The Vela Handbag: From Concept to Prototype

January 10, 2017

The Vela Handbag: From Concept to Prototype

I first considered using LED materials to line a bag whilst I was researching new materials and studying product design in Liverpool in 2011.  A few years later, the idea was still firmly in my mind – and I did a Masters in Product Design specifically to research the potential of using these illuminating materials, and how they could be incorporated into handbag designs.

This study also helped me gain a better understanding of the handbag industry, and the processes involved in material and product manufacturing. With a strong focus on new materials, I was interested in finding a better alternative for the exterior of my bags – as opposed to the environmentally destructive – and cruel – option of using animal skins. I was on a quest to design a handbag that’s better, inside and out!


My design process began with collecting visual research and making mood boards to inspire my exploration of form, and inform what I wanted my bags to look like.  Similarly, my research into new materials, their usability and their production processes inspired the design – which started life as a series of sketches.

research, moodboards

Once the detailed design drawings were finally finished, it was time to develop the initial prototypes – working closely with the developers of the new fibre-optic materials to learn how to work them into handbag designs.  My aim in this part of the development was to determine if the materials were actually fit for purpose – was the light coming from the material bright enough? Was the material strong enough to line a bag? Would it give off heat when powered? (Wouldn’t want it to melt my chocolate bar!) I also needed to learn how to physically work with the material whilst manufacturing my bags, establishing any limitations or weaknesses.

The initial prototypes were mocked up with a wool felt exterior, and a fully working switch system which operated the LED lining when the bag was opened and closed. The pictures below show the development of my very first working prototypes. Once these were completed, I was able to start the exciting process of testing the new tech of the material inside!

Luckily, the initial testing was a success! After the testing period, I knew where we needed reinforcement moving into manufacturing. With all this information, and a rough idea of the material costs, I set out to finalise the designs, and find a UK manufacturer I could work closely with.

It was another two years in searching, testing and prototyping with different ideas, materials and processes and hitting a few brick walls before we got to where we are now! In this time, we tested a variety of options, and settled on the sustainable, vegan cork leather for the exterior of the bag -  the last piece of the puzzle of our bag design.

I was passionate about making FABRIKK a British-made brand, due to the need for me to work closely with the manufacturers, and for high quality and transparency. Building a close relationship with our suppliers  and working one on one with our manufacturers has been crucial to our success so far – and wouldn’t have been possible if we had outsourced the process overseas. We want to continue to nurture great working relationships with our supply chain and support British businesses – so will continue to keep everything as local as possible.

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