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I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect woven mid-size or tote-styled handbag all summer long!
Last month, I decided to splurge on this Loewe bag (size medium made from raffia palm). Unfortunately, mine came damaged as some of the straw material was actually broken off. So I had to return it. The leather strap seemed to never have been attached, but the straw material showed signs of not being properly stored or being damaged over time.
I’ve also looked at this one (made from raffia) and this one (made from iraca palm) at the Loewe store in Soho, New York, but I still hesitate about the styles and their practicality. In-person, Loewe straw bags are well-made, and most of their woven straw or palm bag designs are wearable. However, I feel like they work with people who are often in flowy colorful dresses, and I’m a trousers and jeans kinda gal. So I know I won’t reach for mentioned styles as often. In addition, I also am looking for a bag that I can comfortably wear in the city, is practical, and doesn’t make me look out of place.
Not sure about the future, but Loewe straw bags are out for me for now.
I understand woven bags made from straw or palm aka natural materials, and of course, they will eventually fall apart. I know the risk, so that’s why I’d prefer a leather bag over any other materials.
Then I somehow come across Dragon Diffusion which seems to solve the material problems.
A woven leather bag that costs under $400? SIGN ME UP!
Plus they come in so many cute styles, so I have to order two to see them for myself.
about DRAGON DIFFUSION
Craig Wright launched his accessories line, Dragon Dissufion, in 1985. They’re based in Brussels, Belgium, and their bags are made in India by skilled leather artisans using traditional techniques.
DRAGON DIFFUSION IS A BRAND-BASED AROUND HAND-CRAFTED WOVEN LEATHER BAGS AND BASKETS.
A few reasons I know why this label started to gain traction are because their bags have been spotted on a few celebrities and influencers. The woven basket bags are trendy because they give a French girl or coastal grandmother, both are quite trendy on social media in recent years. The third reason is because of the come-back of the hobo bag styles, and the Jodie from Bottega Veneta is a strong example. It’s also a woven leather bag, and Dragon Diffusion’s Santa Croce bag weaving pattern is so similar.
Some stand-out Dragon Diffusion bag styles:
The ‘Nantucket’ bag is Dragon Diffusion’s most recognizable bag style in my opinion. People have been wearing similar bag styles for years, mostly to the beach on vacation, at farmers’ markets, or sometimes to work because it can hold a lot. It is not a new style, but again, the woven basket hobo bag style is making a comeback.
I didn’t go with the Nantucket because I wanted to try something else different. I’m looking for something commute-friendly and suitable for the New Yorker lifestyle. It should fit my 13-inch laptop and has longer straps (long enough to fit under my arms with some light layers on), so that I can be hand-free when I want to.
Dragon Diffusion’s Nantucket leather woven bags:
I went with the Santa Croce size small in the color chocolate brown. It is made from leather and comes with a signature antiqued Saint Christopher charm inside. It’s unlined, but the leather interior seems clean and sturdy. I’d still need a fabric pouch for may makeup in case in spills and a cover for my laptop for sure.
Composition: Leather. Handmade in India
Width: 15.5in/39.3cm (bottom) – the opening is smaller! Length: 8in/20.3cm. Depth: 4.5in/11.5cm
Handle drop length: 5in/12.6cm
Other fun colorways:
SANTA CROCE SMALL BAG REVIEW
The bag upon unboxing does smell funny, but it’s what you get from this type of handmade product. It feels artisanal, not high-end or lux. It’s light, somewhat flimsy, and honestly feels a little bit cheap in person.
In terms of design for the Dragon Diffusion brand, the Santa Croce definitely has the most unique shape with a smaller opening and wider bottom with a base.
The weaving pattern and the size of the leather strips used work with this particular shape, and overall, I think it’s nice. Again, the weaving resembles the Bottega Veneta’s Jodie bag, the fashion ‘it’ bag in 2021 that I’d love to get my hands on a secondhand one eventually. I also like the fact that the leather strips used in the weaving aren’t the exact match in terms of color. It’s got a patina to it. It feels handmade and artisanal, so go for it if that’s something you’re looking for.
The bag is unlined, but the bottom is lined. It’s basically two oval-shaped leather pieces sewn on top of each other to make the base. Looking closely, details such as the different leather materials used for the base (grained leather, and they are thin.) and the shiny thread color versus how big the stitching gives away the fact that these bags are not much different than those you can buy from artisans or makers on Etsy, but for 1/2 or even 1/3 of Dragon Diffusion’s prices.
