Interview with Mary Chan, Design a Bag 2020 Winner
| 27 April 2021

Longevity as an important factor in leather sustainability

Younger generations today are the most marketing literate ever and have seen through paternalistic marketing that has grown practised at persuading them to buy new product every season, or even every two weeks, on the basis that it is either out of date or needs to be renewed for the demands of Instagram. This “fast fashion” is starting to be rejected as a carrier of an ever-increasing number of societal and planetary woes.


Mary Chan & Mike Redwood

This changing attitude came home strongly to me when I was interviewing Mary Chan for APLF. Mary was the 2020 winner of the APLF Design-A-Bag competition and is a student in London, originally from Hong Kong.

What was clear from the very start of our discussion was that her understanding of the materials she uses – she designs bags and jewellery – is quite comprehensive. For her winning design she chose the leather with great care to have the right balance of stand and softness to show, and to hold the curves and shapes that were integral in constructing a bag for a competition theme of “second skin”. 

In the short video she had to submit (a must watch) when the competition was forced onto the Internet after the cancellation of the 2020 APLF she talks about the timelessness of leather seemingly referring to both the ageless nature of the material but also to the fact that her design was not intended as a single season article but one that would last and be treasured. Mary’s comment that “leather carries history” from use and wear was particularly telling.

Mary clearly sees longevity as one of the most important aspects of sustainability which she discusses at length, supported with well-formed views about leathers origins and how she would meet the needs of groups such as vegans.

In a fascinating few minutes the immense value of the Design-A-Bag competition becomes apparent particularly when the process involves providing some form of material education along with access to samples to use; and if the prize can be more than a financial reward, valuable though that might be. 

The career market for young people has been getting more difficult in recent years and the pandemic has added an element of catastrophe to it all. Competitions offer a focus for the displaying of skills in a commercial way and an opportunity to differentiate and advance. 

Mary talks a little about her exciting future plans and when you watch the recording the clear boost to her confidence of winning in a highly competitive field will become apparent. We will all want to wish her well in her future venture.
 

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