Basket weaving is one of the oldest art forms known and trace all the way back to the Egyptian pyramids, even preceding pottery making. Historically, baskets were used as containers for everything from food to transportation and were considered an everyday essential. Due to travelling merchants, different techniques of basket weaving were transferred from one continent to the other. Generally made out of willow, basket making in Britain became standardized after The Industrial Revolution, fulfilling the great demand during that time. And it was only after plastic was introduced in the 1950s that the demand for willow declined in this industry. However, the labour-intensive craft and technique of basket making remains largely untouched since the Iron Age.
We know that fashion loves to reference history and basket bags as well as woven handbags have been going strong for a few seasons now and it doesn’t seem this obsession is about to die down anytime soon. Maybe it’s just a trend, or maybe we are all becoming more conscious of what type of materials we choose to wear with sustainable fashion in mind. Whatever the reason, at The Restory we are great supporters of wearing natural fibres and reworking and re-wearing them. We also love a challenge so when our own Head of Marketing Emily John came to the atelier with a very well loved basket, we decided to create an exciting little project.
The bag was originally bought in Mauritius many years ago and she had loved it so much that the handles were completely gone, but inspired by the many different basket styles out there she felt it was time to revive the once cherished piece. A company perk- we know! So our atelier team drafted three creative designs: a tote with thin leather straps and hand painted colourful Sicilian lemons crafted out of leather, where the shape of the bag would remain the same but with an added pop of colour; a bucket bag, playing with the shape of the basket and sleek orange drawstrings and straps; and finally a backpack that would suit her practicality and busy lifestyle, with brown natural veg tanned leather, a gold hoop detail at the front and striped navy lining- mixing both urban and a nautical holiday look.
When it came down to making a choice, she loved the sketches so much it was a tough call, so we decided to let our clients vote for their favourite design on our Instagram stories- et voilà, with 74% yays, the backpack was chosen as the winner of our poll!
To turn this simple basket into a trendy but never-out- of-style backpack, our atelier team started the re-make by taking the correct measurements of the basket and creating patterns for the straps and the flap. We sourced all the hardware required for the front flap and shoulder straps and opted for a new lining to refresh the interior as well.
Next, the leather pieces were cut and dyed to a dark brown shade. One of the characteristics of vegetable tanned leather is that it tends to age and acquire a patina later. So the naturally darker leather will compliment the wicker material of the basket even better over time. The edges of the leather pieces were buffed and dyed and the holes to place the hand stitching was carefully measured and pierced. Creating holes in the leather beforehand is necessary to carry out the stitching smoothly in the thick material of veg tanned leather. This also creates a professional finish and eliminates the chance of the work looking like a DIY project. We chose a durable thick-waxed cotton cord that is able to support the weight while keeping the style of the backpack casual. After preparing all components such as the straps, leather tabs, front flap and top handle, the separate pieces were glued together before placing the hardware. The stitching was carried out using two leather needles and for added security we also glued extra pieces onto the interior for support.
Finally, the curves and lines of the basket interior was measured and recreated on a paper pattern before it was cut out in fabric. The last step was to iron and hand stitch the piece of cloth with invisible stitching while leaving one centimetre as a seam allowance at the top of the bag. As a result of this creative design process, the basket is now unrecognizably transformed into a great new bag to be enjoyed even after the summer is over and Emily is absolutely thrilled with how the bucket bag turned out.
This is a great example of how it is never too late to revive an old favourite that has been gathering dust in your closet. And if you’d like to see your own basket bag transformed into something more practical or novelty, The Restory team is able to tailor the design to fit your lifestyle perfectly. So once the holiday feeling wears off, extend the life of your basket beyond the summer with our personalization service. As an added bonus, you’ll have the chance to receive the finished product with a beautifully wrapped summer gift inside!
Book a complimentary collection or drop your basket at Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge to enjoy this summer exclusive!