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We’ve heard of art museums and science museums, or even a miniature museum. A bag museum, however, is admittedly something that’s quite novel to us.   

But over in Penang, a relatively new spot has been opened by a business called by StrangebutCool to showcase a private collection of vintage bags.

In fact, The Private Collection of Vintage Bags might well be the only and largest showing of vintage bags in the world at the moment.

The woman behind this collection is Tina Lim, who is the founder of StrangebutCool.  

Hailing from Singapore, Tina resides between Penang and Bali.

Image Credit: StrangebutCool

“I’ve been interested in vintage bags from a young age,” she expressed to Vulcan Post. “My mother and grandmother were both very stylish and elegantly dressed women, and I naturally got drawn into the world of vintage fashion.”

Now in her 60s, Tina has quite the expertise in fashion, having worked in the fashion industry at a senior level for Christian Dior and many other luxury brands.

After choosing to leave the corporate world, though, she started her own fashion atelier and brand—StrangebutCool. 

A peculiar brand

“I established the brand in 1999, but it started earlier when I started making commissioned fashion accessories for my friends from my living room,” Tina elaborated. “The demand grew and eventually I decided to turn my little business into an official label.”

An independent fashion atelier, StrangebutCool, as its name suggests, seeks to surprise with the unexpected.

Image Credit: StrangebutCool

The ethos is to offer “something new, something charming, sometimes strange, but always cool”.

That involves finding beauty in the unexpected, creating harmony out of chaos, and simplicity in complexity.

“We look for unique juxtapositions of materials and designs, and we’re always pushing boundaries,” Tina added.

StrangebutCool does sell its own designs, specifically art jewellery, one-of-a-kind bags, and luxury soaps.

Right now, they’re working on getting their ecommerce store back online so that customers from around the world can purchase from them.

StrangebutCool started in Singapore before shifting to Bali, Indonesia. It was here that Tina found her biggest inspirations in designs and materials.

“Coming from a Peranakan background, I remember the beauty and colours in the hand-drawn batik sarongs my great-grandmother and grandmother wore. These came from Pekalongan in Java Indonesia,” she added.

Business was greatly affected by the pandemic, though, forcing Tina to essentially shut down operations and start all over again.

As of today, the business’ production is still based in Bali, where Tina’s private atelier is also based.

Over 300 bags on display

At the Private Collection of Vintage Bags in Penang, there are over 300 bags on display. The origin of these bags span 85 years of the 20th century and 88 labels across the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

“In the warehouse, we have close to a thousand bags in storage that will be put up for display on a rotational basis,” Tina revealed.

Image Credit: StrangebutCool

The collection includes bags from the powerhouses of Chanel, Hermes, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and the like, but also pieces from independent designers and labels that are no longer in existence.

“I wanted to showcase this collection to show, firstly, that bags can be art pieces and secondly, to pay homage to the creativity and power of women,” the founder added.

Tina elaborated that some of the major vintage brands were designed by independent, creative, and innovative women who made bold business choices and started their own brands amid the male-dominated 20th century.

Image Credit: StrangebutCool

When asked about how much her collection is worth, Tina said that wouldn’t be possible to know as many of the bags are no longer available on the market. 

But why Penang?

At one point, the vintage bag collection had been on display in Bali, but right now, Penang is the only location for the Private Collection of Vintage Bags.

Image Credit: StrangebutCool

“I saw the rising vibrancy of Penang as a heritage and cultural destination, which is very much aligned with the values of StrangebutCool and the Private Collection,” Tina reasoned.

She also said that Penang has an audience that appreciates vintage fashion, unique designs, and something out of the ordinary.

“We’ve seen a variety of customers interested in the Private Collection and StrangebutCool, ranging from those in their mid-20s to seniors, all with one thing in common—a love and appreciation for unique, creative, and visionary fashion,” she said.

Image Credit: StrangebutCool

The admission ticket for the Private Collection of Vintage Bags is RM100 for local admission (MyKad and PR holders), and RM130 for standard admission.

It includes a guided tour, if requested, by the staff. All vintage bags on display are accompanied by a QR code for visitors to find out more about the brands.

“You’ll be able to see some extremely rare and significant bags that you have never imagined possible all under one roof in themed rooms. It is an immersive, fantastical, and educational experience to remember,” Tina described.

Having just opened in late May, Tina said reception has been very positive, with many visitors sharing that the collection is not just beautiful but also educational, aligning with her vision.

Image Credit: StrangebutCool

Having moved the collection from Bali to Penang, we wondered whether the StrangebutCool location would be here to stay.

To that, Tina said that since the space has been established with an on-ground team, she does foresee that the brand will continue to stay in Penang for the long term. 

Moving forward, Tina aims to grow the Private Collection into an attraction that’s unique to Penang.

The designer shared about her aspirations, “I hope that the Private Collection of Vintage Bags becomes a specialty attraction in Penang that adds to the amazing things that the city already has to offer.”  

  • Learn more about StrangebutCool here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: StrangebutCool

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