Ruth Abade, the designer behind the brand ‘Blackfly’, is constantly experimenting to improve the quality of her bags. When I visited her workshop in Toi Market, near Adams Arcade, she showed me prototypes of several bags and took me through materials, structure and functionality. Ruth considers everything in her quest to create bags that are not only beautiful but also functional and durable.
Ruth spent a year in Italy learning leather bag design at Scuola del Cuio before starting Blackfly Designs in Nairobi three years ago. With this experience Ruth can, at a glance, tell whether or not a bag is well made and if it will last.
Ruth upcycles the leather from leather jackets for two reasons. One, she believes most people in Kenya would like to own a leather product but often can’t afford it. Using second-hand leather helps Ruth to keep her prices down. And two, the leather in Kenya is often not processed in the manner required for bag making. It is often not soft or supple enough.
Ruth and her team bring an impressive attention to detail in everything they do – from painstakingly opening and cleaning the leather jackets they use to perfecting prototypes and storing materials. Offcuts of leather are neatly folded and pieces of leather too small to be used for larger bags are made into coin purses. And most recently even the zippers were used to adorn this fold-over clutch purse, creating a tassel-like effect.
Photograph by Maridadi.co.
Here are some places where you can buy our bags:
Blackfly’s studio/shop, at the Toi Market behind Adams Arcade in Nairobi
Nairobi Bag Factory at the GoDown Arts Centre, Nairobi. This is where Michael Soi sells his famous tote bag and our clutch bags.
Moyo Tanzania, at Oyster Bay Shopping Centre in Dar es Salaam
Nanjala, Nairobi-based online shop