Tailored for the Trails

2023’s Otter Race Duffel Bag by Bark and Mill – A Fusion of Tradition and Contemporary Craftsmanship

In a world driven by mass production and fleeting trends, there’s a quiet resurgence of appreciation for the timeless values of craftsmanship, durability, and authenticity. Bark and Mill, a local artisan brand deeply rooted in tradition, is leading the charge by presenting this year’s Otter race duffel bag – a remarkable blend of age-old skills and modern design sensibilities. 

Bark and Mill’s mission is a nod to the past, to an era when artistry and attention to detail were paramount. “To flourish in the old days, things needed to be made with care to last,” founder Iain Hanton declared. This philosophy is stitched into every detail of their creations. The brand takes the time-honoured practices of the past and infuses them with a contemporary twist, creating products that echo an era of lasting quality.

“At Bark and Mill, we’re devoted to the belief that true quality is timeless.” Their offerings are a testament to this belief, catering to those who seek fewer, better items – possessions that hold value not only in their physicality but also in the stories they tell.

From the start, Bark and Mill have been committed to crafting quality products; and in their pursuit of perfection, they have undergone many evolutions. From their initial start-up which focused exclusively on design printing, they shifted from outsourcing their bag production to in-house manufacturing; consequently, streamlining their process and gaining control over quality and design. 

In stitching together their story, Bark and Mill have intertwined themselves with the local Knysna community; empowering local women seamstresses who form the heart of their operations. Bark and Mill’s dedicated artisans have been part of the brand’s journey for years, contributing their skills to craft each bag with precision and care. The core team includes three women: “Zuki, a part of the team for a decade, who hails from George and moved for her craft. Gloria, a proud representative of Knysna, brings her unique touch to the bags. And Michaela, a former member of the forestry department, wields a chainsaw with as much grace as a needle,” (- Iain). 

Two additional seamstresses from the HANDS Design Collective – an organisation that works to upskill women from Knysna and its surrounding communities – have come on board to assist with this year’s Otter production. As these women offer their hands in constructing the Otter bags ready for race day, Iain says Bark and Mill provide them with paid work and real-life experience. 

With years of experience and expertise to draw from, Bark and Mill proudly present this year’s 2023 Otter bag; a true triumph of design and durability. Developed to withstand the rigours of trail running, this bag boasts non-tear functionality, waterproof properties, and a rugged build. Its dark hue ensures it remains outdoors-proof, while the robust zipper guarantees longevity, even when dragged through the muddiest terrains. 

Although Iain is not taking part in the Otter race personally, he shares a bond with the founding brothers, the Collins. Last year, his daughter enthusiastically took on the challenge of working the Munchie Point while he ran the Dassie. Iain remarks with a chuckle, “When it comes to the Collins, there’s always a crazy story,” and so, he is rather content in contributing to the operations team rather than taking on the race himself.

In a world consumed by rapid change, Bark and Mill stand as a beacon of steadfastness and dedication. Their Otter race bag is not just a bag; it’s a narrative woven from traditional craftsmanship, contemporary ingenuity, and an unwavering commitment to quality.