My vintage Oroton mesh bag is a classic that dates from the 1960s, when mesh handbags from Australia were popular across the world. The beautiful white mesh bag and qipao (cheongsam) pair together oh-so-elegantly.
Oroton and the 60s mesh
Writing about Oroton brings back many memories – it was in fact at Oroton that I made my first foray into the fashion world, fresh and raw after several years of being a strategy consultant post-university. I learnt many things there, and the experience really solidified my love of working in this field, which I have continued since.
For those of you who don’t know, Oroton is an Australian brand which dates back to 1938, when it was first founded as a textile importation company. But it was not until the 50s that the brand really took off, when the company used a mesh material that it imported to produce a range of compact (compacts used for foundation and powder, that is) products. In the 60s, mesh was extended into handbags, and these remained popular through the 60s and 70s.
Mesh bag aficionados would point to three big mesh brands from that era – Oroton, Australia but with imported German made mesh; Glomesh, also an Australian company with Australian-made mesh; and Whiting and Davis, a US-based brand with US-made mesh.
Glomesh has a wonderfully inspiring story behind its founding that you can read here. However, after mesh went out of vogue, Glomesh as a company ceased to exist in the early 80s. It was re-established in 2013 by the grandson of the original founders, and today sells a small range of mesh wallets and bags. Whiting and Davis has a longer history and heritage than either Oroton or Glomesh, and has continued on as a both a supplier of mesh material, as well as a bag and accessories brand.
Oroton, on the other hand, evolved over time to become a major player in the affordable luxury market in Australia, specializing in leather goods, somewhat akin to a Coach in the US. During the time I was there, the brand was in an upward trajectory, and doing lots of cool and interesting things, including products that combined leather and mesh, with a nod to its history.
Vintage mesh bag and qipao
I can’t remember where exactly I picked up this bag, but I am pretty sure it was at one of the weekend markets in Sydney for a very reasonable price. (That actually reminds me, oh how I miss going to those vintage markets.)
Mesh bags were made in quite a few different colours, with the most common colours being silver, gold, white and gunmetal. This vintage Oroton mesh bag is white, which I personally prefer over the metallic colours. It is in a very classic purse style, and big enough for an iphone but not quite big enough for a full sized wallet, so whenever I use it there is always a frantic prelude where various cards and cash are pulled out from the wallet and stuffed into the bag.
The fun part about mesh bags is that the lining can be made in some great contrasting colours, which work really well with the metal texture of the outside. You can see that this one used to be a rich purple, but unfortunately has some spotted fading.
The reason I prefer the white colouring is that it works so well with qipaos and my other vintage dresses. I gave a sneak peek preview of the bag last week in my post about my 1930s style red qipao, and here are some more pictures. The white mesh texture works so well with the block red, and the classic shape of the bag just makes it look as though it was made for the dress. But you know what, I’ve used this bag with many more modern outfits too, it never lets me down.
For other ideas of qipaos with interesting accessories, check out this post of qipao with hats and gloves.