June 21, 2023

Exploring How We Choose Our Custom Colors

A glimpse at our Materials wall

One of the best parts about manufacturing our own bags in-house is that we can offer a wide selection of colors to our customers. Since we don't use an outsourced manufacturer, we're not subjected to a strict minimum order quantity for any one colorway. That means that most of the time, we have the flexibility to offer a bag in many different colorways, often ranging from 8 to 16 different options, depending on the availability of our fabrics at the time. We take pride in our color offerings and always strive to keep it fun for you guys! That's why we aim to introduce new colors seasonally.

Another perk of handling our own manufacturing is that we work directly with our textile mill partners to develop the perfect color dips. At TOM BIHN, we don’t settle for ordinary - we take pride in creating bags that are as unique as you are.  Each color in our 200 Halcyon and 210 Cerylon collections, as well as the majority of our 630 Ballistic colors, are entirely custom dipped to our exact preferences. Our palette is unique to us and not available elsewhere.

The process of choosing new custom colors begins approximately 9 months to one year before our planned debut date. Since the colors are custom, the lead times are longer than usual. During our selection process, we evaluate a variety of colors. Before we settled on Cerise and Seafoam for our 200 Halcyon line, we considered a total of 10 colors, ranging from vibrant to muted to jewel tones. We think about what would enhance our current offerings, what feels missing from the collection, and what else could complement our current exterior fabrics.  Our inspirations are drawn from the world around us - the vibrant Seattle streets, breathtaking PNW landscapes, and (of course) the desires of our valued customers.

A glimpse at some of the rejected samples

Once we’ve narrowed down our options to our partner mills, they begin the process of dipping samples. The timeline to receive sample color dips is usually 4-6 weeks. For the 10 colors we wanted samples of, we received 3 variations per color, resulting in 30 sample color dips! At first glance, these variations may seem almost indistinguishable, but under different lighting conditions, the subtle differences become noticeably apparent.

You might be wondering: how did we end up choosing Cerise and Seafoam from so many options? A small group of us, the TOM BIHN Design Team, discusses and votes on the colors. Cerise, was an obvious choice. We knew we wanted a pink Halcyon – pink is by far our most requested color. Just like our Zest and Solaris Halcyon colors, Cerise demands your attention, and exudes an infectious vibrancy that felt right at home with our bold shades. Additionally, we wanted to balance Cerise with something more soothing and understated, yet capable of standing on its own. We were captivated by the fluorescent nature of Seafoam, which falls perfectly between green and blue, evoking the image of the beach under the summer sun. And depending on the lighting, you can even catch hints of yellow. Seafoam is the perfect complementary color to Tidal, Dusk, and Northwest Sky, subtle tones with an understated elegance.

Final samples of Cerise and Seafoam next to Tidal and Steel 200D Halcyon

Truly, there are no bad colors, and in a perfect world, we might have chosen all of the sample dips we received. Who knows, one of the colors that didn't make the final cut this time might find its place in the choices for the next season. We’re always curious to hear your thoughts – What colors would you like to see next?


Alison - August 13, 2023

1. Bright colors on the inside of EVERYTHING is the formula to go with. Either that or a light that comes on inside your dark bags!

2. A infusion of bright, fun, happy colors is exactly what Tom Bihn needs. You have a few already, but when I first discovered Tom Bihn, I thought you just made bags for [colorphobic] guys who go camping. Everything was black, navy, grey, olive, and shades of brown. That just depressed me. Most of your backpacks and carryons still only come in those colors and, while I have nothing against people who only like bags in those colors, those items will never appeal to me, no matter how well made they are. I love solid black best when it’s paired with very bright colors: aqua, turquoise, red orange, violet, duckbill yellow orange (zest), Persian blue, pink, or lime. Better still when paired with multiple bright colors.

3. You must have scraps galore in your manufacturing. Have you considered taking a page from Cotopaxi and using bright scraps to trim darker colors (and vise versa) and even to make bags in more than one color, making artful designs while wasting less fabric? Just something to think about.
TOM BIHN replied:
Hi Allison! We’ve definitely found that colors are a balancing act for us. We have customers that love dark exterior paired with neutral interiors and those that can’t get enough of vibrant colors on the outside and inside. Our goal is to offer as many options as is possible while factoring in the complexities of our manufacturing operations.

As for scrap fabric, we’re happy to share that over the years, we’ve significantly improved our cutting efficiency, thus minimizing scraps. As for the scrap pieces that remain, we have repurposed them into smaller bags — Grab Bags and most recently, Mystery Organizer Bags which are 100% random pairings of colors (we tell employees who are sewing them to mix and match to their hearts’ desire!).

Jeff - July 27, 2023

Oh, AlphaViolet 👍

Leslie Smith - July 2, 2023

Oh please: Violet! (But I will go with the pink until that day comes.)

Uma - June 25, 2023

I hope you someday make big backpacks (Synik30) in bright exterior colours again, like alphaviolet ballistic or red or purple halcyon. Or nordic halcyon 😍

Susan - June 23, 2023

Love all your colors. After years of digging around in dark purses, my preference is for a light colored liner. Makes such a difference when the hunt is on. Love the yellow, perhaps as a liner with the burnt Orange ballistic.

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We're the TOM BIHN crew: we design bags, make bags, ship bags, and answer questions about bags. Oh, and we collaborate on blog posts, too.