17 April 2008
Happy Holidays!(HKTDC Fashion - Leather Goods & Bags, Vol 02,2008)
Travel & Leisure Bags
Travel and leisure bags can trace their origins to the Middle Kingdom, which remains the cradle of production for the world's most ubiquitous accessories
From the fashion must-have of the discerning lady-about-town to the downright practicalities of the budget traveller, a receptacle to carry life's baggage is a necessity for everyone at some point in time.
Yet, despite the intervening millennia since paper bags were first used to preserve the flavour of tea in the Tang Dynasty, it seems it's a case of back to the past when it comes to the latest production trends.
According to some of Hong Kong's biggest producers of bags, wallets, rucksacks and briefcases, there is steady demand for economical, man-made staples like PU leather, nylon, polyester and PVC.
Modern-day concerns over the environment, spurred on by cost factors, are also seeing a resurgence in bags made out of natural materials such as straw, corn husk, sea grass and paper.
Typifying the trend is Roc Enterprise Co Ltd, which makes its range of shopping bags in two factories in Shandong Province, northern China, but eschews leather.
"We don't touch leather materials because of the cost," explains Manager Pang Wong. "We use PU and PVC, as well as natural materials such as straw, corn husk, sea grass and paper, which we source from China and the Philippines."
This season's selection includes strong yet elegant canvas shopping bags with side pockets (model 11994C) and eye-catching PU shopper bags (model 11389P) that can also double as sports bags.
Mr Wong maintains that it is crucial to keep up with trends - particularly when it comes to materials and colours. "We are still assessing future trends and plan to have four new products available by the end of the year," he adds, noting that Roc Enterprise's FOB Hong Kong unit prices are competitively priced at US$3-12.
One company that has already decided on its inspiration for its latest creations is Smart Global Enterprises Ltd, which has taken this year's Olympics in Beijing as its theme.
Merchandising Manager Vicky Siu notes that the ladies' bags, briefcases and wallets specialist is also accenting non-leather materials such as nylon and PU leather in products such as its rugged shopper (model SG-421) and travel bag (model SG-419), both of which feature eye-catching rainbow-coloured straps.
"Our aim has been to make the bags very light and comfortable to carry," she explains. "I think a casual style using canvas materials will be the most popular item in the coming year - largely due to the environmental concerns of our customers."
Smart Global's list of clients includes companies and brand names such as Audi, Storm and NTS, who clearly support the company's down-to-earth philosophy.
"We believe in keeping things simple and making sure we get the right materials, which must be of the highest quality," insists Ms Siu. "We are seeing more and more demand for products made out of UPVC due to price and environmental concerns."
But not all bags are for the casual user, as P & S Enterprises Ltd Director Andy Siu points out, noting that the techno-savvy customer requires a bag that offers pockets, protection and padding.
"Our backpacks and brief cases are always made with a laptop computer compartment and organiser to store a cable, mouse, CDs and memory sticks or portable hard disks," Mr Siu explains, noting that laptops are becoming more popular because they are more affordable.
His company meets this demand while also ensuring it reflects the latest material trends by using "mostly nylon and polyester" in its extensive range of rucksacks, computer and camera bags, trolley suitcases, travel bags and briefcases.
Modern, practical design with built-in durability are P & S Enterprises' watchwords, and one of its most popular products is a rucksack with laptop compartment and organiser features plus trolley that is FOB Hong Kong unit-priced at US$9-20.
"I believe people like to buy bags made either from polyester or nylon trimmed with leather, instead of 100% leather, because they are much lighter and more fashionable," Mr Siu maintains.
He adds that PVC reduces costs and buyers are also trying to use more PU material, which is more environmentally friendly, while also turning to bags on wheels.
"The demand for trolley-type leisure bags has been growing quickly in the past few years because of the need for easy travel, and it is not that much more expensive to build-in the trolley system," Mr Siu notes.
Success in the highly competitive and extremely trendy world of travel and leisure bags clearly consists of simply re-inventing the wheel!
TEXT BY NIALL FRASER