Bag Lady: Emma Olbers Collaborates With Palmgrens

Sibyllegatan has for the past 120 years been home to Palmgrens, the artisanal leather company that has grown to become part of the city’s history. Founded in 1896, they started out as high quality saddle makers, even achieving the honour of providing saddles for the horses at the royal court. As their reputation grew so did their range of products – handbags and other leather accessories soon became a mainstay of Palmgrens’ collection. Their most iconic item, however, might just be the rattan and leather handbags originally launched in 1950.

While Palmgrens may be a brand with old roots and strong traditions they are no strangers to modern and intriguing developments. Over the last few years they have paired with some unexpected names on collaborations with stylish results. Fashion lovers will no doubt recognise designers like House of Dagmar and Maria Nilsdotter, who have both partnered with Palmgrens in the past. A more unusual fashion collaboration, however, was the one with architect Thomas Sandell, who is also in their catalogue of previous design partners. And for their most recent bag collaboration, which launches in April, they have once again ventured outside of the traditional boundaries of fashion. Into the realm of interiors this time, which is where they found Emma Olbers.

When we speak to furniture designer Olbers, she’s attending the furniture fair in Milan, and explains that this is exactly what Palmgrens’ owner Catharina initially wanted to work on for their collaboration – interiors. Olbers, however, had a different idea in mind, wanting to create handbags – something that was completely new to her.

“Most of the time you long for what you aren’t already doing, something that feels more exotic. Catharina said that this time I won… maybe next time she will,” Olbers jokes.

Palmgrens’ longstanding heritage was important to Olbers, and from the get go she wanted her designs to reflect the brand’s history and aesthetics, so working with rattan and natural, vegetable tanned leather became the obvious choice. This matches her usual design style: her furniture has a fresh, light, Scandinavian look. Elements her first bag collection also adheres to. The styles are simple, stylish and, importantly to the designer, functional. Olbers explains:
“I was thinking a lot about myself and other working women in terms of functionality when designing the collection. So I created an updated rattan bag for the modern woman”.
How does that translate to a collection of bags? Three timeless designs for different occasions. A phone bag that will fit the essentials, a medium sized shoulder bag, and a tote bag for when you need just about everything but the kitchen sink.

Coming from furniture design and going into fashion accessories might not seem like the most straightforward move, but Olbers says that the actual design process wasn’t so different at all. What was new to her was getting her head around the functionality and measurements of intricate details like bag straps. The whole experience seems to have struck a chord. Asked if she would like to continue designing handbags going forward, she affirms that “bags are a lot of fun. Just like furniture they have many functions, so it suits me really well”.


Words: Beatrice Trodden