Dutch designers Susan Bijl and Bertjan Pot may have many things in common, but there is one in particular that stands out: their flair for colour. Bijl came to the international stage nearly 20 years ago with her two-toned collections of bags, raincoats, and pocket accessories, which culminated in her recyclable New Shoppingbag. Pot is known for bold designs that run the gamut from tables and lights to decorative masks.
For their newest collaboration, the Six-Colour Bag, Pot curated four tonal colourways to suit Bijl’s geometric, six-colour design. Made from durable ripstop nylon and built to last, this over-the-shoulder satchel can do anything and go anywhere: it is perfect for travel, the beach, or the gym — and is an eco-friendly way to grocery shop, saving on plastic in style.
We got a behind-the-scenes look at both designers’ Rotterdam studios, and spoke with them about how this vibrant partnership developed, and what they find so important about colour.
Photos by Jan Bijl
The Six-Colour bag is a new version of a bag you two created together in 2017. How is this bag different from the first edition?
Susan Bijl: When we were asked by HAY to propose four colour variations for the bag, we actually made around 20(!) different options. The four selected by HAY to be the final versions of the Six-Colour Bag are a bit more on the tonal side.
Bertjan Pot: Susan had already been producing the bag when she asked me to collaborate with her on this project for HAY. My request for the Six-Colour Bag was to make it with six colours instead of just two, and we choose some colourways that still clash a little bit, but are a little bit more friendly when it comes to combining it with your outfit.
What was your first significant experience with colour?
Bijl: In art school I was painting, and that's when I started experimenting with using as many colours as possible. Then later on, when I made the first few shopping bags, the colour thing really started. Seeing all the options in a store selling kites really inspired me. They weren't very fashionable or “trendy” colours, for kites do not have to be fashionable at all. This I really liked. It gave me the possibility to create sort of “off combinations” which to me were very fresh and new.
Pot: Opening my eyes as a baby and seeing the world would be the very first one I think, But I guess I had always been fiddling with colour in my dad’s barn. he is a house pinter, so there were always left-over cans of paint around that I could use to paint stuff I had made. Then at the Design Academy we had one teacher, a painter, Matthieu Meijers, who confused us all and made us think very hard about colour and that sort of was finding out that colour is a mighty interesting subject.
What is it about making bags that has continued to inspire you?
Bijl: Our aim is to create durable and functional products that you can use for years. Products that make your life easier. I don't like bags in particular, but people seem to carry lots of stuff around. So we need them. Actually, my approach is a very practical one. I try to own as little stuff as possible, which I admit is hard, especially when having children. BUY LESS is a message I can really relate to.
Tell us about the material you use for these bags and why you chose to use it?
Bijl: Obviously because it's super light and strong! It's a ripstop nylon (ripstop literally meaning stop ripping). I first found it in a kite store, 20 years ago. It really spoke to me because of its construction, the little squares, the colours available and the fact that it's so light in weight but at the same time can hold a crazy amount of weight. I used to sew the bags myself at my studio.
After three years I started to have them produced. This gave me the opportunity to create my own colour selections. Since then we have launched a new collection each year using eight unique base colours. In 2020, it will be 20 years ago that we made the first bag, and we will release a “best of” collection, as well as some surprising custom combinations with Bertjan!
Why should someone buy your bag?
Bijl: 1st, because you don't want to use a new plastic bag for every single purchase. 2nd, because it fits almost everything. 3rd, because you can use it for so many different occasions. 4th, because it's super light and super strong: it easily holds more than 20 kilos. And 5th, because it brightens up your appearance!
Pot: Besides the nice colours, because it is a damn fine bag. Using is believing. It’s much sturdier than the average nylon bag that you would use for grocery shopping. Once you go BIJL, you never go back.