Shopping bags with love, beauty and emotion

By Jess Carrascalao Heard

Life is canvas.

That’s the phrase that came to mind one day when Annie Li and her husband Dennis visited a gallery in Melbourne.

They had been in business together for some time, with a background in interior design and fashion, but now they wanted to try to something different: selling canvas eco-bags.

The business is now thriving, and Ms Li and her husband have now been selling the bags at Queen Victoria Market (QVM) for just over two years.

Ms Li, who is the chief designer at DM Ecobags, said with their knowledge and experience in the garment and fabric industry, it was a natural transition to shift their focus to canvas bags.

“With the changing trend of giving up plastic bags to more eco-friendly shopping bags, we suddenly thought it would be a good idea,” she said.

But it was not only the practical and environmental aspect of the canvas bags they thought about when deciding to sell them.

“[The bags] served as a means, just as the canvas painting, to express people’s memories, life experiences, emotions and feelings,” Ms Li said.

Ms Li remembered one time when a customer wrote to DM Ecobags to express her thanks after purchasing one of their canvas bags for her mother, who had moved to regional Victoria after 60 years in Melbourne.

The customer had bought one a bag which featured an old-fashioned W-class, route 35 tram.

“When her mum opened the bag, she burst into tears. That was the tram that accompanied her since childhood, carrying tonnes of her memories,” Ms Li said.

Each bag features a printed watercolour-style illustration, elegant and beautiful, with many designs including a big slice of Australiana, whether it be an image that showcases Melbourne or cute interpretations of Australian animals.

As well as canvas bags, cushions with the artworks printed on them are also available, as well as gift sets which include a bag with a matching card and fridge magnet.

Some of the artworks are designed by Ms Li herself, while others are created by local artists she and her husband discover via Facebook groups, exhibitions, and even just by searching online.

It’s a win-win for both DM Ecobags and the artists, with each of the chosen artists receiving a licence fee or royalty for their printed work.

“Many artists have difficulty generating income from their work … eventually many artworks sell into thousands of pieces, so this is a win-win outcome for both of us,” Ms Li said.

Ms Li and her husband opened up shop at QVM in March 2019.

They love the mix of customers, both local and international, and enjoy chatting to people from all over the world. “It has been a wonderful experience,” Ms Li said. •

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