I’m not a bag-making expert, so keep in mind that my bag preference might be different than yours. Personally, it doesn’t look and feel high-quality, but I’m sure it’s a sturdy and durable bag.
I think the small size works with the design of the bag quite well. It’s practical and is something I’d see myself reaching for a lot as a weekend bag.
The straps barely fit under my arm when worn as a shoulder bag (photos below), and my laptop can only fit in it vertically. It’s not meant for laptops or to hold big bulky things (let’s say a towel, sweater, or light jacket!).
Regardless, I still think this small version is nice, just doesn’t work with my lifestyle and what I’m looking for at this moment.
There’s the exact style but with longer straps that would solve this problem, but it’s not available at the moment.
I love the look of the Triple Jump in Black color when photographed. Some might not be a fan of how shiny the leather coating is as it appears kinda plastic-y, but I think it’s not bad. I’d just prefer matte soft leather bags to those shiny patent leather ones, just my personal preference. It’s unlined and comes with the signature antiqued gold Saint Christopher charm.
Composition: Leather. Handmade in India.
Width: 13in/33cm. Length: 7in/17.7cm. Depth: 4.9in/12.5cm
Handle drop length: 4.8in/12cm
It also comes in so many fun colors!
TRIPLE JUMP SMALL BAG REVIEW
The weaving pattern of the Triple Jump is a common type of weaving you’d often see in woven basket bags. Note that the weaves are on a looser side, so don’t throw coins or small objects inside without a pouch or case. The interior is unlined and quite neat. I like the fact that it can sit on its own, but the opening can be annoying since it’s got no button or zipper to close it.
I like that the bag can sit on its own and looks great in photos. Unlike the Santa Croce, the Triple Jump doesn’t have a base but rather a continuous weave of the same material all around with 4 noticeable corners. Without having a base, it can be flattened out for storage or brought along on vacation.
The flaw would be the edge finish around the bag opening. It doesn’t look clean or ‘finished.’ In addition, the straps barely fit under my bare arms, so same as the Santa Croce, there’s no option to be hand-free.
I know the Dragon Diffusion’s Grace bag has a longer handle version, but I prefer the look of a horizontal rectangle-shaped of Triple Jump bag more because it’s a more timeless design in my opinion.
I think the $300-ish price tag isn’t too bad for what you’re getting here, but there are tons of cheaper similar options on Etsy for half of that. Unless you’re a fan of the brand and the little charm that the bag comes with?
The Triple Jump is lightweight and malleable. I do prefer a black bag over a brown one in photos, but sadly in person, the black leather is so shiny. It looks plastic-y and appears cheap.
You can fit a lot more inside since the bag opening is bigger.
My laptop with its padded zippered case can fit inside the Triple Jump Small horizontally but with a few inches sticking out (photos below). And I can hold on to the straps since there’s a good amount of space left. Ideally, I’d avoid carrying a laptop with this since it would eventually stretch out the leather, but a shirt, light sweater, or light jacket would fit inside though.
If you like this style, know that the Triple Jump also comes in size large.
I grew up in Vietnam, and a few neighbors of mine used to hand-make these types of woven bags for larger companies. It actually requires a lot of handwork with super tight deadlines, and the labor fee per bag is extremely low. The job also comes so unexpectedly, and sometimes, there’s no job coming at all.
I think the $300-$400 price tags are fair if you know the artisans get a decent pay cut. Dragon Diffusion is kinda like the middleman, especially for hand-made woven bags which you know they’re everywhere on Etsy.
Woven leather bag alternatives:
RETURN OR KEEP?
After weighing all of the pros and cons including reaccessing my lifestyle, I have decided to return both of these bags.
The Santa Croce bag with longer handles in the color black has a handle drop length of 8.3 inches (the Santa Croce reviewed in this post is 5 inches). It would be the best option for me from Dragon Diffusion.
Lastly, I think I’m going to search for a Bottega Veneta woven leather hobo bag on the second-hand market. I’d much rather pay for a designer handbag because the quality is better. And it holds better resale value over time as well.
What do you think? Do you think I’ve made the right decision? Which one would YOU keep? Comment below!