Fashion

No Frills; Just Handsome, Handmade Leather Bags from Manila

A careful consideration of materials and construction results in raw leather accessories.
IMAGE Joseph Pascual
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“We're very practical folk and this shows in our pieces. There are no unnecessary trimmings or parts—just your reliable everyday bag,” says Trina Flores, who, together with husband Ruben plus two assistants, make up the small team of Bags by Rubbertree. “The pieces we make are pieces we would use. We personally test our work and are very critical about them.”

Through Rubbertree Design Studio, their main company that focuses on visual concepts for exhibits, packaging, logos, and more, Trina and Ruben have a lot of experience making things, and has translated this know-how into “sensibly good design” or a raw take on what's modern for their leather accessories.

The totes, messengers, carry-alls, knapsacks, and accessories feature natural construction so that the beauty of the leather remains relatively unadulterated. 

“We personally choose each hide that we use for our pieces,” continues Trina. “All of them are carefully inspected and selected for their grain, thickness, and finish. And then, with a thoroughly planned construction, we create pieces that transcend trends—as it should, because these will outlast most of your other bags.”


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The bike bag accommodates up to 17-inch laptops. 


Clockwise from top: Convertible clutch, frontman billfold, full-grain billfold, and coil-and-tuck cable organizer

Among rolls of leather, on a weathered wood table, the artisanal process is done in their backyard. “We hand-cut and hand-stitch each piece. No machines,” she points out. “With this process, we get to highlight interesting parts of the hide. We also utilize a single-piece construction for the main buckets and minimize stitch points. So what you get is the peace of mind that a continuous piece of leather, from front to back, carries all your valuables.”

With such consideration for materials and craftsmanship, trust that your roll-top travel bag or scout backpack will get even more handsome as it is used, even battered over time. Which is, as Trina envisions, very much like the man who uses their bags.

“He is someone who's no nonsense and practical, someone with an appreciation for craftsmanship, and someone who travels a lot with his essentials,” she describes. “We are continuously inspired by how people move.”

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Trina and Ruben Flores make their calfskin leather bags by hand.

The organic, almost primitive style of Rubbertree appears like a throwback, and among the glut of over-complicated bags in the market, perhaps this is the better direction. Says Trina, “With our key design and construction principles in check, we feel that we've successfully exhibited restraint in not overbuilding the piece.” They just follow the flow of nature.  bagsbyrubbertree.com

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