I like bags, and I happen to need a new one. So I've been looking for a replacement that fulfills my exacting requirements for individuality, weather-resistance, great shape, ability to withstand daily abuse, and ecological integrity. Here are a few companies transforming oil age effluvia and commercial flotsam into excellent bags:
Used Rubber has been in business since 1984, making handbags, backpacks, cases and wallets from reclaimed truck tire inner tubes. Company mythology has it that when the founder spilled dark ink on a leather backpack, she set off on a quest to create a replacement that would never get stained, and got educated on the environmental impacts of using new materials in the process. Used Rubber holds to fair labor practices, and the resulting hand-made bags are durable, repairable, stylish combinations of matte black rubber and rough silvery rivets.
I have been the happy owner of a Used Rubber handbag since 1998--it's just too small to be my daily bag. The search continues...
Freitag Bags have become a downtown fashion statement here in NYC--and I approve of anything that keeps people from taking up enough space for two with their overstuffed backpacks on the subway. Founded in 1993, Freitag's intrepid team collects advertising and corporate identity tarpulins made for trailer trucks in Europe, and turns them into a blizzard of gritty-yet-refined shoulder bags, sized from the petite Lassie to the weekend-ready Sabrina. Each bag's look is unique, with the tarp's bold graphic arranged to set off the bag's shape. If there's no dealer near you, it's still possible to pick the exact design you desire at Freitag's online store.
Browsing the swelling number of modernist-inspired whatnot stores on Brooklyn's Smith Street (once merely a down-to-earth assemblage of delis, Italian-American restaurants, and neighborhood institutions like dry cleaners and video rental shops, now self-consciously part of the "Bococa" shopping identity district), I came across a Demano bag from Barcelona. Made from polyester PVC banners used in Barcelona to promote cultural events, they're colorful, cheery-looking bags unique to their city of origin, while being inspired by universal and practical bike messenger and camera-bag designs.
Man! Those demano bags are cool.
Remind me again why I've never been to Barcelona?
I hear ya!
I am particularly in love with the Demano that converts from a bike rear pannier to a shoulder bag--it would be a big upgrade in both urban style and utility from my REI panniers, which are really hard to carry around off the bike--made for touring, not toting around off-cycle.
But I've seen only the messenger and purse-type bags here, so far.
(You can tell I'm obsessing on this bag quest, a bit.)