BERKELEY, Calif. — ILE is big in Japan. The California bag company has found a market with the Japanese bike website Blue Lug, and the collaboration keeps pushing ILE into new bags, materials, hardware and color choices.
Eric Fischer, 26, launched ILE (short for “Inside Line Equipment”) out of his apartment four short years ago. He was racing bikes, buying fabric and making bags one at a time for himself, his friends and friends of friends.
“I always liked making things, but building buildings didn’t seem scalable,” Fischer told Cult of Mac. “Making bags seemed more like a painting rather than building a house.”
Fischer’s ILE bags in most cases are a tad smaller than your traditional messenger bag, but he likes to think they are also a little bit more attractive as well.
“When I was a kid I learned to sew from my grandmother,” said Fischer. “When she passed away she left me a little bit of money and I bought a sewing machine. So it has come full circle.”
Fischer and a staff of three now hand-make all the ILE bags out of their workshop in Berkeley.
“We are always working on a new bag or improving what we already have,” said Fischer. “We have a phone holster we had to redo the first day of the iPhone 6. They had a realistic-size drawing in The New York Times. I followed that and had an iPhone 6 Plus case the same day.” That is the benefit of having a small shop making bags in California.
There are eight different bags in the ILE lineup at the moment and Fischer continues to experiment with materials, sizes and colors. The flagship bag, the Default, runs $240; the big, camera-gear-devouring MKIII photographer’s backpack runs $380. If you just want to dip your toes in the ILE pond, you can get that iPhone 6 Plus phone holster for $40.
Fischer is super-stoked to be selling a good load of bags to the Japanese market, which is still in love with all things American and nostalgiac, but he also has been making bags for his next-door neighbors, the Berkeley bike shop Beyond Aero. The shop has its own line of ILE bags featuring the Beyond Aero logo.
“It’s not easy and it’s not hard,” said Fischer. “It’s way more fun than I would have expected.”