INDIA | Production trip – day 1 & 2
After an 11 hour flight we arrived at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata, India. We are welcomed by the perfect temperature – very welcome, since we left Amsterdam with -2 Celcius – with a small breeze that brings all the spices of Indian cooking right under our nose.
After dropping our suitcases at the hotel, a short nap and some freshening up we are ready to get work started. The goal of today is to pay STC International a visit. We try to meet up with all of our producers multiple times during our visits to Kolkata. Not only does that give us enough time to discuss how they’ve been personally and business wise for the past half year, but we also need this time for interviews with the workers, staff, and the samples being developed.
A month before our biannual visit to India we send rough sketches for new designs and moodboards for the upcoming additions for the collection to our producers. With that information they make a sample for us to see during our first meeting in India. We as a brand know exactly what we want for the details of the bag, and seeing the sample – and not only working with drawings – makes that we can really see, feel and test our initial ideas out. We want the bags to be perfect, and that’s why in most cases we need about 4 meetings to perfectionise the bag. After our two or three weeks visit, we take back the samples, and test them like crazy. Only in that way we can find out if we have been missing any details, if it’s easy in use and if the quality is the bag for a lifetime O My Bag quality.
Love at first sight
We arrived just after lunch but were lucky enough to still taste some of the home-cooked food by Ipshita’s mother. Dishes with chickpeas, lentils, aubergine and tomatoes are served with raita, roti and rice are absolutely delicious! Every morning she prepares lunch for her family, which makes up a large part of the management team of STC: Ipshita’s father and brother are also in the company. Ipshita doesn’t live with her parents anymore. Since she married Mohit a few years back she has moved in with him and his family in their family house. But this is a great way in which she can still enjoy her mothers’ food!
After lunch we go through the samples that have been finished, and once in a while the sample man pops out his head through the door to let us know something more has just been finished. We closely look at the bags, and on the spot think of details, leather use or even whole constructions that should be changed before it can become an O My Bag bestseller. Every time we change something the sample man listens, goes back to his working place, glues on the construction as he interpreted our feedback, and shows us again before stitching the whole construction. This saves a lot of leather and work, because once the bag is stitched throughout, changes can’t be made anymore and even a small change would then require a whole new sample.
We applaud Ipshita and her sample man, because the first samples already look amazing. The Meghan in leather/suede combination is a keeper. The four other new items require some smaller and bigger changes in mainly the construction of the bag. We wreck our brain on strap thicknesses, strap constructions, shapes and sizes. This will keep the sample man busy for the coming days!
Since Apple has been changing the sizes of their laptops, our sleeves have to change accordingly. Ipshita has prepared new 13” and 15” sleeves for each design in some cheaper leather for us, so we can test the sizes first before we make the sleeves in the more expensive leather.
It’s dark already outside when we leave the Leather Complex, which gives us a totally different experience of the city. On the way back from the Leather Complex it is busy on the road, all the workers are traveling back home after a day of work. On the sides of the street it’s busy – you literally see people everywhere. There are small (and when we say small we mean extremely small; they fit a max. of 2 persons in total in them) shops, farmers who have spread out their home grown fruits and vegetables on the sides of the road, and many people walking, cycling, behind a buffalo, in the back of a van or in the bus. After checking the sizes of the sleeves in the Apple Store – one fits perfectly, two still need some small adjustments – we celebrate the first successful day with a traditional Indian meal: An appetizer of mixed chutneys, tikka masala, and a vegetables coconut curry.
In the morning we are woken by a phone call. It is mister Misra, one of the two Quality Checkers in Kolkata that O My Bag works with to check and advice on the production. We think it’s safe to say that he’s O My Bags biggest fan. Unfortunately he had very sad news, his wife had passed away in the night. They have known each other for a very long time, and even though mister Misra’s first attempt to get in contact with her via a romantic love letter was turned down, he never gave up. That’s the spirit! Their relationship started in 1972 and they got married in 1982.
After his phone call we changed our plans and first went to the Nursing Home where friends and family of Tapasi could pay her their respects. It were only men that were there with us, it is common in the Hindu community for only them to attend funerals. When we left, the car with Tapasi in it left also for the cremation which happened one the same day. The coming days mister Misra and his family will be having a lot of family and friends over to sit together and remember Tapasi during a mourning period which lasts for 13 days. Since they are a part of the Brahmin caste, her ashes become immersed in the Ganges river. We have given mister Misra and his son Diptesh a huge hug. We know how deep their love was for her and we wish them a lot of strength.
