As we segue into summer, get to know your wicker before swopping up the Gucci for these handwoven beauties
There's a certain synonymity between Jane Birkin and the basket bag. Before her namesake Hermès, Birkin's loyalty hardly swayed from the cylindrical straw rendition that she toted everywhere — be it day or night, in the city or countryside. And while woven totes are unquestionably the go-to beach bag, the street style crowd has recently taken a leaf from Birkin's book; carrying the basket bag out its habitat. Modest, unassuming, and juxtaposed withhard leathers and dry denim, the city denizen's spin on wicker proves more potent than any tried-and-tested resort ensemble — re-kindling the love affair that Birkin has set in motion.
But before committing to the basket bag of your dreams, it pays to take time and learn the tales behind these accessories — ones often coloured with tradition and heritage passed down over generations. Whether as tribute to Birkin herself or as a means to unearth the craft of Africa to the world, get to know these five labels first, and then, proceed to bag yourself a piece.
What you need to know: It's founded by Marcia Kemp, a businesswoman and active volunteer at the Children's Institute, an organisation that helps heal children who have gone through violent experiences. Kemp came into contact with Africa's Massai tribe during her travels and witnessed the beautiful craftwork of the natives. Inspired to share such traditional handicraft with the rest of the world — from wherever it might hail — Nannacay begun with basket bags made by artisans residing in Peru, the colours of their products symbolic of the country's cultures.
Interesting fact: Nannacay, or Ñañakay (with Quechua roots) translates to sisterhood.
What you need to know: Bonjour Coco — as its name suggests — is a purveyor of style that's quintessentially French. Whittled down to a fuss-free selection of just one product model available in two sizes, the label's wickers are handwoven in Portugal. Also known as Jane Birkin Basket (à la their Instagram handle, @janebirkinbasket), Bonjour Coco's basket bag follows the design of Birkin's famous straw tote extremely closely. It takes three days to make a singular basket.
Interesting fact: French It-girl Jeanne Damas and Leandra Medine (AKAMan Repeller) are fans of these Birkin-inspired baskets.
What you need to know: Muuñ's provenance is an intricate one. Of both Ghanaian and French origins, these baskets are handmade by women residing in the Nyariga village of Ghana, and overseen by a workshop in Paris. Woven from grain stalks, the bags are then dyed with organic colouring native to the village.
Interesting fact: The designs are led by Japanese creed. Can you tell?
What you need to know: Started by Rag & Bone's ex-handbag designer Sapna Shah and co-founder Philippa Thorne, Khokho's bags are the work of the autochthon of Swaiziland in Southern Africa. Combining her eye for design with the skills of the locals, Shah's objective is to show the world that traditional craft could take on a new face without losing its core and heritage, simultaneously giving artisans an avenue to produce products that could sit alongside the contemporary luxurious It-bags we're accustomed to.
Interesting fact: Khokho's beginnings can be attributed to Shah's trip to Africa through the Nest Professional Fellowship Programme, a network that connects professionals with craftsmen and women like the above. Find out more here.
What you need to know: The predecessors of the people behind Wicker Wings actually wove wicker baskets in China back in the day. Having uprooted to England, the meeting of Chinese and English heritage is evident in their basket designs. The bags are one-part handwoven rattan and one-part leather, assembled based on traditional British know-how.
Interesting fact: Wicker Wings aims to be a naturally produced label, using only organically grown rattan and vegetable tan to dye their leathers.