Summer skies and English eclecticism energised this designer’s move in a new direction.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Butterflies flit across a wall dotted with sunflowers as sheets of rain come pouring down another wall... While exploring themes of nature, technology and breaking boundaries, a digital installation at the Artscience Museum became the perfect backdrop for the launch of luxe handbag designer Ethan Koh’s new Ethan K collection.

Available in exclusive stores such as Harrods in London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris, and On Pedder in Singapore, the UK-based Singaporean’s latest collection, entitled Mystical Landscapes, features the most colourful and eclectic pieces he has ever created since starting his brand in 2011. He shares more about this new direction:

You’re using more vibrant colours, and mixing materials such as canvas with your signature exotic skins (such as crocodile and alligator) for the first time. Why?

The luxury customer is getting younger. Before, we used to serve only clients in their 50s and older. When I started Ethan K, the perception was that a bag made with an exotic skin was a status symbol. Today, these bags are more like a fashion statement, and carried by more clients whose ages range from the 20s to 40s. That said, our older customers also love colours and they’ve never been more trendy.

How does living in London inspire you?

One of my best friends lives in Crosby Hall, one of the oldest townhouses in London. His family crest has six-sided stars and they use the motif in their home. I adapted it for a hardware detail on my bags. Stepping out of the house at night, the sky always reminds me of Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, The Starry Night. This inspired the shimmery lining in some of the bags.

How many of your clients are men and what are your plans for this segment?

About 10 per cent. Men still focus on functionality when it comes to travel bags. They’d probably find an exotic-skin bag too fancy. They’re more willing to experiment with items such as jackets, bracelets and shoes. We have plans to roll out men’s sneakers and loafers  soon. We’ll start with a capsule collection in October. The sneakers will feature mixed materials such as leather with a special metallic finish and camouflage-print canvas.

Looks like the brand is growing beyond bags...

Ethan K is not just a collection or a bag – it’s a lifestyle. But I don’t encapsulate the lifestyle; my collectors do. That’s why we’re launching an annual magazine, Ethan K Digest. It will feature our top collectors in their homes. Ethan K is also about who has access to it. For instance, our bespoke London gallery, which is accessed  through a black door, is not listed on Google. Ethan K Digest provides instructions on how to access the gallery. (Smiles.)

My Reading Room

The shimmery lining was inspired by Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

My Reading Room


Following styles such as slip dresses, bucket hats and mid-wash denim, the latest 1990s trend to make a comeback is stuff  that glows in the dark. Givenchy has launched a capsule collection of items that look deceptively lowkey in the day, but feature details that glow neon green when the lights are off. These include a new, white brand logo on black T-shirts and hoodie sweatshirts; the pale yellow panels on a pair of white sneakers; a pocket on a black nylon and leather backpack; and the white body of a coin purse. Great for getting spotted in clubs, not so great for being a considerate audience member at theatres.

My Reading Room


Known for his bold splashes of primary colours and some truly odd designs such as a coat made of Kermit the Frog plush toys, French designer and artist Jean-Charles de Castelbajac has had many collaborators over the years. This wide-ranging list of partners includes Pope John Paul II, Lady Gaga and Hello Kitty. Now, he has merged his colourful aesthetic with the creations of French luxury swimwear brand Vilebrequin. The result is a playfully vibrant collection for men and women, including swimwear, resort wear, and accessories such as a rainbow-striped sun hat and headbands made from terry fabric.
My Reading Room


The lookbook for Hermes’ Spring/Summer men’s silk collection features a few guys taking a road trip, sporting scarves and ties in colours evocative of the natural landscape – think ocean blue and sandy orange. Ties on a road trip? Why not? Now that office dress codes everywhere have become less formal, the tie may well have gone from being a boring must to a fun accessorising option. And, even if you are wearing these silk accessories to work, whimsical prints comprising motifs such as horse heads or – more randomly – screws might help to put you in a lighter, vacation-esque state of mind.