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Discovered: Will Bees Bespoke Leather Tote Bags

Friday, 17 October 2014
You know the feeling you get when you discover something new? That sense of excitement which draws you in? It's a bit of a thrill... This was my experience last weekend when I wandered past the newly opened doors of Will Bees Bespoke on Island Street in Salcombe. 

Island street has long been associated with marine chandleries and boat houses, the rear of the premises back onto the estuary. I remember buying bait along here when I was a child but, Salcombe like so many of our traditional maritime haunts isn't immune to change. Over the years it's become well known as a prime location for serious yachties and many long time residents simply shake their heads at the number of second-home owners who dart down from London for the weekend in high season, squeezing along Fore Street in their oversized 4x4s. I suspect there is a fear that the village will loose it's unique character, that what is cherished will be replaced by corporate mediocrity as the masses move in.

You get a real sense that Will Bees understands this when you walk into the shop. In fact it was immediately clear to me that whoever had repurposed the old boat house at 1 Island Street has an affinity not just for blending the old with the new but also for preserving and appreciating the heritage contained within; there's sentiment in the layout and character in the oversized display cabinets. This is an artisanal space. Then, there's the bags themselves.

Each bag is a unique creation. The materials (after being hand picked by you) are hand cut, hand sewn and embossed by hand, if you so please.  I spoke with Will's dad while I cooed over the totes and he told me that all of the suppliers are UK-based and the bags themselves are handcrafted in England. There are over 500 fabrics to choose from including linens, tweeds, plaid, striped, checked and plain textiles as well as individually sourced Liberty prints. The choice continues with four different types of leather to coordinate with the fabric, all of it tanned using natural vegetable pigments.

The inspiration for the collection is clear; if you take the time to wander the streets or take the little ferry over to East Portlemouth you'll see candy coloured houses, soft golden beaches, light green sea, dark grey stone walls and all of it framed by rolling hillsides, fields and the tide. The business card says it's 'a concept that prides itself on being the antithesis of mass production' and I have to say that if this showcase of raw talent, clear love of British craftsmanship and heritage is the future of development in Salcombe, I'm on board. 

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