IMAGE: RAFFLES 1819 HANDBAG
While I wouldn’t go as far as declaring it a national treasure that needs to be more present on everyone’s luxury radar, there is something about KWANPEN that we as Singaporeans can take some pride in. One of the very few brands left in Singapore still designing and crafting their exotic skin bags on our sunny island, it all started back in 1938 when it was first established by Mr Kwan Pen Seng, himself a master craftsman who started the business way before such bags were ever in vogue.
IMAGE: RAFFLES HANDBAG
Fast forward to today, KWANPEN is celebrating the silver jubilee of their house icon, the Raffles, which was first introduced in 1991. Along the way, new styles were added on, with top handles and clutches still being the most popular. With 95% of the bag covered in exotics, you’ll also be pleased to know that each ethically-sourced skin meets with stringent standards set by the likes of CITES, which is always a good thing.
You’ve already had the quick introduction, now for the Raffles collection proper. Besides the original Raffles bags, there is also the new Raffles 1819 bags, introduced to celebrate KWANPEN’s new boutique in London’s Burlington Arcade, which also opened in 1819. 1819 also happens to be the year Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore, which makes it all the more serendipitous, if you ask me.
So how is the Raffles 1819 different from the Raffles? Well, besides the fact that the former is cleaner and sharper than its predecessor (the original comes with a ruched exterior), the bag’s most distinct feature is the metal bar that runs across the flap, one that’s both decorative and functional, with the tiny logo-etched clasp on each side to ‘lock’ the bag. Made available with a sling, each Raffles 1819 is ‘limited edition’, simply because not many are made in the first place, with bags going to their boutiques worldwide, including cities like Bangkok, Doha, Hong Kong, London and Seoul, just to name a few.
IMAGE: RAFFLES 1819 & RAFFLES CLUTCHES
These are the clutches I mentioned earlier, the Raffles 1819 on the top, the original Raffles just below it, both of which are available (along with the top handle exotics) at KWANPEN boutiques in Marina Bay Sands and ION Orchard. And while they are considered pricey given the fact that they are exotic, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how affordable they are as well when you compare bag for bag to one from say, luxury European brands whose mark-ups are definitely higher.
And because nothing beats experiencing the brand for oneself so that one is able to tell a better story, do stay tuned for my next post where I’ll be getting a chance to check out KWANPEN’s workshop in Singapore and see how bags are conceptualised and put together. Which for me is as exciting as it gets so do stay tuned.