Hosoi Paris: Hand-sewn and original leather bags

Wednesday, April 5th 2023
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Just outside the centre of Paris, in the Faubourg Saint Antoine district, there is an institution called Cour de l’industrie: a set of courtyards that houses around 50 different artisans.  

As a home of industry it traces its history back to 1673, but the modern institution was created in 2004 when a group of artisans campaigned against redevelopment, convincing the City of Paris to buy it and hand management to them.

Also known as 37 bis, the space is lovely - a real surprise when you walk off the street. The courtyards are cobbled, the big buildings timber-framed. One studio has a garden of exotic pot plants outside; another displays a row of mannequin heads in the window. There are goldworkers, a guitar luthier and a bowyer. 

In the second courtyard, on the third floor, is the leather craftsman Satoru Hosoi. Ex-Hermes, he makes some of the most beautiful bags anywhere - I’ll explain later quite how far he goes with the craft. 

However, the thing I think really makes Hosoi interesting is this combined with his eye for design. 

Beginning his career in Japan, Hosoi moved to Italy after a couple of years to undertake an apprenticeship in modelling. He then went to Hermes, working in both the workshop and design centre for 11 years, before going to Moynat. 

In 2020 he left to set up his own brand, which was not the best timing. Paris went into lockdown three days later.

Hosoi can smile about it now - and does. He has a full order book, a new commission today would take about a year, and he’s free to concentrate on making the 20-25 bags a year he has capacity for, working entirely on his own. 

You won’t see his smile here, however, because Hosoi doesn't like to show his face. He prefers to keep his privacy and only show the product.

This is an interesting attitude in our personality-driven age, but I think it's one that could become more popular if it works. All customers visit Hosoi anyway, so there’s no loss of individual connection, and I know many makers that would love to escape the treadmill of social media if they could.

So what makes Hosoi’s bags so special? Well, we’re in the world of hand-sewn leather here - saddle stitched, two needles held in two hands, looping through the seams. This is stronger in some ways than a machine, and a lot more time consuming. (See breakdown of bag quality here.)

Hosoi is at the top even among this group by virtue of the hand sewing he does in more places, some of them entirely hidden. For example, on the Tolbiac case (above) there is a hand-sewn seam on the inside of the zip, done purely so that - for aesthetic reasons - nothing shows on the outside. 

Then there are other types of handwork, such as the fact the feet on the bottoms of the bags are made of three layers of leather, rather than leather-covered metal or plastic. 

But most significantly, Hosoi makes his own hardware. He makes buckles, poppers and fastening mechanisms to his own design, cutting wax models and then having them cast (below). This is disproportionately expensive and time-consuming, with the only advantage that your hardware looks like no one else’s. Which is why almost no one does it - the few include someone like Ortus in Japan

So from a craft point of view, Hosoi is one of the best - even among the dozens that I’ve covered over the years. 

The next point blends these craft points with design.

In every bag that Hosoi makes, he adds little idiosyncrasies and original mechanisms that take more time but make the bags unique. (Which, it should be said, isn’t necessarily a good thing - it may mean some bags aren’t for you.)

The Sakra tote bag, for example, has what looks like a cloche for a key attached to the outside. It’s not a key, however, but a metal plate on a length that can be hooked to the opposite side of the bag, inside (below). This ensures the two sides fold inwards, providing a little protection but also making sure the bag always has the same elegant folded look. 

The Either weekender (shown top), on the other hand, goes from being an open-sided bag to a closed box, with the help of small leather buttons on the flaps. This aspect is something Hosoi doesn’t want photographed, because he’s never seen it anywhere else and has had designs copied in the past. 

The last thing I admired about Hosoi’s work is probably the subtlest. I think his love of design means he has a very elevated taste level - something that can be lacking with other makers. 

There are the basic things, like the tan leather (which Hermes calls Barenia) that is the perfect shade, and solid uncoated brass. The brown grain leather is also really dark, and is much better as a grain than with a smooth finish, as is the black. 

These all look great, but are fairly common choices. More interesting are the unusual colours, like the bright green of the Pirouette model (above, centre). I didn’t think I’d ever like green like that, but it’s very appealing in person. The russet-coloured suede used on the Tolbiac bag is the same: not something I’d ever pick, but beautiful. 

Indeed, it’s telling that Hosoi only offers each bag in two or three colours. This is restrictive, but after all these years I want my maker to have a view on these things.

I want him to have an aesthetic sense as well as a craftsman’s. He shouldn’t be offering me every colour of leather imaginable, with any lining, and any thread. The result could be awful. Even if I have strong views myself, I want to discuss choices with an equal - someone that cares about the design just as much as I do. 

There’s so much more to write about Hosoi’s designs. The two-part zips on the Tolbiac, which allow you to access the small interior pockets easily; the strap on the Oreille D’Elephant, which uses a military design so there is no loose flap. But eventually it becomes a sea of detail.

His design vision means the bags won’t be for everyone. I loved the Oreille D’Elephant, Sakra and Tronc, but less so the others. The flip side of that, however, is that ones you do love you can only get here. Nothing else is quite the same.

