Linoleum is normally used for kitchen floors, and heavy canvas is often used to make an awning. But these materials can be used to make handbags, as more and more designers are proving.
With their collections, including hand-made purses manufactured in small quantities, they are showing that not only pricey handbags produced by international luxury labels can be stylish.
Polished and worn leather, large formats and combinations of fabric are setting this summer's fashion trends, according to a German textile trade magazine published in Frankfurt.
Crocheted elements, large gathers and nostalgic roominess are what fashion expert Andreas Rose of Frankfurt said are the criteria for the hip handbag trend.
Such developments play a role among all designers of handbags that are not for everyday wear. "It has a strong influence on fashion," said Dorothee Lehnen who runs a textile design company in Hanover. "Our products should, however, be current for more than just a season. You should get three, four or five years of fun from them."
Lehnen's latest designs combine floral pattern truck plans and industrial felt. "I like to play with contrast," said Lehnen, adding that she delights in bringing natural and artificial materials together. The robust truck plans are enhanced by the floral print and are given a completely new character. One of her design pairings is artificial material and felt and is called Valencia, a handbag that comes in discreet colours such as light grey, anthracite and white.
The Berlin handbag maker Kitchenfloorbag makes its shoulder bags exclusively out of linoleum, a material typically used in kitchen flooring. The company said it uses origami techniques to fold the bag out of the linoleum. The choice includes handbags resembling parquet, grass and granite.
Handbag manufacturer Cogitatio of Leipzig has a shoulder bag called Death in Venice that is an adaptation of that book's paper jacket cover, while the cover of Romeo and Juliet is transformed into a wallet. These and other handbags made from book covers are handmade and each one is unique, said Cogitatio. They give books a new purpose and are meant for people who would carry them around, not just put them on a shelf.
Equally unique are the latest designs by Johanna Proepstl of Hamburg. She has produced handbags made of old billboard-size posters. "These posters are sometimes up to eight metres high and 10 metres wide," said Proepstl. Only small pieces of the poster are used to make the handbags. "So you can't tell what it originally was," she said. Along with a plain shopping bag, Proepstl also makes a type of basket in a new shape with a posh and soft leather lining.
Not only billboards arouse Proepstl's interests. Awnings are not safe when she's around. She has been taking the sturdy material used to make them and turning it into shopping, shoulder cosmetic and diaper bags.
The latter are always so "mommy-ish", Proepstl said. "I wanted to design a diaper bag that looked like an ordinary purse." Only limited numbers of the bags are produced and they are sold in a few stores in Hamburg, on the internet and sometimes at so-called handbag parties.
Wiebke Nieland of Berlin also sells her Schneckenhaus handbags at such parties. She brings a selection of her designs to the hostess's house and shows them to a small circle of potential customers. Her Schneckenhaus purses are not made of run-of-the-mill material.
"I place a lot of value on material that has a good story," Nieland said. She purchased some of her material while travelling to destinations such as Hawaii and Finland. Friends also bring her material.
Nieland's handbags can be turned inside out. She tries to combine two materials of contrasting character so that it's like two purses in one.
"A sporty handbag used during the day, for example, can be turned inside out and transformed into a shiny purse or one with a pretty border for use in the evening," Nieland said.
She also sews purses from a customers' favourite fabric. "The material is simply mailed to me and I send the purse back," she said. The piece of material just has to be large enough, she said, adding that in order to make a large handbag the material should be at least 50 cm by 50 cm.
Andreas Rose believes a woman's handbag is akin to her calling card. He said women should identify fully and completely with the accessory and not just blindly follow current trends. This risk does not exist among the individual designers at small labels. However, as with the major brands and their trendy purses, it's also true among the small designers that a customer who wants a particular handbag has to be quick.
Whether it's brocade from the 1950s or an old poster, the amount of raw material for unusual handbags is always limited. "When the material is gone, it's gone," said Proepstl, adding she never knows whether she can get more. "But that's just what makes the difference in the character of my handbags."