It all started in France, a place where inspiration flows out of every nook and cranny - the quaint, tree-lined villages, the café lined boulevards, and the chic Parisian women who carry style so effortlessly. Angus was working in a leading French saddlery on the West coast. He spent days lining seats with some of the most exquisite leather we had ever seen, leather that just moulded to the saddle trees like butter on a warm croissant. It became our mission to seek out the source of the leather and to create something inspiring with it back home in our Australian workshop. We drove 16,000km in a hire car that year - a little Peugeot that delivered us faithfully, back and forth across Europe, from tannery to tannery. We spoke to some of the most interesting people; people passionate about leather; experts whose tanneries have been creating leather for the demanding French fashion industry for hundreds of years. One tannery we visited dated back to the 13th century and was steeped in tradition and a relentless commitment to quality. Finally, we found the leather that had first inspired us, deep in the South of France. It was butter-like, incredibly soft to touch, yet also so strong and so enduring. It was this leather that finally convinced Angus that it was time to add a hand bag to our collection. More than six years down that track and it is still our mission to perfect a process which will do justice to this leather. Such a leather demands a perfect stitch, skived and rolled edges and French seams (of course). The first edition of our Tote Bag was beautiful – a triumph of the quality of the leather. But now we have finished a second, third and fourth run of this very special tote, and each new edition includes new design improvements. We have spent countless hours perfecting the process, from selecting the hides, matching pieces for each side and choosing parts for the handles and inside pockets. After cutting and skiving, every edge is tapped down with a small hammer and hand-rolled. The rolled edges set off the leather, highlighting its suppleness, showing off its grain. Then it's on to one of the three different German sewing machines, each of which plays a different role in the making of these special totes. We have one to do the beautiful French seams, one to ensure that the handles are perfectly attached, and one for the hard to reach corners and rolled hems. The details on the handles are impeccable. Their edges are rolled even where they are sewn onto the bag, with a double swirl stitch highlighted by padding that Angus has placed under the handle to give it extra depth and texture.
The bag is lined with 100% natural hemp and features two internal leather pockets and a small magnet in the top hem of the bag, so that the bag sits closed when resting. The latest edition of the Annabella features an improved stitch design where the handles attach to the bag, and an improved top hem, so that the lining joins the inside of the bag further down inside the body of the bag. The leather that we have chosen for our latest edition has also been hand polished with a dyed wax, which highlights the natural grain of the leather and provides a more protective finish. And finally, we have added a beautiful, silver foil logo on the front of the bag. For me, the Annabella is not just a practical, well-made tote bag, it’s also a classic beauty; a timeless design, made from literally the best leather we can find, and sewn up with passion and dedication to quality. It’s a bag that won’t date. Instead it will collect memories with you and stay by your side for years and years to come. I think it’s a bag that even those scrupulous Parisian women would be proud to wear! Sarah