One Original Oblong


Aeta Box shoulder

By Mao Shan Wang

The shape is as simple as a book. Or maybe a Bluetooth speaker. Or, if you prefer something more prosaic, a brick. And, yes, geometry gurus will point out to me that, to be specific, this is really a rectangular cuboid. However you wish to describe this polyhedron 😉 , it is a bag and it is one that is appealing simply because it is so simple.

Okay, I know I will be mocked for talking about such a plain object when the trend is now to go for a decorated fascia, such as Gucci’s crazily floral-embroidered Dionysus, Chanel’s camellia-festooned tweed Flap, or Anya Hindmarch’s symmetrically appliquĂ©d by Bathurst. But sometimes amid all the exterior excess, an unembellished shell is totally alluring. All of us have moments when we want to don just white tee and denim jeans—intact, not ripped or shredded.

There I was, walking without paying attention to my surrounding when the bag called out to me. The plainness was a total standout—its regularity and rigidity such an antithesis to Loewe’s Puzzle bag. I was, admittedly, enticed. The bag held in the hand like a favourite tome, but not at all heavy. The construction of the bag reminded me of a card box’s—with right-angle folds and totally visible edges. There was a feeling that this is shaped by hands.


Aeta Box shoulder pic 2

This beguiling box of a shoulder bag—called Box, of course—is produced by the Japanese maker Aeta, known for its craft-like approach to making bags. They use only cowhide, all sourced in Bangladesh, where, according to Aeta, the bags are also made in close collaboration with the crafts people there. As indicated in the brand’s communication, “Aeta translates to ‘I could meet you’ in Japanese and puts heavy emphasis on the value of every encounter” (the people factor again). And not, just in case you’re wondering, named after the indigenous people of the island of Luzon, the Philippines.

While the exterior of the bag is dyed black, the interior is left in a natural tan (so are the edges, which form a nice contrasting perimeter). There’s one pocket inside that lies flat against an internal wall, leaving the inside a roominess that is exactly the shape of the rather flat bag. Its lack of bulk also means it won’t be, as it leans on your hips, an intrusive nuisance to others in the crowded confine of, say, the MRT train.

What I especially like about the Box is that it can accommodate a lot of what we tend to carry out very neatly. As most of our mobile possessions—book (assuming that is still carried around), smartphone, and battery charger—are not irregular shapes, they fit nicely into the Box, allowing for a tidy arrangement and the maximum use of space. Isn’t that good for our lives—a bit of order?

Aeta ‘Box Shoulder’ bag, SGD470, is available at Fresh Service, Isetan Scotts. Photo: Aeta