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Close Up A Drink With... Ethan Koh

A Drink With... Ethan Koh

A Drink With... Ethan Koh
By Chong Seow Wei
December 18, 2017
The bag designer shows great force in the scale of his ambition to build a timeless luxury brand that reflects his roots.
Ethan Koh; Photography: Long Fei/Munster + Long Fei; Grooming: Grooming: Benedict Choo, using Marc Jacobs Beauty
Ethan Koh; Photography: Long Fei/Munster + Long Fei; Grooming: Grooming: Benedict Choo, using Marc Jacobs Beauty

Ethan Koh started his journey as a designer of bespoke croc‑skin bags at age 22, but he already knew he wanted a career in exotic skins as a 15-year-old. “I’d follow my dad to Japan and Europe where we’d visit the ateliers of fashion houses, and that’s when I fell in love with exotic skins and fashion,” recalls the founder of Ethan K whose family owns Heng Long Leather, a tannery favoured by luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Hermès

The Central Saint Martins graduate has since carved a name for himself in this cut-throat industry. The appeal of his bags, which are collected by the likes of actress Carina Lau, socialite Hum Fleming and British Princess Beatrice, is arguably a result of the passion he pours into making them. 

Photo: Courtesy of Frederick Ardley
Photo: Courtesy of Frederick Ardley

With his two trusted designers, Ethan takes time to understand his clients and their demands of a bag. Also, no request is too outrageous to fulfil, which partly explains why his bespoke creations take at least six months to complete. Of course, his hunt for perfection is even reflected in his choice of tipple: the Serendipity cocktail, only found at the Ritz Paris.

“Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, I knew from a young age that I wanted to do my own thing and develop a voice in the industry. My parents have always been supportive of my creativity and my choices, which motivated me to turn what was initially a hobby into a fashion business.” 

Photo: Courtesy of Ethan K
Photo: Courtesy of Ethan K

“The Alla bag we recently launched in collaboration with Mellerio dits Meller was inspired by Alla Verber, a close client of mine. She introduced me to Laure-Isabelle Mellerio, the jewellery house’s artistic director, and we instantly connected creatively. I found out that she was also inspired by nature and wonder.” 

“These days, fashion brands are all about newness and creating hype. But as a consumer, instead of getting 10 fast-fashion pieces, why not get just one superb quality piece that has a meaningful story and can last a lifetime? Also, there’s nothing wrong with using a piece more than 10 times!”

Photo: Courtesy of Frederick Ardley
Photo: Courtesy of Frederick Ardley

“While technology takes over the world, I hope to keep it away from Ethan K for as long as I can. Like with our bags, we like to take our time. For now, we only accept Instagram as a tool to engage with our younger clients and educate them about our craftsmanship.”   

Photos: 123RF
Photos: 123RF

Design Wish List

“I hope to design: a library filled with vintage books on travel and nature, and magazines published in the 19th century; a cafe that embodies the inspirations of my brand’s seasonal collections and where people can have conversations with us; and a teacup that exudes a sense of humour!” 

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Close Up A Drink With Fashion bags Ethan Koh Ethan K A Drink With Croc Skin

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