x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

A man's passion for making handbags

The Life: Mark Tallowin realised it was time for a career change. He could not stop thinking about ladies' handbags rather than his job as a tree surgeon.

Mark Tallowin's core collection, top to bottom: the Inkwell, Kettlebell, Flatiron and Split Wedge models. Courtesy Adam Laycock
Mark Tallowin's core collection, top to bottom: the Inkwell, Kettlebell, Flatiron and Split Wedge models. Courtesy Adam Laycock

It was while he was 100 feet up a tree in a gusty wind that Mark Tallowin realised it was time for a career change. He couldn't stop thinking about ladies' handbags rather than his job as a tree surgeon.

"I realised something had to give or I was going to do myself a mischief," says the London-based luxury handbag maker.

His initial interest in hand-stitched leatherwork had stemmed from making the tools for the craft as a hobby, then the leather sheathes to hold them. Then he saw a gap in the market.

"I realised very few people do hand-stitched handbags of quality," he says.

It took him a year to develop his first collection of four bags, with the most expensive split-wedge design priced at £1,220 (Dh7,019) and the cheapest ink well at £540. Launched in March, his line has already won a considerable amount of attention - not only for the fine craftsmanship but for the rather clever way he publicised it.

He contacted four women including Jess Cartner-Morley, the Guardian newspaper's influential fashion editor, and asked them all to road test the bag for a week before selecting someone to hand the bag on to. He called it the "4.4.8 experiment" to signify that four different women would try out the four styles of bags for eight weeks.

During the trial period, the handmade bags made journeys to New York, Costa Rica and the Scottish highlands and elsewhere. One featured in an Armani shoot in Switzerland.

Happily, the test drivers were generous in their praise. Cartner-Morley wrote: "I was happy to try this bag out for a week, but to be honest it never occurred to me I would fall in love with it. But that's what happened."

The experiment ended last week with a party to reunite the bags and orders have started trickling in. With each bag taking him two to three days to make, Mr Tallowin is working to keep the waiting list down. The bags are currently only available directly from him. His website is www.marktallowin.co.uk

Each bag carries a numbered brass tag and a small code in the leather so that buyers can be sure it is an original.

 

lgutcher@thenational.ae