ninabel, a cottage industry

In this age of mass produced ‘Made in Nowhere’ goods, it is refreshing to come across articles which are hand-made locally… we are delighted to present you with Isabel’s very special, hand-made Provencal bags.

Isabel grew up with the hum of a sewing machine in the background… Her mother was a seamstress and from a tender age she was surrounded by wreaths of materials and reels of thread. Her mother would sit at one end of a long table, sewing, while Isabel did her homework. When she had finished, she would be allowed to play with the leftover scraps of material and make objects of her own. She learnt to use a Singer treadle sewing machine and spent all her free time knitting, sewing, crocheting… But her parents, as is so often the case, were keen that their daughter have a ‘proper job’ so Isabel trained as a scientist.

Over the years, Isabel never stopped making various hand-crafted articles and two years ago, after working for several years in research, she decided to follow her dream and devote herself full time to creating beautiful bags. The results are a joy to behold – each bag is carefully crafted using specially chosen materials she has collected from a number of sources. She explains the origin of her delightful bags: fascinated by the history of textiles and traditional local costumes, she visited many museums when she arrived in Provence through a job transfer, and came across the ‘Provencal Pouch’ – a bag used by peasants in the nineteenth century and which were very useful when going to market as the pouch could be tied around the waist and be worn between the layers of petticoats and skirts. There was a special slit in the skirt which made the pouch readily available but kept it safe. The pouch was even sometimes used to keep the cocoons of silkworms warm during the incubation period! At that time, the plains of Provence were covered in Mulberry trees for the breeding of silkworms.

Isabel works with quilted material individually created for each bag, playing with the colours, patterns and textures of two carefully chosen fabrics, using both traditional and contemporary designs. She lets her imagination guide her in the choice of tassels, straps, claps – while the bags follows the design of the ‘Provencal Pouch’ each bag is unique. It can be worn tied at the waist, as was the tradition in Provence, or used as a shoulder bag. They are very versatile and are suitable both on formal occasions and as casual wear; they are light to carry and the pretty colours will enhance the most ordinary off-the-peg dress or a pair of jeans – as they are ideal for  parties… they  also make perfect, original presents! 

In true ‘cottage industry’ fashion, Isabel works from home. She has patented her design and has a logo, her trademark is ninabel. As well as choosing materials and making up the bags, Isabel deals with all the other aspects of her business, marketing her bags, finding outlets and attending fairs such as the «Esprit Mode»  which took place in Arles in early December, ephemeral boutiques or Christmas markets.

If you wish to have a particular piece of material of your own transformed into a bag, Isabel will be delighted to oblige.

ninabel can be contacted at the following address :

A huge thank you to my friend M-J who wrote this text!