. I'm hooked.