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Locally Made Hunker Bags

Stylish and functional, Hunker Bag Co. blends a musician’s talents and needs.

Written By:  Kendall Mitchell Gemmill

Photographers:  Austin Lord

A multitalented artist, Denton Hunker spends the majority of his time as the drummer for the Texas band Green River Ordinance—and has discovered that a life on tour breeds a well-organized traveler. He often found himself struggling to find not just functional but fashionable travel carriers for men. And so Hunker Bag Co. was born.

“Everyone had the same black roller suitcase at baggage claim, and I always had a problem with others getting my bag confused with theirs,” says Hunker. “One time I went as far as writing ‘not your bag’ all over mine in silver Sharpie and—I’m not kidding you—someone still tried walking off with my bag.”

His first prototype was the Duffle No. 1, a stylish mixed-material bag of filter twill waxed canvas, top-grain leather, and hemp rope handles, making it ruggedly chic yet durable enough to withstand any journey.

“Everywhere I went, people began asking me about the bag and if I sell them,” he says.

With encouragement from his bandmates and many friends who’d become fans after receiving the bags as gifts, he launched his company last April. He works when he’s home in East Nashville and sometimes takes projects on the road. Thanks to lessons from his grandmother growing up, he already possessed the sewing skills to get started—and the rest was trial and error. He operates out of his home using a 1970s Consew 226R that he purchased from Robeson Sewing Machine Co. in Franklin, a company that’s been rebuilding industrial sewing machines for more than 60 years.

“It’s like a car engine with a needle on it,” Hunker says of his machine. “But I’m pretty cautious. I don’t think my drumming hands could handle a needle going through them.”

His current collection includes a variety of bag styles and small leather goods for both men and women, combining materials like Martexin waxed canvas, all-brass hardware, and leather from Tandy Leather Co.

“Materials that have durability and a wide depth of texture are what I’m drawn to,” says Hunker.

The Mail Pouch was his second design, a men’s messenger bag inspired by styles worn by Pony Express riders he had watched in old Westerns as a kid.

“It’s simple and just big enough for a guy’s laptop and essentials,” he explains. But more than simplicity and durability, Hunker believes a bag has to have great style: “I’m big on feeling good in what you’re wearing,” he says. “It’s an extension of your personality.”

Many of his items are unisex, but the women’s collection is made with a thinner, army duck waxed canvas and includes handbags like the Alicia’s Tote ($135) and The Cocktail Clutch ($100). One of the more popular items at last year’s Porter Flea was his latest addition, the Nashville Market Tote ($95), a canvas bag with leather straps that is screen-printed with “Made in Nashville, Tennessee.”

“I shop at the Nashville Farmers’ Market a lot and wanted a bag to carry there. This is a handmade local bag for your handmade local goods,” he says. (That style is available on his website and also at White’s Mercantile).

From start to finish, Hunker’s process is personal, down to the handwritten note he includes inside each butcher paper and twine-wrapped package.

“From going to the store and picking out the leather, coming back home, putting the pattern together, cutting it out, gluing, sewing, boxing it up, putting it in my car, and driving it to the post office, that’s the journey your bag [will take], and I like that,” he says. “I always want it to be in Nashville, in-house, and I’ll always be making the bags.”

Demand already has Hunker looking for help with production while he’s travelling as well as envisioning his own studio space in the future. But other than that, he’s pretty content with the pace Hunker Bag Co. is going.

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