1.Can you tell us how you got into making and selling bags? (what were you doing before that…)
I worked as a buyer for a global fashion retailer specialising in denim goods. It seems like quite a leap to go from denim to leather but there are so many commonalities between the two. They’re both hard-working materials, originally utilised and worn by people in the industry. They stand the test of time and wear in over time to result in the most beautifully unique pieces. Focusing mainly in the menswear sector, I found it frustrating that alongside our denim offers there were lots of raw, vegetable tanned leather goods available to men and often no female alternatives. Except for overly processed and heavily branded pieces.
I started researching and found a rich heritage in leather craft right here in the UK. From there I searched high and low for makers to partner up with and sampled my initial designs.
2. What made you take the leap and quit your high street retail job?
During a trip to a Turkish development plant, I was introduced to the workforce behind many of the denim washes you’ll see on the high street today. The centre itself was very remote and on opening had employed a huge number of locals to train up and start working on developing dying, scraping and stitching techniques. Their level of mastery was unbelievable. Every single detail they added to the denim was so meticulously thought out and yet seemed so effortless. I’ve always been a hands-on person and seeing them at work gave me the push to explore my own creativity.
3.What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced since starting your own business?
One of the biggest challenges involved in my position is time management. From very early in the business I realised I couldn’t do everything myself. I had to learn to delegate and invest in people who would help to grow the brand. That was something I found tough because I genuinely enjoy running every part of the business. So deciding which bits to let go and which to focus more time on was hard.
4. I’ve read that first, you’ve built your online retail shop and only then you created your own line of bags. How come it wasn’t the other way around?
I was always making one-off pieces to sell online and just created the brand as you see it today a few years into the process. I waited so that I could get a good feel for both what customers wanted from a collection and to learn the ropes when it came to selling online. It was important to me that the experience was a pleasant journey from beginning to end. So I worked hard to learn the trade before I launched Grace Gordon.
5. You said something I really relate to which is “Style doesn’t have to be complicated, just equip yourself with the right staples and you won’t go far wrong.” How do you choose or know what are the right staples for you?
I think the idea for a design is born from necessity; like my Nelle clutch bag for instance. I didn’t often wear clutch bags but there were times where one seemed like the perfect choice. Paired with an outfit for a wedding. So I married the role of a traditional clutch with a really sleek and modern construction. It’s a favourite of mine and when not in use as a bag, it doubles up as a tech case. If you stick to the simple idea of buying functional pieces, with a simple aesthetic, made with high-quality materials you’ll inevitably end up with a cohesive look.
6. When it comes to designing your bags, what is your main source(s) of inspiration?
For me, the important thing is that whatever kind of life my customer leads, my designs help them to feel and look more confident. And that, practically speaking, they’re fit for use. I always say that the collection itself aims to offer all the form and functionality necessary for the modern woman.
7.How would you describe your universe and mission?
Driven by a fascination with rich materials, natural colours and simple functionality, I curate classic pieces with a contemporary edge.
I’m definitely influenced by a minimalist aesthetic although I would say that I interpret the word minimal differently to those who believe in very monastic look. I like to think of it as combining the least amount of elements necessary to create a beautiful but functional piece whilst still maintaining a comforting sense of familiarity. I think that’s where my British influence creeps in, I enjoy classic style and I don’t want my shop to feel like a gallery or in any way uninviting.
Although the bags look sleek, to begin with, they’ll wear and warp, the leather will patina and every bit of them will transform into something different and rich in personality. They’re not at all faceless.