American classic courts Nippon innovation: Timberland pairs with Porter. Should the Japanese have budged?By Ray Zhang
Who proposed first? That is the question, but it’s probably inconsequential to those who consider this a marriage in heaven. To me, the Japanese bag brand Porter is so strong in its designs and its branding that it really requires no collaboration with an American brand to elevate the former’s standing among serious bagaholics. Yet, it is with Timberland that one of Japan’s most recognisable bag brands has chosen to co-output a capsule collection.
However I see it, the pairing is still a little mismatched. Sure, Timberland has attained cool status among those who let their footwear do the talking, and its 6-inch boot is still considered an ‘icon’. But Porter could possibly be on a higher rung of the status ranking, considering that the parent organisation Yoshida & Co (also known in Japan as Yoshida Kaban) are the go-to manufacturer of bags for many of Japan’s high-end labels, from Sacai to White Mountaineering. Outside of Japan, the eagerness by designer brands to collaborate with Porter—from Marni to Christopher Ræburn—has made the bag maker well loved to the level of cultish.
Admittedly, I am a Japanophile and I do have a weakness for Porter bags. Going to the B Jirushi Yoshida store in Tokyo’s Daikanyama—concept space conceived with the retailer Beams—is like a child stepping into Kiddy Land in Harajuku: it’s a bewildering experience and you cannot go against the urge to spend. Everything in there is, to me, worlds apart from and more covetable than anything seen in an LV store. It’s really how Yoshida & Co is able to make Porter totally practical and yet aesthetically appealing. Long-time collaborator Beams has a simple but on-point description: “basic and exciting”.
The Timberland X Porter collaboration yields two styles of bags in two colours (black and olive): The Boston (above) and a knapsack called a ‘daypack’. I was not too impressed with the latter, so I gave the carryall closer inspection instead. Face to face, you can’t mistake the silhouette: it’s a Porter standard seen in such styles as the Black Beauty ‘duffle’ and even the slimmer take in the form of the Master Navy ‘brief case’. To me, the all-time favourite in the Porter cache wasn’t given an imaginative makeover, not even the colour-blocking, already a Porter signature. Yes, I see it: the natural shade on the side and handle is possibly a nod to the Timberland’s “original yellow”, but elsewhere in and outside of the bag, the Porter signatures are too strong to let anything “Timb” stand out: the bright orange lining details and the unmistakable black and white Porter label discreetly stitched to the left-hand (or right, if you’re looking straight at it) bottom corner, but still conspicuous.
I guess, for many, that little rectangle is reason enough to cop one (or both) of the two bags. As for me, I can wait till Tokyo’s energetic streets are again beneath my feet.
The Timberland X Porter capsule collection of bags (SGD529 for the backpack and SGD599 for the Boston) and 6-inch boots (SGD399) are available at Robinsons The Hereen. Photos: Timberland/Porter