I first met Etosha a year ago, at his birthday party, and I was struck by his cheerful nature. Not too long after that, Etosha and his partner, Aparna, had come up with Api Happi. Knowing them to be amiable characters, I decided I'd take up the task of checking out their goods. They make super colourful bags out of handloom. From stringy bags, to backpacks and even catbags (scroll down!), they've got the ideal bag to take along with you on a daytrip out of town. Their prices are fair, given the quality of the cut and the sewing. While Aparna is responsible for the designs, the actual cutting and sewing is done by women around Colombo who are homemakers. In this way, Api Happi is able to both support the local handloom industry, by purchasing material from retailers; as well as support local artisans, by providing them training and work.
With a thick cord, these stringy bags (Rs. 2000) seem quite hardy. The material is of quite a thick grade, and they're also lined with cotton to reinforce it. We'd imagine you could carry a bottle or two, with clothes neatly rolled to keep them secure.
This particular design is quite inspired, as Aparna attempted to emulate the broad strap of a monk bag, adapted to a backpack. It's quite striking, visually. You'd be hard-pressed to go unnoticed with one of these over your shoulders. Ideal for those with broad shoulders, these can carry quite a lot of weight evenly. They sell for Rs. 5,500.
The Sackpack (Rs. 5,000) is probably the most versatile of the lot, with a clasp that allows you to secure it in different configurations. You can wear it like a backpack, a tote or a sling. It's got the round bottom going on.
Bean Bags, Cat Bags
Meet Happi. She's an extremely friendly creature who happens to share a name with Api Happi. Here she is modelling their latest product, one of the funkiest bean bags you will find in Colombo. We've seen bean bags all over the place, and a lot of places seem to be going for materials like rexin and other odd textures, so we think this is a welcome addition to the market. The colours are vibrant and the fabric feels good. At Rs. 10,000, it's pricier than others, but you won't find this look elsewhere.
They've also got cat bags. These were made to order for a Japanese client of theirs, and we think the idea is brilliant. I have a cat at home, and the thought of taking him to the vet is something of a nightmare. This bag has got a zipper at the bottom, so that you can allow the vet to give your cat its shots, without too much struggle. You'll have to make a special order for these. Api Happi is quite obliging, so they're able to make them for you.
Etosha and Aparna are quite adamant on touching base with the community, and so, they insist on sourcing their labour from the community around them. They provide work for women who are most comfortable working from home. This also means that they are able to train these women, help them acquire skills, and hone these skills through the craft.
Their website sells the same products to the international market at a slight mark-up, and they've currently got a one-for-one program going on with Lions Club. For each bag that's purchased through their website, a canvas bag with handloom details is provided to school kids in rural areas. Pretty cool.
I'm quite impressed with what these guys do. They once got an order of a 1000 pieces and they got all their friends together to pull off the task in three weeks. Quite impressive. They've both cheerful, obliging people, and they'll be quite happy to meet your order.