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 iconic Loewe bag (size medium made from raffia palm). Unfortunately, mine came damaged as some of the weaving was actually broken off, so sadly, I returned it. The leather strap seemed to never have been attached, an unused bag, but the straw material showed signs of not being properly stored or damaged during prior transportation.
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 them. 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 flowy colorful dresses, and I’m a trousers and jeans kinda gal. I also am looking for a bag that I can comfortably wear in the city, 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!
about DRAGON DIFFUSION
DRAGON DIFFUSION IS A BRAND-BASED AROUND HAND-CRAFTED WOVEN LEATHER BAGS AND BASKETS.
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.
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 the strong example. It’s also a woven leather bag, and Dragon Diffusion’s Santa Croce bag weaving pattern is so similar.
Some 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.
Dragon Diffusion’s Nantucket leather woven bags:
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) so that I can be hand-free.
I went with the Santa Croce size small in the color chocolate brown. It is made from leather, unlined, and comes with a signature antiqued Saint Christopher charm inside.
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 nor lux. It’s light, somewhat flimsy, and honestly feels a little bit cheap in person.
In terms of design, 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 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.
There are two oval-shaped leather pieces sewn together to make the base, and the stitching seems cheap once you do a closed-up (photo below). Details that make me hesitate are the grained leather oval pieces used on the base, the shiny thread color, and how big the stitching is. 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, 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 of some sort. The interior is unlined and quite neat.
One thing I wish they did differently was to add a boning piece to the edge opening, and that would help make it look a bit cleaner. The bottom doesn’t have a base like the Santa Croce but rather a continuous weave all around with 4 noticeable corners. I quite like that it can kinda sit on its own and can be worn flat!
The straps barely fit under my arms, so same as the Santa Croce, no option to be hand-free. I know the Dragon Diffusion’s Grace bag has longer handles, but I prefer the look of a horizontal rectangle-shaped of Triple Jump bag more.
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. It’s lightweight and malleable. Although I do prefer a black bag over a brown one, I do think the shiny black option kinda gives a ‘plastic’ or artificial feel. It’s not bad, just not my top choice.
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 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. A shirt, light sweater, or light jacket would totally fit inside.
If you’re looking for a tote-styled bag that you can take on the plane as a personal bag, the Triple Jump also comes in size large.
PRICE: I grew up in Vietnam, and a few neighbors including my dad’s dad, step-mom, and step-siblings used to hand-made these types of woven bags. It was commissioned periodically and actually required a lot of handwork with super tight deadlines. Some bags or baskets would take days to complete. I think the $300-$400 price tags are fair for a brand that is becoming popular, but you can of course get them cheaper directly from an artisan who is selling their work online or small brands to sell those for a small profit.
Woven leather bag alternatives:
After weighing all of the pros and cons including reaccessing my lifestyle, I have decided to return both 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. What do you think? Do you think I’ve made the right decision? Which one would YOU keep? Comment below!