Aged 18, I started designing my first bag. It was for my mother and I took great pride and pleasure in seeing her wear and style it. Her friends spotted the bag and that’s when I stared to think I might have the beginnings of a business.’ Born in 1986, Ethan was part of the fourth generation of Koh’s to be practicing the art of tanning. ‘Exotic skins are in my DNA’ he says. I look carefully, he doesn’t look particularly amphibian, so I assume it’s due to the crocodile tannery located at the back of his house while he was growing up. ‘I used to climb on my father’s shoulders and observe the artisan, extracting, tanning and colouring the skins’ he explains. Everyone in the Koh family is involved in the business but Ethan wouldn’t rest at tanning. His ideas were about to be molded into luxury products.
His designing career progressed in an unusually rapid manner.He moved on to study designs at Central Saint Martins while simultaneously completing internships at Diane Von Furstenberg, Louis Vuitton and Hermes. ‘I gained an in-depth understanding of ready to wear fashion’ he says, appreciatively, of the experience. A mere four months after his graduation, he is standing, all smiles, in front of an array of beautiful small clutches, day bags and trunks all covered in brightly coloured alligator skin, the Ethan K trademark. ‘It draws upon the fairy tales and creatures I loved as a boy growing up in Singapore. The colours draw upon the richness of the flora and fauna of the Far East. The collection is whimsical. Each design is incredibly personal to me.’ He says of his luxury ‘Wildlife Odyssey’ collection, currently available at Harrods. ‘I am inspired by my surroundings in relation to architecture and interiors and my personal heritage. My debut collection, which I launched in January 2011, drew directly upon inspirational people and places – and especially the art deco embellishments I see in Mayfair, where I live.’ Ethan says of his sources of inspiration. His travels come up a lot. ‘At the age of 22 years old, I launched my first ‘Dome’ and ‘St Tropez’ bags in London, inspired by my travels, conceived in my humble studio in Mayfair, while still a student’.
Ethan seems appreciative of the materials he uses, the materials he draws inspiration from but more importantly, for him, he is appreciative of his clients and the relationships he establishes with them. ‘I meet with most of my couture clients face to face and share my current and archive designs one on one. With ETHAN K, it’s just like being part of a ‘private members club’ but there are no rules on who can or cannot join – custom is simply generated by word of mouth and familiarity.’ If you connect the dots, from his first ever bag to his current collection, this 24 year old’s biggest goal is to make the recipient of his design, happy. With the amounts of talent he showcases with every collection, the materials of the highest quality he would never compromise for and the dedication to and understanding of a woman’s aesthetics, it should be a breeze.
Find Ethan K’s luxury products at Harrods and Ethan-K.com