Functional arm candy

Functional arm candy
Oversized Duffle Camou from 72 Smalldive.

Not content with simply creating the next It bag, three Singapore-based designers up the ante with thoughtfully designed carry-alls. 

Precious skins, statement hardware and trending silhouettes are usually the sexiest details that grab the attention of bagaholics when it comes to their next arm-candy acquisition.

But some Singapore-based bag-makers are taking the craft to the next level, pairing such elements of style with padded pockets, stroller straps and roomy interiors to take its users from boardroom to changing room.

Michele Ng

Aide de Camp

Named after the French term for "camp assistant", the personal aide to a high-ranking official, Aide de Camp is a line of stylish camera bags that double as everyday totes.

"Camera bags were very utilitarian in look and very bulky, with little room for personal items," laments Michele Ng, who realised there weren't any fashionable camera bags that could fit her DSLR camera and look good at the same time, at formal events or fashion shows.

"Most of the female camera-owners I knew ended up wrapping their cameras in cardigans or scarves in their regular handbags or carrying them in separate bags."

Travelling with a camera bag also makes one a target for robbers who could spot a sporty looking, clunky case a mile away, and zoom in on expensive photography gear.

The graduate from New York University's Stern School of Business with a double major in accounting and marketing then took a fashion studies course on the side, creating a collection of five bag styles including the Valencia, a roomy tote executed in lightweight nylon with a removable, compartmentalised camera pouch and back sleeve that slides securely over the handle of a roll-along suitcase, with a zippered base that converts into a slip pocket.

"I'd been knitting, sewing and making things from a young age and love dabbling in various projects involving creating and designing," says Ms Ng. "While I've never been formally trained in bag design, I just tried to include features that I would like to see in a bag.

And I spent a long time exploring various materials available to find the best options for my bags, including features such as water-resistance, the quality if being light in weight and comfortable carrying straps."

Her goal was to create a camera bag that looked just like any other stylish handbag, with practical details such as water-resistant material in case of spills or rainy weather, or full top closures so that one's belongings aren't vulnerable to pickpockets.

She also did away with superfluous details to keep each design ultra-lightweight, but couldn't resist adding 14K gold-plated hardware on the Valencia for a touch of luxe.

The most obvious demographic for Aide de Camp would appear to be the growing female blogger community, as these modern-day style influencers tend to be fashion- conscious and own hefty photographic equipment.

"While my target market includes the blogger community - many bloggers own a DSLR or mirrorless camera and have a need to carry it out often while looking stylish - it does not make up my entire target market," admits Ms Ng, who is also a freelance make-up artist and runs her own blog,

"That said, our bags have been especially prominent in the blogosphere, as lifestyle and fashion bloggers have taken very well to our effortlessly chic designs."

Female travellers who are tired of back-breaking carryalls for lugging around their tablets, documents and multitude of trinkets are Ms Ng's other target customers.

Because no self-respecting jet-setter would be caught dead with a neon backpack - even if it boasts easy access to their laptop and protects their essentials.

"While we market our bags as camera bags, the padded camera boxes are removable, which means you can use it as a regular handbag on a daily basis," explains Ms Ng.

"This versatility is also handy when you travel and decide to leave your camera gear in the hotel. You wouldn't have to bring a different bag to use as a regular bag, nor do you have to carry the bulk of built-in padding around with you, as with many other camera bags."

Next up for the new mum: a multi-purpose bag that appeals to an active mother. The more casual design, dubbed Nadine, has a padded laptop compartment that can be removed and laid flat as a changing mat for busy mums.

"I'd been told how the camera box doubled nicely as a bag organiser and I tried it myself as a diaper bag and was immediately sold," says Ms Ng. "The sturdiness of the box allowed for one-handed access and organisation compared to many soft-bag organisers where you'd need two hands to put things back in properly.

"The adjustable dividers also made it great to organise your diaper supplies in your bag! Bottles are held upright and everything can be seen and grabbed at a glance."


- Michele Ng, founder of Aide de Camp

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