NEW Summer Bag Launch - The Utopia Collection
- an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.
Brand new for summer 2022, we are thrilled to bring you The Utopia Collection. A hopeful project born out of the winter UK lockdown, these luxury Kenyan-made bucket bags, totes and crossbody bags were dreamed up by The Basket Room co-founder Camilla Sutton and British designer Hannah Harrison - whose previous clients include Lulu Guinness, Paul Smith and Jigsaw. Here we will tell you a little more about the concepts and creation process behind each piece in the collection, with insights from the designer and stories from their birthplace in Kenya.
Each piece in this exclusive collection speaks to a longing for freedom, joy and connection, and is the work of many pairs of skilled hands. From rural Kenyan basket weavers to one single embroidery artist, a group of exceptional leatherworkers and a brazier (brass worker) in Nairobi, each handwoven piece is a symbol of unity and a triumph of craftsmanship. We hope that you love them as much as we do.
Featuring colourways, styles and motifs that represent hope and togetherness, The Utopia Collection connects maker and owner intrinsically through this vibrant, sustainable craft.
Model wears the RASHA Bucket Bag
The design and testing process for this limited collection was meticulous, and a welcome creative channel for every person involved in this long, lockdown collaboration. For designer Hannah Harrison, it was a project that symbolised hope and escapism during the dark winter months of 2021 when most of us hung up our handbags for months on end, unsure when or where we might use them again. With festivals cancelled, weddings postponed and the vast majority of us working from home, our favourite accessories gathered dust in wardrobes – little symbols of so many lives put on hold.
“Connecting with Camilla and the weavers in Kenya felt really special to me as I worked from my desk at home, on furlough. During lockdown I was longing for the times when places would open up again – when we could be together once more. Designing these woven basket bags helped me envisage a happier future.”
“I liked the idea of designing a bag that could be used day to day with the crossbody strap but also taken out for the evening – or to all those postponed weddings and dinners we’ve missed - with the hand held strap.”
Hannah Harrison, Designer
There are three bucket bags in The Utopia Collection, bearing three stylish designs which each capture the spirit of the project. Rainbows were ubiquitous during the lockdowns and pervade as symbols of unity and hope, so rainbow hues have been reworked in hip checks for one of the three bucket bag designs: JUA.
Model wears the JUA Bucket Bag
“A bucket bag is a great way to embrace practicality with a fashion point of view,” says Libby Page, senior market editor at Net-a-porter.com. “I love it styled across the body with an oversized white shirt and washed denim jeans; it really does have the ability to elevate the most pared-back looks, and for any occasion!”
Model wears the RASHA Bucket Bag
A second bucket bag – RASHA - features a black, white and grey checkerboard pattern. Its checks are a bold and brash departure from its cottagecore cousin – gingham - that brings this accessory right up to date as fashion leans into a more expressive way of dressing and accessorising.
Model wears the HEWA Bucket Bag
HEWA bears a curious pair of eyes on its side against a natural base – a motif we all totally fell in love with during the design and testing process. Each beady eye has been meticulously hand embroidered by Nduta - a gifted artist living and working in Nairobi - with whom we have collaborated for several years.
Fabulous fun fact: The first bucket bag to be worn as a fashion accessory was in 1932 when Gaston-Louis Vuitton designed a handbag to carry champagne in without breaking the bottles. The wide reinforced base was designed to hold five bottles while the drawstring closure cinched the bottles together so they wouldn't rattle around.
Woven totes have always formed the core of our basket bag production: it’s a classic and timeless style that is ultimately wearable. Together we designed a woven tote in each of the three Utopia designs, with some thoughtful design features to bring enhanced versatility to the pieces. Each tote features beautifully crafted leather shoulder straps which can be adjusted with the use of a recycled brass buckle, so you can wear yours high or low under the arm - or in the crook of your arm if preferred.
“Whenever I daydream and doodle, I find that I’ve been sketching faces and pairs of eyes,” explains Hannah.
“Perhaps this was some unconscious longing for real face time – connection – with our loved ones. Either way, I think the eye motif is fun and expressive, and fashion has become far more playful since the pandemic.”
Models wear the MVUA Tote and WINGU Crossbody
The Utopia Collection finally felt complete once the WINGU crossbody bag joined the party. WINGU is a black, white and grey checkerboard crossbody with zip closure, which will bring practicality and style to any look.
“Being a low-maintenance person I like to use the same bag over and over again – I hate fast fashion and this is why working with The Basket Room felt like such a good fit.”
Each piece in The Utopia Collection has been produced by a Kenyan weaving group we have partnered with since the very beginning of The Basket Room. Led by the charismatic chairlady Mbeti, these women have an exceptional eye for detail and have previously worked with us on collaborations with LUSH and Jigsaw. When they’re not working on special projects like this, they’re busy producing our popular woven shoppers, sisal laundry baskets and banana fibre baskets.
There are more fascinating stories to tell about the traditional Kenyan crafts employed in the creation of The Utopia Collection – from the Nairobi leatherworkers who hand stitched every leather strap and label to the brazier who produced each item of brassware from recycled scrap metal. Stay tuned for the next chapter in this special story, where we will share behind-the-scenes images of the bags in production. In the meantime, you can shop The Utopia Collection here.