As you would expect, Hosoi’s bags are expensive - from around €3000 to €9000 depending on model and leather. But as I’ve set out in painful detail, we’re talking the best in the world. And his alma mater is more expensive. 

I didn’t commission a bag, but the Oreille in suede/leather (below) lives in my dreams. 

Hosoi is available through the atelier in Paris and during trunk shows in Japan. The address is 37 bis Rue de Montreuil. Buzzers allow you to contact the different makers, though an appointment is required, contact through [email protected].

www.hosoiparis.com

@hosoi_paris

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StuartR

Wonderful looking bags. Is there scope for customisation – nothing major – interior pockets etc?

StuartR

Yes. That makes sense. I think sometimes with bags it’s easy to thing this custom thing and that pocket etc will make things easier and when you are better off keeping things simple

P.A.

Amazing article, the craftmanship looks superb.
Funny enough, I live a few numbers down the street, I’ll be sure to go and take a look !

Tamaki

I also live quite near, just by Republique so I may want to visit it too if he so permits

m

These are some strikingly beautiful products, this translates well over photography. Maybe even too beautiful, I wonder if I’d feel self-conscious if I was to own one as a male. Would I have to funds to freely spend on this kind of product I’d definitely consider Tolbiac and Oreille models.

Gab

Thanks Simon. Great read. And a special thank you as I live 200 meters away from this space, and had never heard of it…

Tamaki

Hey Gab (and possibly P.A.)

Would you be willing to connect? I also live nearby. You can find me in Instagram using rtamaki

Leonard

Thank you very much for this phenomenal insight into such a marvelous craftsman’s products. I will be sure to give him a visit next time I’m in Paris.

Gary

Why did you not order the Orieille in suede leather which “lives your dreams”? You have paid €3000 to €9000 for many bespoke jackets, suits and coats from Savile Row and Neapolitan tailors.

Gary

Your posts over the last year or so suggest that you don’t often wear tailored jackets or suits post lockdowns. I get the impression that you now prefer to wear casual clothing, sometimes with tailored coats. My wife would be livid if I splashed a few grand on bespoke clothing or a hand made bag.

I need to use bags most days and have several from John Chapman. I want a large quality tote for shopping but Chapman’s new owner dropped it with most of the old classic bags and holdalls. Bennett Winch’s totes have short handles and can’t be slung over the shoulder. Any suggestions (similar quality and price) would be very welcome.

Christopher Lee

Per my wife, if I buy something from the Anthology and she can buy something from Ralph Lauren, it’s all fine. Parity is the key.

Jessup

Lovely but a little effeminate for my taste.

Arjen

Excellent read, Simon. Thank you. Very instructive, as always. Subtle correction needed, I suppose. You write: “…because Hosoi does like to show his face.”. It seems that you meant: because Hosoi does not like to show his face.

JOHN D

Gorgeous. I think the Tolbiac is magnificent. Once a week, I take my laptop to work, and once a week I bring it home. I reckon from its dimensions I could carry in my shoes (I walk a decent distance to work, and often change in the office). I like the short handle and the nearly carpet-bag aesthetic. I like the softness, and I like the manliness of the leather handle and the rugged-looking zip. I feel I need a bag like that. But of course, I don’t. I wonder what it would look like when I’d carried it through the rain a few times and kicked it under my desk a few more.

At the moment, I use a blue Fox Archer duffel bag (with pink stitching). Cheap at the price, looks good when stained and scuffed. Most people assume I have gym stuff in it (I sometimes do – though more often I have to admit I’ve got a book, my lunch and an umbrella inside) so I get extra man points. Doesn’t have the same quality as most of the stuff on the site (not even lined) – but I think that’s part of it’s appeal – it looks like I could (and have) use it as a football post in an impromptu game. Indeed, I wonder whether it helps me to get away with many other extravagances – tailored shirts, ties, Huntsman suits, well-polished shoes – but if he carries a beaten-up blue-and-pink leather duffel bag he can’t be all stuck up, can he?

So probably, I’ll avoid the Tolbiac. Indeed, I recently brought a small bronze sculpture for less than the top-end of the price range – and we’re living in the end times if we think this bag has more craft / artistic value than that sculpture.

I note that the Tolbiac wasn’t one of your choices. Not to be provocative, but for the opposite reason. I think one of the benefits of this site has always been that you’ve shown things that you like and things you don’t. And left us to pick our own styles from these things. Recently, you’ve maybe veered to showing things you like more than things you admire, or can see the point of, but don’t like – of course you have, it’s surely a consequence of you becoming older, more comfortable and more certain. But I do like it when you show us other things. (I’m sure you have acolytes and mimics, but am I wrong in thinking you’d prefer to give us things to think about and end up with a diversely-dressed group of readers who’ve thought about what you’ve written, looked at your choices and have ended up with their own preferences?)

Peter Hall

I think that narrowing of taste might be the subconscious influence of kids,Simon.

I suddenly became time poor, and reverted to safe options. Because I was suddenly surrounded by ‘stuff and never ending clutter ,it became a real effort to take the time to appreciate taking the time.

I’m more open in my tastes(late 50s) and am now time rich.

