Ethan K: the crocodile king

July 20, 2014

What’s the process that takes us from crocodile to bag?

Crocodile skins are like diamonds; they are very rare. For one, the crocodile needs to be between six and nine years old and up to five crocs may be needed to make one bag. At Ethan K, I only use the most precious part of the skin - the belly - and it takes great care and skill to ensure that it's perfect. The skins need to be finished by hand using the techniques that my great grandfather learned from British traders during the time that Singapore was still a British colony. This process can take an artisan up to 18 hours per skin. Once the skins are finished, I inspect each and every one under the morning light, then under the afternoon light and finally at night under the artificial light. For me, this is the best way to see how the person carrying a creation will see the skin. After this stage I take the skins to Tuscany, where I sit with my artisans, who transform them into an Ethan K creation. Each is cut and stitched by hand. 9

What about the ethics of farming crocodiles for their skin. Is it sustainable? Does it create a lot of waste?

I really pride myself on the quality of the skins that I use to make my collections, which is why we use farmed crocodiles. I personally inspect each piece and each of my bags contain a certificate that indicates it has complied with the convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (or CITES). The regulations on the exotic skin industry are quite high and my family is determined to preserve them. The meat is also sent to the consumer market, so there's very little waste.

How important is the bespoke element to your business? What exactly does it entail?

My bespoke service is something that attracts a lot of clients. They are willing to travel to London to have an appointment at my private salon or follow me across the world so that they can get a truly unique creation designed by me. For clients who want a bespoke piece, they can select from my private collection of the most precious and rarest exotic skins and choose the colour of their bag. Many of the bespoke creations I have designed for clients have some part of their personality in the bag - I once even created a special lining to resemble the colour of a client’s Ferrari. [gallery link="none" ids="5897,5898"]

How important is the Middle East market for you?

I have had a very good reaction from our Middle East clientele. They have a love of colour and are naturally attracted to my Asian Spices colour palette. The Middle East client is now looking for something representing heritage, luxury and attention to detail. They already have many designer pieces and want something that has a meaning behind it.

You specialise in ladies' handbags but do you plan to move into the male market more in the future?

Actually many pieces I design are for myself (as part of my personal collection), and my female clients ask me to create a smaller feminine version of the same bag. I also create a lot of bespoke pieces for men - many of whom are connoisseurs of exotic skin creations. One of my latest, which I will be unveiling this summer, is for a particularly iconic gentleman, who I can't reveal the name of at the moment.

You’ve recently opened a dedicated boutique inside Harrods, London. Is that the biggest achievement of your career to date?

The launch of Ethan K at Harrods is a great milestone. Launching the Wizard of the Secret Garden collection in a dedicated area is a culmination of all of my ideas, dreams and inspiration coming together. The doors of the boutique opened on July 18 and it is amazing to showcase my vision to the world. I have a selection of bespoke pieces including a special bag, which has 18K gold melted onto the skin. [gallery link="none" ids="5899,5900,5901,5902"] Details: visit