Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Pleco

In the post today I received a Pleco bag. It is unlike any other bag I have ever had.  It came beautifully packaged in a box that echoes the construction of the bag itself with the product name  in the form of a cut-out on the side of the box, temptingly revealing the colour of the bag inside


Image ref: The bags in their packaging.
Image credit: Pam Langdown



Everything about it is simple and understated and although the bag’s construction is not a new process by any means, its use of material is. Pleco bags are made in Japan by kna plus in co-operation with the Industrial Technology Centre of the Fukui prefecture. They are made from a woven, vertically pleated fabric which enables the bag to expand and contract to accommodate a range of objects. Providing the bag is emptied after use, the pleats resume their shape. They are produced in a range of sizes and colours and are surprisingly strong, given their light weight and delicate appearance. 



Image ref: Close-up detail.

Image credit: Pam Langdown

Pleco bags are available in two materials, recycled polyester or polylactic acid fibre, derived from corn, and which has a low environmental impact during production and decomposition. I opted for the PLA version. I am familiar with PLA when it is used in packaging and disposable cups and cutlery for example, but not in fibre form. Unusually for a re-usable bag the Pleco might have a relatively short life span. Quite how short remains to be seen and a lot depends on how much it is used and on the environment in which is it is kept. The website suggests that with heavy use it will last about a year, for occasional users between 2 and 4 years, and without use 5 to 6 years. This leaves MoDiP with a bit of a conundrum as we have acquired one for the museum collection too and aim to keep it in perpetuity. Of course, it will not be used and it will be kept in a stable environment, so perhaps we will have it for longer than the expected time. The makers suggest that it will begin to decompose over time with the structure breaking down but the MoDiP team will monitor and document its condition as part of the routine object condition checking programme. I can’t promise the same level of care and scrutiny will be applied to my own bag so it will be interesting to see how long I manage to keep it going for.


The pleating of the bag puts me in mind of the beautiful constructions of designer Mariano Fortuny who was known for vertically pleated silk gowns in the early 1900’s, and Japanese designer Issey Miyake whose current line Pleats Please features materials that are pleated after sewing the garments into shape. Pleating as a construction technique has been used by Miyake for decades and influences of other traditional crafts are to be found elsewhere in his designs. MoDiP has in its collection a Mendori lamp by Artemide, designed by Miyake, incorporating traditional origami folding techniques applied to the shade which is made from recycled PET bottles.



Image ref: AIBDC : 007064

Image credit: MoDiP


The concept of fabrics which temporarily alter their shape and size by incorporating traditional techniques is also beautifully demonstrated in the Petit Pli child’s outfit, also in MoDiP’s collection. Using origami principals of folding, the garments have the capacity to ‘grow’ with the child through several sizes, and here let me refer you to Katherine’s blog post of September last year in which she explains things more fully.


It is great to see traditional skills and techniques being incorporated into modern materials. I will aim to report back on how my Pleco bag stands up to normal use: fingers crossed that it lasts more than a year!

Pam Langdown
MoDiP Documentation Officer

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