I recently spent a week in Lagos – a fascinating trip that involved, among a host of more culturally focused activities, spending a considerable amount of time in the city’s most fashionable boutique, Alára. Amid the enticingly stylish wares, I spotted a particularly eye-catching bag – not on display, but on the arm of a fellow shopper. Taken by the diminutive, boxy design and the vivid, textured pink leather, I struck up a conversation with the wearer – a local fashion stylist, it transpired. I soon discovered several things: the bag was the work of Lagos-based label Marté Egele; the stylist’s particular rose-coloured variation was no longer available; and that it was perfectly sized for both day and night, with just enough space for the essentials (Byredo perfume, Charlotte Tilbury lipstick, phone, bank card and coin purse), as the stylist kindly demonstrated.
I scoured a number of other boutiques for the bag, called the Ese Mini Top Handle (from $180), with no success, before heading straight to the source via email. “Part of what makes our brand different is that some of the leathers we use are limited in quantity,” wrote founder Uche Egele by way of explaining the exotic pink fish-leather design’s sold-out status. She did, however, walk me through her collection and recommend similar versions, also in unusual leathers. The Ese, which is very much her flagship bag, is also available as the Ese Toy Clutch (from $95); there is also the larger Ese Midi Top Handle (from $230). The dizzying selection of leathers, from pink and red to a brown croc-embossed matte leather, are all sourced within Nigeria.
After perusing the rest of the collection – lingering over the generously sized leather Vivian totes (from $260) and accompanying pouches (from $85), which deploy contrasting leathers to stunning geometric effect – I ordered the Ese Mini Top Handle in a glossy pink-patent lizardskin. My bag, like all Egele’s designs, would be handmade in Lagos by local artisans.
It was not ready for me by the time I left Nigeria, but a week after I returned to London, a bright, bold and beautiful piece of Lagos arrived to brighten the dreary days. And should I need a future Marté Egele fix, the bags are now happily available to buy on the brand’s recently launched e-store.