Known as a furoshiki in Japan, a bojagi in Korea, or even a swag in Australia, France’s baluchon is a concept common across cultures: a bag created by tying the corners of a piece of fabric together. It is a concept so simple that Laura Dalaloy, founder of accessories label Yuni Yunan, couldn’t believe how difficult it was to find someone else who’d made a bag inspired by it.
Bucket bags have been wildly trendy recently, but essentially, they are the same, whether that’s Manseur Gavriel’s — which garnered a 50,000-long waitlist in its launching year — or the Louis Vuitton Noé, which was created to hold bottles of Champagne. After all, coming up with a new silhouette is difficult in a realm where styles are already so codified — the tote, the saddle bag, and the bucket bag, to name a few. Bag design, Dalaloy says, is “trying to renew a vocabulary.”
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The knot of Yuni Yunan’s baluchon bag is what separates it from a standard bucket bag, and to Dalaloy, it is something more: “I wanted to capture a gesture,” she says. The bag only comes together with the tying. The knot’s not just decorative, but functional too; when I first saw the baluchon, the knot looked like an ingenious safeguard against the pickpockets people warned me of when I visited Paris.
The baluchon bag was conceived two years ago when Dalaloy was designing a collection inspired by Eos, the Greek goddess of Dawn, who is usually depicted with wings. She wanted an accessory for a woman always on the move, who would need to pack everything up at a moment’s notice. This is where the furoshiki came into play — the simplicity of wrapping things up in a piece of fabric.
The line itself launched in October: Dalaloy had wanted to launch Yuni Yunan before the first global lockdown, but production slowed her down. Dalaloy wasn’t a handbag — nor accessories — designer previously; she worked for six years in the design department of French luxury ready-to-wear label Paule Ka, before starting her own label this year. “I worked so long for other people I lost myself,” Dalaloy says.
Yuni Yunan is an expression of the battle for her own identity in the racial sense, too. Although Dalaloy’s parents are ethnically Chinese, they were born in Laos; Dalaloy, who lives in Paris, has never been to Asia. Dalaloy cannot speak Laotian and her Cantonese is shaky — her mum thought practicing French at home was best for her assimilation into French society. In France, there is a lower concentration of Asian people, compared to many anglophone countries. Yuni Yunan is her way of forming a “third identity” of sorts, integrating all sorts of Asian diaspora — Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Chinese, to say the least — with her Western side. The name “Yuni Yunan” aptly means “here and there” — it was a Laotian phrase her parents said around the house.
The initial experiment of the baluchon was as a backpack. Its current iteration, as a bucket bag, is sleeker and more bulbous — leather now collars the bottom, and little metal feet extend from the base. A leather carrying handle and detachable shoulder strap have been added too. The main body is made of double-sided polyester duchess satin, which was chosen as it is stiff enough to stay upright, but soft enough for the knot to have the desired floppiness.
This use of fabric with leather comes from Dalaloy’s garment experience. It has also made finding manufacturers a challenge, as she uses both garment and luggage techniques — a single factory is unlikely to have all the specific sewing machines required.
She uses deadstock fabrics, not just for sustainability, but also to keep costs down. Using fabric in the first place was a financial decision, too. She plans to have a range of price points — she calls them déclinaisons — based on the materials used. “I can’t have a speech about bringing cultures together and not make bags affordable,” Dalaloy says.