Last Easter, the bag designer Jas Sehmbi opened the new incarnation of his shop Doors, a smart new showroom for his much-loved brand Jas M.B., in Rivington Street, east London. Geographically, it's only a few miles from the streets where Jas - who arrived in the UK aged four, having previously lived in Africa and then India - started out, and closer still to the location of his former Soho store. In every other respect, it's proof of how far he's come. "For years and years," Sehmbi says, "all I tried to do was create interesting bags for British men." That project began just a few months after he completed the art foundation course he'd begun after school, when Sembhi opened his very first shop, a leather goods store in Ilford, Essex. Three years later, he'd packed it in, convinced that he had to educate himself and return on a grander scale. "In '88, I decided to go to Italy because I wanted to learn about the leather as the starting point for making bags. On my first day, as I came out the station at Florence, I thought, 'Oh shit, the energy these people have, it's incredible.' And I ended up standing there for three hours to see how they move, how they talk, how they carry themselves, how they dress." He liked the little details, like the way the Italian gents always wore tees to absorb the sweat their poly-cotton shirts generated. "I thought, 'This makes sense,' and from then on I always made sure that I wore a T-shirt under my shirt." He also found out about leather and began importing bags from Italy. "But British men men wouldn't wear them. They were a bit too campified." Sehmbi still wasn't going to give up. "I thought we needed something a bit more casual and acceptable and wondered what kind I could make that would be acceptable for British men. At about the same time, I realised that people were wearing these T-shirts with record label logos and T-shirts can't even be worn one day or two days a week. I saw that and thought, 'Why don't I offer this industry a bag which can have a giant-sized logo on the front and can be worn every day?' Back then, everyone wanted to be a DJ." To cut a long story short, sometime DJ Jas designed a bag of suitable dimensions, borrowed £500 to get the equipment and produced a prototype in his garage. Six months later, with stock made on his three sewing machines and sourced out to home-working seamstresses, he'd made £30,000. Then, a London label called Slammin' Vinyl came to him and told him it would take as many as he could produce. The rest wasn't just history; in the 15 years since that breakthrough, Jas has become a byword for a whole range of subtly branded bags for men and women that have a knack of looking luxurious and elegant without ever being fussy. He's always got a new avenue of curiosity to explore, whether it's this season's run of high-end rucksacks or the new expansion zips and iPad sleeves he's worked into bags elsewhere, and his subsequent inventions and innovations have been admired and ripped off by rival brands more times than he can count - and by rivals from London to Tokyo and Shanghai, where he has always had a huge following. "It almost felt against the grain in the beginning, making here and selling in the far east, rather than the other way round." Now, though, he points out, "Made in England"-awareness has made his ethos seemed more at home and his local sourcing more glamorous. "I travel 20 odd times a year, and I still think London is the most creative city in the world," he says. "We Londoners don't always notice it, because we can walk round a bit robotically and be preoccupied with our work. But Italians wanna be English, New Yorkers… the Japanese men can't look English, but their dress sense and accessories all originate from English traditions. The energy was always here. It's just we haven't always been willing to celebrate it."