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Interview with Exotic Handbag Designer Ethan Koh

Having made a dramatic entrance on to the fashion scene with the unveiling of his debut collection in early 2011, luxury designer Ethan Koh was quickly billed as one to watch. With inspirations and influencers like Tomas Maier, Patek Philippe, Jean Louis Forain and Jack Vettriano, the budding Singaporean designer works with exotic animal skins for his luxury leather brand, ETHAN K, to handcraft limited edition items such as shoes and handbags.

Aside from his natural talent and flare, it's safe to say that as a descendant of highly specialized precious skin tanners, leather handiwork runs in Koh's blood. He's the fourth-generation son of the Heng Long International family, who supplies alligator, crocodile, and other exotic skins to luxury brands like Hermès and Prada. Today, the self-proclaimed bag couturier calls his clients (some of which are royals, he notes to Vogue) "'High Net Worth Individuals' who know their Birkins from their Bottegas in intimate detail." Here, the 26-year-old talks about what’s in store for 2013, his inspirations, and designing a bag for Dita Von Teese...

JustLuxe: What’s your background?

Ethan Koh: Exotic skins are part of my DNA– I’m a fourth generation artisan in my family who utilizes them.  Observing the workshops at my father’s tannery as a child and then working there inspired me to become a designer using the same precious materials.

JL: When did you first get into design?

EK: At age 18, I started designing my first flower-inspired bags utilizing the ultra-luxurious skins of Niloticus and Porosus Crocodiles. The first bag I ever created was for my mother and I took great pride and pleasure in seeing her wear and style the bag. Her friends spotted the bag and that's when I started to think I might have the beginnings of a business. Following my graduation, the ETHAN K brand officially launched in the UK in January 2011.

Carol Driver

Carol Driver is a journalist with more than 13 years' experience writing, subbing and editing at national and regional publications and websites in the UK. Carol is currently the group editor at TNT Multimedia, which has magazines in London, Australia and New Zealand. She previously worked at national newspaper website the Mail Online well as writing for a host of other publications. She has also ...(Read More)

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