For years now, I’ve lived like a boy when it comes to bags. Unless I am heaving my laptop in my backpack, I’ve resorted to my pockets for everything—my phone, keys and card wallet—the list doesn’t get any longer than that. And when I don’t have any on me, I’ve simply grasped my iPhone Plus like a glossy clutch and marched on. As little layers and luggage as possible has been my motto, and the no-bag life has been sufficient, up until we moved to LA last November. With the summer edging near, I’ve been on the search for a small shoulder bag to house all my essentials on the go.
After months of browsing, I discovered Aeta on Need Supply. Specializing in bags and accessories, the Japanese brand takes the shapes of bags we know well, everything from shoulder bags, totes and backpacks, and modernizes their silhouettes. The result is a simple shape or a form—a backpack with a simple flap opening that resonates its rectangular shape, or a shoulder bag with a box-like body. It is because of this design approach that allows the bag to be genderless and worn across all sexes.
The “Box Shoulder Bag” in small, as pictured, was the bag I ended up buying as the US market offers a slim selection. Meaning “I could meet you” in Japanese, Aeta claims that they take great value in each and every encounter they face during their design process, and it certainly shows through the craftsmanship. Using only cowhide leather sourced from Bangladesh, the exterior is dyed black for contrast, but the inner walls are left at its natural tan color, light and almost flesh like, with soft pink undertones. The thin straps are indented into the outer walls of the bag and sewn, so the inner walls remain flat, only marked by a series of stitch marks that add up to a neat geometric shape—a downwards facing triangle. Seeing the bag in person, I immediately fell in love with its rigid form factor and the magnetic closure—I have always been a fan of bags that hold the dignity of their form without any effort from its user. Having said that, I would have appreciated a closer dedication towards perfecting its linear lines and form.
The bag’s charms come directly from its box-like form, which is highlighted by its tan, unpainted edges that frame its shape. Although the body boasts of sharp edges and angles for the most part, the two flaps that make up the magnetic closure do not completely flush up against each other. As a result, the bag looses its minimalist integrity when viewed from its side—the edge of each flap is not straight, but slightly curved, and the line that the lower flap creates does not extend all the way to the edge of the bag. In a similar case, the strap is less cared for, compared to the rest of the bag. On its backside, the stitch line that runs all the way through the middle of the strap is uneven, often veering off from its center course. And as the strap is constructed from two pieces of leather, the front side is left with a slight bulge and a stitch mark where the two pieces meet, which could have been seamless otherwise. If this were a bag made out of recycled leather, the construction of the straps would be, if anything, sensible and resourceful, but given the aesthetic language of the bag, I think they should have invested in a singular piece of leather.
Despite the minor complaints, I love this bag enough to carry it everyday. Given its price point (a bit more expensive on Need Supply, but in Japan, it’s around $200 USD), the overall design and production quality altogether, is more than satisfying. A compact, rectangular prism that stands and suspends on its vertical axis, the form itself is not too daring, but with its scale, the bag gives off an uncanny presence. It is as thick as an epic novel, but otherwise, slightly smaller than a regular book. In fact, it is so small that I have to lean my iPhone Plus, without a case, to fit it in the bag. But it is its unusual scale and volume that I love the most about the Box Shoulder Bag—it really gets you thinking about what you need to carry on a day off. Phone, keys, a slim wallet, a pair of sunglasses will do on the weekend. On a short night stroll, I’ll even skip my bulky phone, and focus on the walk itself.
With the recent spotlight on minimal living, minimalism has become mistaken for emptiness, or even worse—nothingness. But minimalism, or precisely, minimal life, is not about living like survivors on a deserted island, especially when it comes to city life. As “Muji is enough,” the concept of minimal living points to leading a sufficient, fulfilling lifestyle with quality products. It is not about making it by with the skeletal essentials to survive, or throwing out what you already own—in fact, that act, in itself, is wasteful. It is more about cherishing what you have, and utilizing them to their full potential. Stressing to own less goes against the fundamentals of minimalism, as it is much of a mindset, based on self-discipline. And this is why I love my new Aeta bag. It goes with everything I already own, and alongside my Haerfest backpack, it curbs my consumer desires. I no longer feel the need for another day bag. It really is, enough.