The gym bag that takes you from AM to PM
by WSNXT Team·
Written by Jade Scott
“I created BIRDIE 43 in the second to the third year of starting JEMMA. I realized after launching EMMA (the first design) that there were people out there who really appreciated the work bags but were more active in their lifestyles. Whether that’s going to the gym before work or out for dinner afterwards, perhaps they travel quite a bit... they want something that allows them to store a set of clothes and different pair of shoes.
“Meanwhile, the evolution of athleisure was really coming to fruition; people were dressing more casually and going to the gym more and so it was becoming a lifestyle movement. It was a no-brainer that I had to create a gym/work bag.”
I noticed in the gym space that so many gym bags are black and always in a nylon that is unstructured and looks the same as many other brands. Namely, duffle bags that you used when you were 16 years old! I also noticed that a lot of women going to work were bringing separate gym bags but so embarrassed about it, hiding them under their desks. I wanted to create a bag that merged lifestyle needs.
I had specific considerations in mind, in particular the shoe compartment. It had to be a section that did not hamper other parts of the bag. The idea of putting your shoes with your clothes and laptop is not hygienic, so I created a separate compartment with ventilated holes for breathability.
Also, if you’re going to the gym, one thing you often forget is a bag for your dirty clothes to go in, so BIRDIE comes with a laundry bag that is washable. It can also be used as a shoe bag within the shoe compartment. So, it works both ways. Lastly, there is a cosmetic toiletry bag for your specific toiletry needs.
It had to all look good with no visible shoe compartment. From a design stance, that’s technically pretty difficult because gym bags usually have a shoe compartment that opens like a balloon into the bag. Ours is concealed under the base, so if you’re not using it, you don’t see it. It made sense to do it this way for flexibility for those not using the shoe compartment so that no user is dealing with excess material if that section is not being filled. It’s the attention to detail that counts.
Structure, Size + Strap
I like the concept of a duffle bag but I’ve never liked the set structure of it, so I wanted to create something that was more curved with the aesthetic of a doctor’s bag. That’s how I started this design. The beauty of it is it’s all nylon, so not as heavy as a doctor’s bag.
All of our bags come with a cross-body strap, that is non-negotiable in our designs because women need to have more than one way to carry it. We added a padded shoulder for comfort, so as you’re carrying a heavier load it does not cut in.
Size-wise we created BIRDIE to be big enough for one set of clothes and one set of shoes, a laptop, water bottle, wallet and other miscellaneous stuff. We then started receiving requests for an even bigger version, so after about a year we launched JACKIE, which is a larger version of the BIRDIE. We knew we couldn’t make the BIRDIE any bigger because it would have breached that fine line between a travel bag and an everyday and it was important to keep it within the realm of everyday use.
Exterior + Interior Materials
It had to be practical, so the exterior is water, stain and weather resistant. I knew I had to work with a material that allowed us to do all of that. I found the supplier that actually supplies the same material as Prada’s nylon bags. I wanted to create a bag that was affordable but also REALLY wanted to use the same nylon material as Prada! Who wouldn’t, Prada is known for its durability of its nylon bags and that was something I really appreciated. So, I worked with the supplier to create our own for the BIRDIE.
Internally, the lining is thinner but similar nylon. All linings are black and white check to make the bags more visible. My one pet peeve is bags with black interiors. It’s already dark enough, I need to be able to see when I’m rummaging through. When it gets dirty, it’s hard to tell with a black interior lining. It could be filthy in there any you wouldn’t know. Hence the choice of black and white check in ours.
The colorways for this bag were inspired by sports in general. The reason I called it BIRDIE is because I’m a keen golfer. I wanted to come up with a term that was personal and sporty. The colors are partly customer request but also driven by the idea that the bag could be carried to work. Hot pink would not work in this case. As a designer there are so many color options and you’re often thinking ‘that could be really cool’ but the reality is, no one will buy that color if it doesn’t suit their lifestyle needs.
Design, Development + Production
It takes about six months to get a bag through the process. It’s pretty quick and always depends on the product we’re creating. Some are technically more difficult. I think for the BIRDIE, I was very sure about what I wanted in it so the design was easier, but the material elements were more challenging because I wanted very high-grade quality nylon. Nylon as a wide range of quality, so you can get very cheap nylon or very good quality. The problem is that with so much in cheap production, nylon gets a reputation as being not a great material but we decided to take it a little more upmarket and to this day we have not had any issues on any of our bags tearing.
BIRDIE, a woman. Who is she?
I live in NYC and there are a lot of women in the city who are an A-type personality; excelling at their job, very hardcore about exercise, being healthy, keeping on top of fitness, always running to the gym, for drinks after work, business dinners. I had that woman in mind.
She’s professional but incredibly active so she needed a bag that was practical at dinner, the gym... this is the woman who goes from a spin class to work, then maybe after work goes to practice for a marathon. There are a lot of women in NYC like that. So, I designed for the New York woman. Personally, I'm not that hardcore but I see these women everywhere and that’s very cool. People want a bag to flex with their life and BIRDIE does that.
BIRDIE is available to buy now on our shop site and we particularly love the design in Oxford Blue.