*We acknowledge the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional custodians of the lands and waterways in the area now known as Melbourne, and pay respect to their Elders past, present, and emerging, as well as to all First Nations communities in Australia.*
I’d only started dating my partner Sam for a matter of weeks before we left to cycle around the world together. Red flag? Romantic? Stupidly spontaneous? – I’ll let you decide. I’ll concede that a multi-year bike tour isn’t exactly a traditional way to start a relationship. But with precisely zero bike touring experience under my belt, cycling around the world with a stranger was ironically the least of my worries. I had to find a bike, learn how to ride it (yes, I’m serious), and figure out how the hell I was going to pack my life into two panniers and a basket bag.
To say I made some mistakes would be an understatement. I mean, who knew hair straighteners and a hardback copy of The Power of Now wouldn’t be suitable for a bike tour? That said, I also made some damn good decisions, not least my choice of basketbag: The Sight Seeker from Framework Designs. That bag has travelled halfway across the world with me, weathering everything from tropical monsoons in South East Asia to numbing snowstorms in Nepal. So when Sam and I returned to Melbourne three years later, I couldn’t wait to check in with Framework Designs Founder, Tia Evans on how the business was going, visit her home studio and, of course, share it all with you.
Meet the Maker:
Growing up, Tia always had a natural affinity for the arts. Sewing, drawing and photography were all early hobbies. So when she discovered the world of Textile Design at Melbourne’s RMIT University open day – she immediately caught fabric fever and decided to train as a professional Textile Designer.
After graduating, Tia and her partner Joel started planning a Brompton bike tour of Japan. The idea was to use bullet trains to cover the big miles, and the ultra-portable Bromptons to whizz about the sprawling cities. Joel wanted a bag that they could first pack their bikes into as checked luggage, and then use as a handlebar bag once in Japan. But with nothing suitable on the market, Tia rose to the challenge. She bought a few metres of waterproof canvas, sketched out how the functional aspects of the Mary Poppins bag would work, and set to task on a tiny domestic sewing machine.
The Brompton bags worked great and soon enough requests from friends who wanted different bags started flooding in. She experimented with fabrics and hardware, eventually settling on her now trademark canvas and antique brass buckles. She found the pattern-making and design process both cathartic and natural, so in a brave move, she set up Framework Designs and didn’t look back.
In the last four years, Tia has developed her own range of unique and timeless basket bags, handlebar bags and panniers that have become some of the most sought-after bags in Australia. With global customers in the USA, Singapore, Japan, Europe and Canada also digging her distinct balance between functionality, aesthetics and user experience.
Inside the studio:
Having visited a few different makers now, I’m always struck by how closely the studio spaces echo the personality of the makers themselves. Some are a riot of colour and chaos: with walls adorned with posters, mementoes and products bundled into every available corner. While others are minimal, organised, and definite. Neither one ‘better’ than the other, just distinct and deeply reflective of the individual’s personal style.
Tia’s studio follows this trend perfectly. The clean lines, simplicity and tactility found in her bags resonate around the space – making her studio feel calm, grounded and organised. From the window, eucalyptus trees sway gently in the wintery breeze. Bag patterns hang neatly on butcher’s hooks. Huge rolls of earth-toned canvas float functionally above the cutting table, with antique brass buckles, clasps and fidlock magnets compartmentalised into the relevant workstations.
Tia’s personality is imbued into every pattern, stitch, and design choice, “because I’ve come at this from a textile design background rather than purely a cycling one, my products have a style that is inherently different from others on the market. I never studied the bags of other makers or looked at how other brands constructed their products before designing my own. I just did what made sense to me.” She told me.
Watching Tia at work feels like a masterclass in handmade design. She glides around the space efficiently, moving from station to station depending on what part of the process the bags are at, oscillating from measuring and cutting at a lightning pace, to hammering each stud press with her Thor-like hammer and safety earmuffs. The result is a bag that feels more akin to a bespoke Saville Row suit than an off-the-peg bikepacking bag.
Classic aesthetics. Modern performance:
Ultralight fabrics like Dyneema, X-Pac and Ecopak certainly have their place in bikepacking. But for Tia, canvas reigns King, “I love the way canvas ages and develops a unique character with time.” Tia tells me with a smile. “Plus, it’s really waterproof, I can source it locally (so it has a much better eco-footprint) and when combined with my antique brass hardware, it creates a very classic look, which I love.” But, aesthetics aside, Tia also has a keen eye for performance, usability, and the overall user experience of her bags. “I always set out to design bags that are durable, functional and perform no matter the environment. Whether you’re commuting to work or riding around the world. So by using more modern fittings and fixtures, such as side release buckles and fidlock magnets, I’m able to bring some extra performance to the bags, without compromising on their overall fabrication.”
The Australian landscape plays a pivotal role in Tia’s colour palette. The rich, yet muted earth tones of the native Wurundjeri land have featured heavily in her colour range so far. Whilst through her “limited edition” range, she mixes in touches of hot pink and punchy peacock green.
Coming full circle:
So what have we learnt from this shop visit? Well, I think we can all agree that by far the most important takeaway is that even in a sea of bad packing decisions, whilst learning how to ride a bike (again, I’m serious), I still won the game by purchasing that first Framework Designs bag. All my other bags have been donated, sold, destroyed or retired – but my faithful Sightseeker, in all its weathered and patina-soaked glory, lives strong.
Sometimes you find a brand that sits out on its own. Not as an outcast. But as an outlier. For me, Framework Designs is an outlier brand, and that’s something special. Tia’s natural style transcends genres and, therefore, is difficult to codify. Are they bikepacking bags? Are they bike touring bags? Well, yes, and no. Tia’s bags straddle both and neither at the same time – creating a space all for themselves and those that want to enjoy them on any bike they own.