I recently read an article suggesting that the boundaries between architecture, products and graphics are eroding. This is something Habel Betiyo, the head behind the Betiyo-bags agree on. I first met Habel at a camp in the south parts of Sweden when I was 14 years old. Years later, our paths crossed again here in Stockholm. Today the 24-year old Habel has both finished his bachelor in architecture and created the brand Betiyo. A brand where Habel creates minimalistic and beautiful leather bags. To me, the story behind the brand Betiyo is beyond ordinary.
I contacted Habel and we decided to meet up at his apartment in Södermalm, Stockholm. When i met Habel he was wearing a t-shirt and high waist leather pants – even though it was in the middle of the summer.
His apartment was simple but yet stylish and minimalistic. Just the same way he says he wants his bags to be. Habel explains the origin of his craftsmanship: “I wanted to bring architecture and design together and make bags that are unisex. I want to create bags that will last for a long time; both in quality and by its design”
In the right part of his apartment there are two different machines. One older type called a Skiving or scarfing machines that can cut the leather off in slices and another one sew machine for the stitching. Various pieces of leather, small leftovers from completed bags, are spread out across the room. Habel creates his bags in three various designs: one beige and two in black. They are chunky, yet classical with soft leather and copper handles.
Habel wants to see himself as a creator, instead of either designer or a craftsman. The way he sees it; a craftsman relies on a designer who come up with the ideas – a designer needs the craftsman to fulfil his or her visions. “A creator instead needs to see the whole picture and be able to handle both parts” Habel clarifies.
The idea to work in leather was given to Habel already as a kid. His dad was a tailor and his uncle a shoemaker. He learnt how to deal with and take care of the leather from both of them. He ended up somewhere in between his parents professions by making bags in leather. Habel says it could be seen as some kind of tribute to his past and his family. From the beginning it was more about imitating already existing bags, like the Swedish brand Sandqvist. Then he realised that it didn’t feel like him. This was when the idea to the Betiyo bags was born.
When I ask Habel what it is that interests him with fashion and design he answers that it is the simplicity along with the complexity of fashion that interests him. The way one can easily express him- or herself by different use of structure, materials and colours. He says that fashion needs to be seen in a context, like a certain style, and that fashion therefore is relative.
Habel compares it to art, which he thinks is more independent in its expression and can exist only with itself. Habel believes that bags is the closest you can get to art within fashion, since they don’t really rely upon fit or other conditions. Instead the bag is an accessory, a connection to a context – not the context itself. He takes it further and says that he think the problem with fashion today is that you need to identify yourself by gender. The man-department and the woman-department. He believes that fashion needs to be able to exist without social valuations, therefore he wants his bags to be seen as unisex.
Before I say goodbye to Habel I ask him what he thinks about the future. Habel says that hopefully the brand will still be alive along with the bags. He continues: “Betiyo is for me more about being in a environment where I can create and I believe the brand itself will take form by the current surrounding I’m in. Only time will tell”.
Right after, Habel takes off on his skateboard, wearing a black Stutterheim jacket.
Sustainable fashion is something we all need to consider. Betiyo bags, sown by hand of a 24 year old man during his sparetime in his apartment definitely showed me something worth spreading. Here you can read more about Habel & the Betiyo bags.
You can also find them in the following shops:
We wish him all luck and hope to see more of Habel Betiyo.
- Interview with Habel Betiyo for Radar Magazine