The dance of a discarded plastic bag in the wind was the inspiration for Canberra-based designer Georgina Whigham’s accessories label, George. “I was interested in … drawing from an object that is mass-produced and disposable,” Whigham says of the silhouette of her handwoven utility totes, which resembles that of a plastic shopping bag.
George launched in May and the handcrafted bags debuted in-store and online at Melbourne boutique Monk House Design. The timing couldn’t be better; craft is making a comeback in the fashion world prompted by a growing demand by consumers for ethical production and natural fabrics. The trend was largely sparked by Spanish fashion label Loewe’s basket bag, which is handwoven from palm leaves and is available in mini, tote and large sizes.
George bags are made from cotton, linen and bamboo thread blends, which are from a small family-run mill in Canada: Maurice Brassard. Each bag is made in one continuous piece (with minimal waste) on a four-shaft floor loom in Whigham’s Canberra studio. Textile dimensions are calculated down to the width of the thread count. It takes around eight hours to weave and construct each bag.
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Once off the loom, the woven material is folded into its final form. Finishing touches are done by hand or on the sewing machine, including sewing in the leather label, tying off every thread in the warp and stitching the sides of the bag together.
“By preserving the ancient craft of hand weaving and designing a well-considered product I hope to change people’s appreciation and perceptions around a product and its lifecycle,” says Whigham. “The bag is made to be cherished by its owner and have an extended life.”
Whigham studied industrial design before undertaking a short intensive course in traditional weaving and dying practices at Kawashima Textile School in Japan. It’s why George – which Whigham juggles with her full-time role as exhibitions designer at the National Gallery of Australia – is dedicated to craftsmanship principles and the handmade process. “It’s about a well-considered item that does not date, but rather ages with grace,” she says. “My aim is to change human perceptions and behaviour around a product, its craftsmanship and value.”
Due to the labour-intensive process, George bags are most often made to order or crafted in very small batches for stockists. One bag from the current collection measures 52 by 30 centimetres and costs $290 in-store or online via Monk House Design. Prices vary depending on the yarn used.