Behind the Design

Behind the Design – An interview with Bill Amberg & Derrick Webb

Partnering with London’s leading leather designer Bill Amberg, Bolin Webb has created a distinctive and desirable wash bag that appeals to the discerning traveler. 

World-renowned designer Bill Amberg is recognised for the craftsmanship of his fine leather goods. When he founded his eponymous London-based company in 1984, the ambition was to create unique leather goods that would form a part of his customers’ lives. 

We interviewed Bill Amberg about his background in leather and  spoke with Derrick Webb about where the design concept for the wash bag came from.


Bill Amberg – The Designer 

How did your passion for leather start?

You could say that I was born into leather. Raised in Northampton – the centre of the British shoemaking industry – I was surrounded by the material throughout my childhood. My mother, an architect with a love of crafting, would pick up cobblers’ offcuts and scraps for him to practise on, so I became accustomed to handling knives, awls and needles from a young age.

When I left school, I travelled to Australia to visit my cousin Penny Amberg, a lecturer in leather design at the Canberra School of Art. Through her, I met leatherworker Gay Wilson, who became my mentor. As an apprentice in her studio in Adelaide, l turned my hand to making jockey’s shoes, wallets and belts. The respect for the material – my understanding of its properties and possibilities – deepened in tandem with these skills.

Returning to London in 1985, I set up a leather studio – first in Rotherhithe, later moving to Shoreditch – where I created leather bags, accessories and sculpture. The reputation as a designer and craftsman soon spread to the likes of Liberty, who asked me to create a line of bags in English saddle leather, and Paul Smith, who invited me to create a line of Amberg-branded bags to be sold in his stores.


Bill Amberg and the Bolin Webb Wash Bag

How did the conversation with Bolin Webb start? 

Bolin Webb wanted to bring a strong design theme into its new range of wash bags, the first of which is launched this summer.  Bolin Webb founder Derrick Webb was looking for a marriage of materials -leather and technical fabrics – to create a bag that is functional and at the same time attractive as a travel companion.

Derrick contacted leading London designer Bill Amberg, who conceived form and detail, and brought different materials together, to create a distinctive design-led bag in a close dialogue with Derrick and his partner Marina Bolin.

What was the design process involved in creating the wash bag?

 The design process started with a close look at the bag’s intended use.  Size, shape and material choice were central parts of the discussion, one which brought leather and synthetic materials together.  Detailed design brought the final bag concept together to give a distinctive character and features the traveler can use and enjoy.

What choice of materials were used on the washbag and why?

The open-top design provides easy access to the bag’s contents, while being versatile and easy to keep clean. The leather is a polished calf skin, which is durable, waterproofed and strong. The nylon sidewall gusset is robust and waterproof, and the close-cell neoprene lining is just like a wetsuit – easy to clean and suitably water resistant, while providing a little bit of padding to keep your grooming accessories safe.

What makes the wash bag distinctive?

The bag is distinctive in many ways.  It is an unconventional yet practical shape. Premium materials and a quality finish keep this design-led wash bag true to Bolin Webb’s aim to make enduring and enjoyable grooming products. The mix of materials from leather to neoprene enhance performance in terms of strength, durability and practical day-to-day. An eye for design detail including the black synthetic zip, two-tone handle and reversible mat add interest and character to the bag.


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