O My Order
It took us some adjustment time after a morning like this to switch back to work. Luckily it was quite a drive from the Nursing Home to the Leather Complex, where we were going to meet Springfield. Just like STC, Springfield is also a family company. We always have our meetings with the father and owner of the factory, and his sons, Ashish and Prabden. The father likes to joke around and expects a lot of the O My Bag growth we are all going for, therefore calling us “O My Order”. Since their grandfather passed away recently their parents were attending the ceremonies in another part of India, whereas Ashish and Prabden had to stay behind to look after the factory.
Springfield had prepared items for our eco-hunter green collection that we would like to introduce in Fall Winter 2018. They looked absolutely amazing (as we could see from the Instagram voting you guys totally agree!). A big thanks to the sample man of Springfield and Ashish and Prabden, those samples are approved! Also, we’ve thought of an Ella Maxi, one that easily fits your 13” laptop. The decisions we have to make today are more about details. Changes to the inside compartments of the Georgia in our hunter leather, and to the new wallet designs. For the Ella Maxi it is more difficult. The sample still did not easily fit a laptop including the sleeve, and also we were not yet satisfied with the construction to turn it from a handbag into a backpack. After some puzzling and brainstorming together with Ashish and the sample man, we’ve changed the design and are now waiting for the new sample to be made!
Patrick and Veronica
All the factories and tanneries at the Leather Complex are located really close to each other, and the premise is set up widely, so that it does not feel busy at all. This is really convenient because in the city itself there is so much traffic that for the shortest distances one should keep at least 30 minutes for getting from point A to B. After Springfield in less than 5 minutes we arrive at Patrick’s place, the Sheong Shi Tannery. Whereas Veronica, his wife, is always by his side, today it’s different. It’s Chinese New Year and Veronica is at home preparing a grand meal for her family, friends and for us (YAY we are also invited!). We sit down for a refreshment with Patrick, chat, and have a look at the new leathers that he has developed for us together with his leather technician. We discuss issues that we are sometimes facing with the leathers, and Patrick patiently explains the leathers behavior and shows us how he’s solved previous issues.
Patrick works very hard in the tannery and all the money he earns he sets aside for the education of his children, but also for some of the children of his workers that find themselves in a difficult situation and because of that don’t have the resources to let their kids go to school. His son Edwin has just graduated and Patrick and Veronica have given him the best graduation gift ever (ok, we might be biased ;)): O My Bag’s Harvey Maxi!
Visiting new factories
After the visit to the Sheong Shi Tannery we visit a new factory. We have been doing the sampling with them a few years back, but at that time it did not work out between us two due to differences in style and quality. The factory is located closer to the city center, so outside of the Leather Complex. Differences in the lay-out of the factories are visible easily: The amount of space and light is less here. The buildings closer to the center are narrower, and instead of large open spaces there are more separate rooms. We mostly prefer to work with the factories in the Leather Complex, but do believe that it is good to keep on visiting other factories to give everyone a chance of work and see and learn from the differences.
During our appointment we are shown a variety of new type of eco-leathers that they have been developing together with Patrick. It was so great to see that they had been thinking of new styles for eco-leather. We discuss details for sampling, check out their leather storage to see if we can find any other great leathers over there, and just before we leave we notice that after all the chatting and production details there is one question still unanswered: WHY are the Dutchies winning all the Olympic Medals on ice skating? 😉
Chinese New Year, Valentine’s day ánd the worship day of Shiva: The 14th of February was a busy day for almost each and every person in India. In the evening we are invited to celebrate the pre-evening of the Chinese New Year with Patrick, Veronica and their friends and family in Tangra, the old leather tanners district – before the Leather Complex was around. It has now become Chinatown, and is also the place were Patrick and Veronica live. Veronica’s food tasted so delicious and we got so carried away in chatting with all their friends and family that we missed the Dragon dance going on outside. Thanks Patrick and Veronica for the great evening!
Jessica & Indra
Comments are closed