“How do you define your target audience?” We asked Mary. “They know exactly what they want.” This is Mary’s answer. We knew we were one of them when we saw these handmade leather bags of Bartleby Objects. Mary is the designer of her brand Bartleby Objects.
Story 1: How Mary Started The Brand
Born in Malaysia and raised in Singapore and Hong Kong, Mary started her career as an interior designer. The change started from one winter day, when Mary was carrying her leather shoulder bag and the strap kept sliding off her shoulder. You know it happens when you are wearing a lot. Not seeing any bag that solved the problem, Mary ended up doing it herself. She cut the leather bag into a tank shirt shape (when the upper edge is flat, the strip of the bag can easily slide off the shoulder) and put two ropes instead of leather straps: boom, there came her very first handcrafted leather bag.
Actually, Mary didn’t see the bags she wanted because she didn’t try to find them. She was pretty sure that there would be bags she would like if I looked for them. But she has never liked the idea. She doesn’t want to be influenced by other designs.
Story 2: A Designer & Her Design Thinking
When Mary sees problems, she tends to solve them with her design. When she saw a woman searching for something in the big tote while walking down the subway station on her heels. Mary said to herself: “Oh my god, she may fall down!” We always have a lot in a tote. It can be a headache when you try to reach your metro card from the mess. The small pink leather bag on the picture above is Mary’s solution. You can easily put your cards and keys in this little bag and attach it to a big tote with the metal ring on it.
Mary thinks a lot for her customers: how they gonna carry the bags and how the bags will be after being used. She doesn’t paint the edges of the bags she handcrafts, because with time passing by, the paint tears off. It simply sucks. She uses two types of leathers– Italian and American vegetable-tanned leathers for handcrafting the objects. You can feel the texture. The leathers used are expected to age. They soften with use and are waterproof. These are not regular leathers: they absorb oil. So the colors you see are not only on the surface, they are dyed through. They don’t vanish with use. When working with the buyers, Mary shows them the studio, the materials and tools used, as well as how she makes the bags. She wants to give them as much information as possible. It is very important when the buyers communicate with their clients. Mary gets the raw materials from certain providers that can ensure the quality of the leathers. It took much much longer to finish a project when she was doing interior design. There was a lot of communication going back and forth between the designer and the client. And she had to design as the clients wanted. Designing bags is easier, and the designer is used to thinking for the clients.
Story 3: Those Who Love These Handcrafted Leather Bags
Remember what the designer said about her clients? Simply put, they are those who know what they want. They don’t think much about the trend, they buy what they like. One of Mary’s favorite clients is a male. Note that Bartleby’s leather bags are handcrafted gender-neutral but not masculine. He came in the store with his boyfriend, looking at each bag very closely and bought one. Mary knew that she even didn’t need to say anything to him, since he knew what he wanted. There is another buyer from LA. She came in and asked about Mary’s very first design. The designer made one for her. She came back to her for more purchases even when there was a storm. She was just not afraid. Mary also makes bags for her friends. She knows what they like, and they also tell her what they want. She made one tote for her friend and named it after her: The Lin Tote.
I can’t stop thinking: we, To Z consider ourselves as both Bartleby’s target and someone like Bartleby. We see people through their styles instead of the trend. And we know if someone is the person we are looking for from the moment we see her/ him.
Read more and see our street snaps, click here.
X & Y