Although he’s now based in London, Ethan Koh still draws much inspiration from his younger days in Singapore. This is why you’ll find quirky durian- or mangosteen-shaped clasps – fruit in which his maternal grandparents used to trade – in his creations for his cult-favourite Ethan K bag brand.
Now, he has added double-quilted leather linings to his repertoire, recalling the days he spent in the back of his father’s Bentley admiring the exquisite motif of its upholstery. In a one-off collaboration with the local distributor for the British luxury car marque, the 28-year-old launched a 15-piece limited-edition Ethan K for Bentley handbag collection last month.
Through this, Koh pays homage to the iconic patterning technique of Bentley’s custom-build Mulliner division, highlighting the similarities of the two companies. He says: “Like an Ethan K bag, a Bentley is also a bespoke product as one gets to choose the type of leather on the seats and how it is stitched.”
A fourth-generation artisan, Koh comes from a family well-versed in the craft of crocodile skins. His paternal great-grandfather founded Heng Long tannery about 70 years ago. It is one of only fi ve firms worldwide that can supply skins of sufficient quality to top luxury houses; French conglomerate LVMH acquired a 51 per cent stake in it in 2011. Koh, who insists on meeting clients directly in the now-rare practice of trunk shows, is proud of his heritage. He says: “In this era of mass consumption, a certain part of our soul is lost. What I want to do is to bring that back.”