Bag In A Bag

Timbuk2 tote

By Ray Zhang

Why have one when you can have two? This is really no dilemma. This Timbuk2 tote is welcome two-bag convenience and joy. Within the tote is inserted a backpack. You can take this out when you need an extra bag to carry, or to leave the tote for milk and stuff, separate from the gym gear in the other.

Timbuk2 is not exactly known for their fashion forward bags. So, I was surprised to see this in their flagship store. It comes in two colours, silver and brown, but it is the colour of Ag that appeals to me. As it turned out (and strangely unknown to the sales staff), this “paper bag backpack” is designed in collaboration with Dave Ortiz and is part of their Brown Bag series. Mr Ortiz is an artist (graffiti), former sneaker store owner (one was called Dave’s Wearhouse, the other Dave’s Quality Meat!), and a street style heavyweight (he was once with Zoo York) who has collaborated with Nike and Vans. While he isn’t as recognised as the one who went to Paris, Mr Ortiz is sought after by brands for his clever take on the mundane.

Timbuk2 tote P2For Timbuk2, Mr Ortiz started with the brown shopping bag, playing with the almost-standard shape, and the paper’s propensity to crush. So, this version begins with an outer bag that is made of crumpled, coated, paper-like material, while the extra bag fitted inside is a nylon gym sack that comes with three external pockets—two perfect for water bottles. I like the contrast of the colour red. It works like lining. Those who like the underside of their jackets eye-catching may know what I mean.

The way the gym sack fits into the tote is quite clever. Because of the lightness and smoothness of the bag destined for the interior, its removal and refit is easy. Once inside, the attached shoulder straps can be kept within the outer bag so that the final config can be a bona-fide tote, or slipped through a slot in the upper rear so that the tote can be what the Japanese call a two-way bag: it doubles as a backpack. The attention to detail is not shot of impressive: para-cord draw cord (that’s reflective), with attendant plastic tips, and the leather tab to hold the cords together give the twosome those extras that similarly mark a well-accessorised man. I like.

Timbuk2 Dave Ortiz paper bag backpack combo, SGD208, is available at Timbuk 2, Bugis Junction. Photos: Timbuk2

The Bag, Not The Town

Timbuk2 Forge

The name may suggest Mali, Africa, but the provenance of this bag brand is really San Francisco. Timbuk2 did not, in fact, begin life with this evocative moniker. It was, believe or not, known as Scumbags—surely outrageous even for the left-leaning city in which it was born. It isn’t terribly clear why (but we can surely guess), the name was changed to Timbuk2 in 1990 by founder of the brand Rob Honeycutt, who created messenger bags to meet his needs as a bike messenger in the ’80s. According to the brand’s amusing telling, the settled name was inspired, in part, by the Devo-ish, American, post-punk band Timbuk3.

Timbuk2 is not new to Singapore. Its first stand alone store (reported to be it’s first outside the US) opened in 2013 at Bugis Junction, a corner unit so strikingly appointed—with a nod to its bicycling roots—that it stood in sharp contrast to its cluttered neighbours. Before that, Timbuk2 can be found at outdoor gear suppliers such as those in Queenstown Shopping Centre. With its own standalone space, now relocated to another unit in the same complex, Timbuk2 is able to let its products better project its pre-dot-com, post-hippy American image and heritage.

Messenger bags are synonymous with Timbuk2, but what drew our attention when we visited the store last week was this handsome roll-top tote named Forge (top). The make of Timbuk2 bags are solid, but their designs have generally been stolid. Forge is a gentle pull away from the relative same-same sensibility applied across their bags.

Firstly, there’s the tote part, a rather late entry for most American brands in the business of bags for men. Then, there’s the two-way mode of carrying the Forge (it’s a backpack too), even when the Japanese have put out similar binary styles much earlier. And, for this colour (above, cross between gray and khaki known as ‘Flux’), the bright blue of the straps and the yellow of the zip that looks like a related hue to McDonald’s Golden Arches.

Timbuk2 Forge (back)

Colours are, of course, not alien to Timbuk2 since one of their most distinctive bags is the tri-coloured messenger (known as the Classic Messenger Tres Colores, and can be customised to suit your taste). In the case of the Forge, the colours are accents and are used as graphic counterpoints to the overall chromatic solidness of the body.

The bag is equipped with a staggering dozen of pockets: two easy-access front-centre (one with zip) slots, two skinny ones by their sides (may not be that useful), and two roomy side slots that are definitely handy. Inside, one large pocket with additional four more attached to its front. In the rear, a zippered side opening allows access to that pocket inside, which is padded to better protect on-the-road necessities such as a tablet. There is also little a slip of space on top of that for MRT card and such, allowing you to keep valuables close to you.

But what we really wish to have—as an option—is extra compartments in the rear to hold and conceal the shoulder straps when not in use. The fashion-conscious, you see, may deem a backpack not cool enough. Tuck the stray straps away, and no one shall know of your bag’s other personality.

Timbuk2 ‘Forge’ tote, SGD159, is available at Timbuk2, level 3, Bugis Junction. Photos: Jim Sim