Interview: Flowerdrum Bags
By Leanda Quinquet
Friday, April 16th, 2010

Rina  Matsui-Houghton is a Malaysian-born, Berlin-based handbag designer who focuses on creating beautiful handcrafted bags of unique distinction.

I met Rina a few years ago and was immediately blown away by her drive and passion for creating awesome bags and mini carry-alls, made from vintage fabrics.

Back in 1999 Rina felt that “Malaysia was ready for a unique label with underground roots and the design-ability to be sold internationally.” She started creating hand-embroidered affordable bags, and clutches for the fashion savvy consumer.

The company named Flowerdrum bags (www.flowerdrum-kl.com) was born, and now produces lines in batches of 12. Bags are created using quality fabric from all over the world; they aren’t mass produced, they’re fresh, different and  sport stand apart, clean-cut designs, a must have for any fashionista!

More recently Rina has been focusing on commissioned work, branching out to create custom-made items for her clients. Last year in Malaysia she took part in her first exhibit of embroideries and fabric collages, entitled 6 Words: Embroidered Stories. I caught up with Rina for an interview to find out more about her interesting grass roots company.

LQ: Where did the name for your bag company come from?

RMH: Unglamorously cribbed the name from a Flowerdrum Song poster at a local theatre!

LQ: Where do you find your vintage prints for the bags?

RMH: As a natural hoarder and digger, I started out with a fair collection of vintage fabrics from my childhood (curtains, mum’s dresses) which I supplement with pieces I find on my travels at markets, etc. There are also a couple of fabric shops in Malaysia that I have been going to for years, the sort of shops where stock hasn’t been updated since the ’60s!

LQ: When did you first start making embroidery projects?

RMH: Started a couple of years ago, to explore but also as thank you gifts for friends who have supported me on my bag endeavours for the last decade.

LQ: Suhana Dewi Selamat’s 6-word memoirs influenced your work for the embroidered stories project. What was it about the memoirs that struck you?

RMH: As a lover of words and the English language, I was struck first and foremost by the brutal honesty of her 6-word essays. How they were food for thought in their simplicity. I like my words on point and how much more “on point” could you be than 6-word essays!

LQ: What do you like most about your job?

RMH: Being the boss of my own time, the flexibility to travel/take time off, the independence of only being able to blame myself for cock ups!

LQ: What do you have in store at Flowerdrum Bags for this year?

RMH: Flowerdrum Bags works in mysterious organic ways! Along with the usual desire to push the label to boutiques in foreign shores, I am hoping to work on a new embroidery project. New bags will be up soon for spring/summer and I plan to drive more traffic to the web-shop. I’ll also continue my crusade to get more people to understand and appreciate VINTAGE fabrics!

Leanda is a writer based in Toronto. For the past 13 years she has hosted & produced music radio shows, managed bands & worked in online music PR. She now runs a music site & also writes for music & culture magazine `Relevant BCN`. Read more of her writing here - http://www.bloggertronix.com

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