As John mentions, we all trade off something. Age brings self confidence and awareness -especially in dressing yourself. Which I think is what you are experiencing .

Georgios

I personaly like how you change your style. Everyone does that without noticing sometimes. When i was a teenager my style was no the same as a student, young trainee, before and after corona etc. Most of the stuff you wear, review or sell would fit more or less in the wardrobe of a young and a mature man. How often do you wear tailored clothes on a week basis ? And how many of them you do so because you enjoy so much that style but you could get away with something more casual ?

Andrew Hughes

I love and admire Hosoi’s dedication to his craft. Making things to order is the ideal in a world of throwaway goods and built-in obsolescence.

Ben

These are just fantastic. They’re not something I could ever justify buying but it’s always lovely to see this level of workmanship, even just to marvel at the details!
On a side note, I wonder if you might be able to offer some advice, Simon. I’ve been eyeing a pair of Alden LHS, but unfortunately can’t easily try a pair on. I have some Belgravias that I find fit true to size. Did you size down from your Belgravias to the LHS?
Cheers,
Ben

Ben

Thanks Simon, that’s really helpful.

Ben

Great to see another dedicated artisan featured. I appreciate the craftsmanship and design. The Either looks especially good to me. And I hope Hosoi’s business continues to thrive.

A note about the value proposition. Saddle stitching is definitely more time-consuming than machine. It’s more durable than machine because two independent threads form the stitch rather than one, so if one snaps the other is still intact and keeps the snapped thread from unraveling. But you can find saddle stitching in the US on $100 wallets, and it’s nothing to be fetishized. And since I doubt that Hosoi sources leather much superior to his competitors, the real distinction in his products is the design.

So “best in the world?” That’s a highly subjective determination.

Stephen

Hi Simon,
Thanks for this article. I always find these slightly more technical articles enjoyable and informative. These are beautifully crafted bags. Whilst the price point may appear high at first, I think however a realistic comparison would to high end woman’s designer handbags, which can run to similar and higher prices. My wife tends to adopt a ‘cost per wear’ approach, on that basis it’s something you can both treasure and use. Hopefully developing a nice used look over time.
I think Hosoi‘s approach to social media is refreshing, in as much he is prioritising his product and over that – as you say – treadmill.
All round a very good read.
.

Stephen

Hi Simon,
A completely unrelated question. I saw you modelling a Buzz Rickson’s Tropical Combat Coat olive green on the Clutch Cafe website. I wonder if you could search your memory for what size you were wearing? We are a similar size (I’m an inch or shorter) , hence the question.
Thanks

Stephen

Thanks Simon. Makes sense. The measurements online suggest a smallish fit all round. Thanks for coming back to me another opinion always helps. Have a good weekend.

art

out of curiosity, what do the numbers on the bags imply?

David

This is a wonderful article! I agree that his work is amazing. I will be in Paris in June, and I am thinking about a visit. I would like to get an idea about the prices for the bags. Were you able to get a price for the Sakra bag? Please let me know.

Dan

Well, I just skipped to the bottom of the article to see his prices. I did not even read the rest of the article after seeing them. And yes, I understand that it is handmade etc and PS’ reason for coverage. But, it’s just a bag. My opinion.

YJ

Wrote Hosoi, apparently it takes 1 year for delivery and he doesn’t do shipment…need to collect from his atelier (from Singapore…. bummer!)

D

Greetings.
Huge fan of the website, and I enjoyed reading your ‘day in the life’ article this morning. I still need to get myself to one of your events sooner than later!
I also really enjoy the ‘dress like’ section. Some great inspiration there. I’ve directed a few friends there in attempts to get them to upgrade with style sense, with questionable results (they live in the US).
My question to you today, if you have the time to reply, is if you had any suggestions of central London based attaché/briefcase makers. A friend is coming to town, and I said I’d point him in the right direction. My first and only thought was Swaine Adeney Brigg. If you had any recommendations of other brands in the same price range, it would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you very much for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.
 Regards,
 D

D

Perfecto. Many thanks.

Paul B

A great article Simon. Particularly like the detail on the make, where Hosoi sit in the landscape etc and more generally your pursuit of breaking down the value proposition across the shopping experience.

Tim J

Hey Simon,
How are you? Thanks for drawing my attention to Hosoi last year when you first published the article. My wife and I have just returned from Paris (before your article on L’lngenieur Chevellier unfortunately) and made time to go and visit.
I have to say that his work is even more beautiful in the flesh, and while clearly influenced by his time at Hermes (why reinvent the wheel), those little design details and the thought he has given to how he would use each bag was fascinating to see and hear first-hand.
I was especially impressed by the Either and Oreille D’Elephant. The mechanism he’s designed for closing the Either bags and the way in which the Elephant’s ear sits against the body makes them both very, very tempting.
Hosoi may be one of those makers I’d have never come across if it wasn’t PS, so thanks again for featuring his work.
There are some other wonderful little artisans in the complex too that would be well worth a look at some stage.
For the sake of your other readers, Hosoi’s wait times around out to ~2 years now and I for one am tempted to add myself to the list.
Cheers,
Tim.