The cobbled streets of Milan, a romantic storefront in Paris, the slew of skyscrapers dotting the bustling NYC streets - luxury bag aficionados tend to gravitate towards the classic fashion capitals when on the prowl for their next big purchase, but we have to ask: where's the love for the bespoke beauties of smaller, hidden gem locations?
We welcome Toyooka, a small city in Japan's Hyogo Prefecture, to the bag spotlight.
No shopping spree to Japan is truly complete without touching ground on Toyooka's Bag Street, lined with boutiques producing and selling the best of the best in bags - the Toyooka Kaban label. From drafting to the finishing touches such as hardware and zippers, Toyooka Kaban designs are imagined and given life in Toyooka.
Even with over 30 brands under the Toyooka Kaban label, every handmade piece is inspected individually for compliance with Toyooka Kaban's quality control standards, and only those products that are found to fulfill them are marked with the trademark blue and red label.
For sleek and functional briefcases and backpacks, look no further than Artphere, a Toyooka Kaban brand established in 2006.
The New Dulles Bag introduced in 2009 won the prestigious iF Product Design Award, and its hardy frame cloaked in leathers of various colors presents a design that is nothing short of chic.
Other products include the Cavallo and Tondo series, also both unique renditions of the brand's namesake - "art" and "atmosphere."
With longstanding ties to the willow-covered landscape of Toyooka, Kagen continues its 200-year-old history of bag artisanry without sacrificing quality nor material in the face of growing demand.
Although many of Kagen's creations have moved to favor high-quality leather skins instead of high-quality wickerwork, the brand's profound connection to Toyooka's willow crafting heritage is lovingly preserved in a small museum of wicker trunks, baskets, and bags from generations past on the shop's second floor.
Sustainability has continued to span Kagen's centuries-old history as a core, indisputable value in the brand's identity - shreds of leftover leather never see the inside of a trash bin and are instead crafted into small fashion items such as coin purses and belt loops.
In an industry where more is more and fast output often overrules precise craftsmanship, Atelier Nuu stays true to its small-town business identity with a promise to sustainability as a bonus for green-minded shoppers.
Through eco-inspired collections such as totes made from castaway fishing nets and wallets stitched together using wayward scrap materials, Atelier Nuu's ambitious "Re:nuu" strategy is on the fast track to slow-fashion success.
By 2025, Atelier Nuu aims to throw a helping hand into the slow-fashion revival with durable collections created completely from environmentally low-impact materials.
As if the sleek Oriental White Stork silhouette logo wasn't already a dead ringer for the brand, Creezan is instantly recognizable with its trademark white leather serving as the chic and simple base for over half of their creations.
The simple white backdrop allows for the strengths of every design to shine, ranging from briefcases, purses, and luggage, all beautifully stitched together at the Creezan lab.
Itten Itten, Creezan's younger, fun-loving sibling, is a must-check brand if you're looking for a splash of color with Creezan-tier quality.
A little lost on which bag to buy?
Take a Kinosaki lunch break at Creezan's in-boutique hamburger shop before closing the deal.