FEMALE Talks To: Founder and Designer of Repleat, Debbie Leung

Repleat’s modern arm candies are unlike any you’ve seen before.

If you are all for statement carriers in chic palettes, this brand probably has a clutch with your name on it! Crushing on Repleat’s cool aesthetics, we’re lucky to have the brand’s frontwoman walk us through its backstory, vision and love for lush textures.

The ‘Lantern’ bag

FEMALE: What made you choose Repleat as your brand name?

Debbie: “It came out during a brainstorming session with my husband and three daughters. We were searching for a clean, straightforward term to represent the sophisticated feel of our products when we found ‘Repleat’. It’s a play on the words replete (the way a bag is filled), pleat (the brand’s signature design technique) and repeat (as we get our unique structures from repetitions of folds and patterns).”

F:  What were you doing before starting the brand?

D: “Although I had no formal education in design, I’ve always appreciated its various forms, from fashion to architecture. My previous chocolate confectionery business became an entryway to the designing world. The conception of our first bag came when I was creating the packaging for our artisanal chocolates that was intended as a hamper for festive giveaways. A close friend of mine loved the uniqueness of it and started using it as a tote. She told me about the attention and compliments it has received – even more than her designer bags! Coupling that with family encouragement, I decided to sell Repleat’s first debut, Origami on Etsy and it has been three years since that happened!”

F: How would you describe Repleat’s signature style?

D: “It’s a convergence of two landscapes; where the city meets the tropics. I draw inspiration from many global influences like the buildings and structures I see on my travels, from Moorish architecture to Japanese origami. We’re able to pay close attention to dimensional forms, textural qualities and juxtaposed light and shadows thanks to our star material, polypropylene. Learning the techniques of origami and kirigami, a folding technique combined with cutting has allowed us to produce bags that are art forms as much as they are fashion statements.”

F: Who are the bags created for?

D: “Repleat bags are created for the modern individual who shares our vision of a bag as not just a fashion accessory, but also a piece of art. Those most taken with my designs are people who appreciate and find beauty in the unconventional. When I’m designing, I like to think of Repleat bags almost as a portable piece of sculpture, making art forms accessible and interactive to the everyday woman or man.”

F: How would your usual design process be?

D: “I design each product myself.  When I see a texture or form that I like, I’ll try to reproduce the effect by employing different folding and cutting techniques. Sometimes, the technique determines the shape of the bag and others, I work from the outside in. Often enough, after experimenting and playing around with the design, the finished product would evolve into something completely different from what I started with and even I’d be surprised at the finished product! I have also played around with ideas that don’t go anywhere and my prototypes may sit in a back drawer, only to be revived many years later.  My design process can be quite technical and drawn out, with some bags requiring careful calculations to make.  I lay everything out by hand (and no computer), from the plotting of technical drawings, construction of prototypes to then the road-testing.  To ensure that a bag functions and looks the way it should, I’d use one bag for at least a few months. This goes back and forth multiple times until I’m satisfied for it to go into production!”

F: Which bag would you call your favourite?

D: “I have personally gravitated to the Palm Leaf for its simplicity and functionality.”

F: What tools do you use to get quality cuts in your designs?

D: “Our polypropylene sheets are pressed out using die-cut knives from precise drawings. We assemble each cut-out piece then by hand. Although polypropylene isn’t easily glued or stitched together, unique interlocking methods has dispensed the need for screws or other fasteners.”

F: In today’s time of  zero waste and plastic reduction, where does the brand stand?

D: “Committed to revolutionize the way we think of plastic and its uses from day one, our focus is in exploring all the possibilities polypropylene has to offer. 100 per cent recyclable, biodegradable and generates fewer waste products in production and disposal, polypropylene is to be celebrated for its functional and eco-friendly properties. Through our products, Repleat offers an alternative to conventional materials, which may promote harm to animals, the environment and the workers involved in the manufacturing process.”

F: What’s next for Repleat?

D: “We’re releasing our latest bag called the ‘Beehive’ soon in  a range of exciting colours!”

F: How do we get our hands on the bags?

D: “Repleat calls four different cities across the globe — Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, London and New York City as home. You can purchase any of the bags online, but we are also stocked at Robinsons at Four Seasons and Naiise in Kuala Lumpur, plus Naiise Iconic at the Jewel in Singapore’s Changi Airport. Given that each bag is hand-assembled, we offer customisations with handles and bag colour combinations over email.”

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