We recently caught up with Singaporean handbag designer Ethan Koh during a trip he made to Jakarta for a collaboration with Chef Kenjiro Hashida—of Hashida Sushi in Singapore—for Hashida Project Evolution, which was held from March 10 to 17 at SCBD Lot 16. The exhibition featured a pop-up sushi restaurant by Chef Hashida with an omakase-style menu and a private showcase of Ethan’s custom-made handbags.
Could you tell us about this project and how you met Chef Hashida?
I was introduced to Chef Hashida by one of my collectors. We started chatting, and I found out that a lot of my collectors are also his customers. When I visited Hashida Sushi, I felt like the whole concept of omakase—which means “as you wish”—really resonates with my own experience. For me, luxury is not just about selling bags as status symbols, but also about the senses, like how we see and smell, and I think that’s why our project together worked very well.
What are the custom pieces that were displayed during the exhibition?
Some of the pieces that we displayed were inspired by the barracuda eel that Chef Hashida uses, and we created a special metallic colour for these. We also developed a special cocktail handbag collection that has Moscow mule and Martini clasps.
What inspires you?
I think that luxury is about merging a lot of different elements together, and I am inspired by the things that I see and nature, too. Actually, one of the reasons I visited Jakarta again is because I find that the food and spices of Southeast Asia are unique, and I wanted to bring something different for my clients here.
Could you explain the processes involved in making your handbags?
Given that this is the era of mass production and globalisation, we do use advanced technologies, but most of our techniques are still traditional. As a niche company, we make fewer than a thousand pieces per year, and we intend to keep it exclusive. I think it’s so important to maintain that quality, and that’s why we appeal to our clients.
I mostly use crocodile skin, because our family has four generations of expertise with that. I also use python and ostrich.
Nowadays, companies are producing environmentally friendly handbags. Do you plan to use imitation or man-made leather in the future?
First of all, I appreciate crocodile skin like an art. People think that crocodile skin is very expensive, but there are a lot of processes that contribute to the colour—it’s like 4C in diamond. Currently, I think I will refrain from using man-made leather because the crocodile skin that we use is actually a part of sustainability conservation programme. We want to keep it authentic and natural, because it’s the DNA of our family’s tannery business.