The tote bag story

I have been curious lately on tote bags; looking at the different tote bags we have, whether you you chose it because you liked the special quote or the drawing on it. Well, this is a type of bag which for sure you have more than one with you!

What and where is it coming from?

The etymology of the word tote from the verb: « to carry” — can be traced back to the 17th century.


After about a century, the word “tote” slowly began to expand from a verb to a noun. In the 1940, L.L.Bean the outdoor brand  based in the US launched the iced bag in 1944 (see the photo).

The tote bag was back then a ice-carrier and  was re-introduced in the 1960s in the same form as it is built today. Its original material — canvas — has stood the test of time.




Iconic bags for books

In the 1980s, iconic New York City bookstore The Strand introduced its version of the bag — which is still a staple on city streets today.

“The first Strand tote was introduced in 1980,” explains Lise Jee, lead designer with The Strand. “The tote was a blank stock tote, purchased in bulk. It was a natural cotton duck canvas, with an interior lining. In red Helvetica letters, the graphic boldly advertised the store’s name, address, phone number, and slogans like ‘18 miles of books.’”



The Tote bag in its high-end version

In 1981, the founder of Hermès, Jean-Louis Dumas, got inspired by Jane Birkin, actress and singer. They were both sitting next to each other in the plane. After Birkin accidentally spilled the contents of her straw tote, Dumas was inspired to create a bag that would allow jet-setting women to carry a lot. It became the Birkin bag of Hermès which is a now a lifelong and a classic of the brand.

And today?

Tote bags are part of our daily lives, whether for shopping your groceries, keeping all your things together like the huge blue IKEA bag! We do find tote bags to bring a message, an advert, a story, a quote, a drawing…

Beyond their eco-friendly aspects, totes create a more personalized statement than just a regular purse. The tote bags differ from the traditional women’s bag, there are spacious, and can transition easily to fit many social functions. While the tote has undergone many makeovers over the years, it has stood the test of time and will last forever!

My selection of tote bags « Made in Nepal »

  • The tote bags by Kolpa : easy to carry and strong quality  in thick canvas fabric. You will the tote bag in different styles which are all coming with a packing bag (see photo below). You can visit the shop in Jhamsikhel or in Thamel (inside the Kathmandu Guest House). More info here.


  • The Kathmandu tote bags by Little things : great and lively designs inspired by the lifestyle of Kathmandu city.  You will find Little things in the Saturday’s Art Market Sanepa or you can contact them directly via their Facebook page


Sources :


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