Working with ELeather: Bag Commissions & Interview with Designer Nicola Fox

Triangle pouch commission with ELeather

Did you know that over 75% of traditional leather is unused and ends up in landfill? That’s right, only 25% is actually utilised, and given all the water, land and carbon needed in the process that’s a huge environmental impact for such a small amount of end product.

ELeather are helping to tackle this problem by manufacturing an engineered leather made from genuine leather offcuts bound for landfill. They are the original pioneers and innovators of sustainable recycled leather, which unique process recycles 95% of waste water and emits less than half the CO2 compared to traditional leather. Since 2007 they have saved 8115 tonnes of waste leather going to landfill!

ELeather headquarters

~ ELeather Headquarters in Peterborough, UK ~

Over the past 3 years, since I started using ELeather, I have been lucky enough to do a number of commissions for the company, to help showcase their new trend collections in their Peterborough showroom. ELeather work with many large corporations, mainly in the transport and aviation industry (think upholstery for buses and planes), and so it means a lot that they want to support small, independent businesses like mine.

Bag Commissions for ELeather - Eco Brights

This year I have completed 2 commissions for them which I’d like to share with you. The first one was to showcase their ‘Eco Brights’ Spring trend collection which consisted of 7 colours of varying grains. The bright, lightly washed-out colour palette mimicking the shift in mood of the season but also highlighting the need to repurpose and recycled where possible.

Eco Brights collection by ELeather

~ Eco Brights Collection - Image copyright of ELeather ~

“Growing awareness of over-consumption and the need for sustainable thinking was the main inspiration behind this collection. The colours and textures reference the fragile nature around us and highlight the need to protect it. Design must be built to last and to allow for more repurposing and recycling” said Nicky Fox, ELeather’s Designer.*

ELeather asked me to produce one of my convertible backpacks and a fold over bag and sent me 4 of the 7 leathers to work with, including 2 patterned designs. The colours and patterns worked really well together so it was easy to come up with an attractive combination for the bag designs. The leather itself is really easy to work with, and because of the way it is produced it can be cut to any size, meaning you aren’t restricted in the same way you are with leather hide.

ELeather bag commission, backpack and crossbody bag in Eco Brights collection

details of leather bag commission

Second Commission - New Romantic Collection

My next commission this year was to showcase ELeather’s ‘New Romantic’ collection, a range of 7 leathers which aim to ‘embrace the mystery and intrigue of the natural world’, featuring soft pastel shades and drawing on natural wonders such as urchins, pearls, shells and thistles.

ELeather New Romantic collection

~ New Romantic Collection Moodboard - Image copyright of ELeather ~

Head Designer Nicky Fox says: “The range is sentimental, unisex, and dreamy. It has a slight shimmer so colours shift in the light like the intricate surface of a seashell. The hero colours Pearl, Thistle and Urchin are a little hazy with iridescence, reflecting trends seen in purple and lilac.”*

Working with Nicky, we decided to make 7 triangle pouches with matching wrist straps and added a small pearl rivet to each strap to reflect the pearlescent quality of the leather. The detachable straps meant that they could be interchanged between the pouches to showcase the colours in contrast to each other.

Triangle pouch commission for ELeather

Detailed photo of triangle pouches

Interview with Nicky Fox - Head Designer at ELeather

I wanted to pick Nicky’s brains and find out about her background and what inspires her. She was more than happy to answer my questions and explain more about her design process and what is means to work for a company like ELeather

What is your job title and how long have you worked for ELeather Group?

I am the Designer at Eleather, and have been since July 2018.  Prior to this I’ve been a Colour, Material and Finish (CMF) Designer in the automotive industry, working for OEMs such as Volvo, Nissan, Lotus and McLaren.  Developing and specifying many different types of material for both car interiors and exteriors.  I initially started my design career as an Automotive Textile Designer, following my graduation from the University of Huddersfield with a Bsc (Hons) in Textile Design.

ELeather Head Designer Nicky Fox

~ Nicky Fox - Head Designer at ELeather ~

Where do you find your inspiration for new collections?

Very simply – everywhere!  Firstly, through design research at the trade shows and exhibitions for materials, interiors, design and fashion. Then cross referencing this against design publications and web feeds. But also, paying close attention to people and what you see and hear in cities when out of the office or travelling to customers.  Watching for repeating ideas / styles.

Tell me about the design process, how does it begin? Is anyone else involved in the decision-making process? How long does it take?

For the trend collections at ELeather I start thinking about them approximately a year in advance of launching, although we’re managing to finalise colours and textures much closer to the launch dates so we can make slight adjustments or improvements if needed, if we see different trends and ideas gaining momentum. I discuss developments and concepts with various teams within the business, including technical, marketing and strategic.  Then I create mood boards to present the final concept proposal internally, confirming we’re all satisfied and then it’s time to get on with producing the concept.

What does it mean to you to work for a sustainable company like ELeather? 

During my career I have found I am always happiest and most satisfied when I am able to work on a product or material that has a real benefit to people.  Whether that’s improving the functionality of a product, so the end user benefits or whether it’s helping to develop ELeather in directions that give it wider appeal and is therefore selected and used more and more, helping to reducing waste, co2 emissions and use of increasingly scarce resources such as water.

In my role I am happy to support designers allowing them to make the right choices about the products they’re designing and developing, through material selection.  Their decisions in the early stages of product development can help to reduce negative impacts on the environment further down the line, so they must be aware of the potential impact of their decisions. 

Do you have any new collections coming up that you can talk about?

We’ve just recently launched our 1st 2022 collection which is the New Romantic story.  We’ve had some very positive feedback about this collection, in particular there is one material called Pearl which is getting a lot of attention.  Here we’ve left our substrate material undyed, so the recycled content is clearly visible.  We’ve used a clearcoat to give our usual durability and performance, but for the 1st time we’ve added a mica pigment to this which gives a lovely iridescent finish at certain angles.  This is definitely my favourite colour in the New Romantic collection.  We’re hoping to follow with another collection quite soon.  All will be revealed, but it’s likely to include a new grain texture that’s quite unlike anything we’ve done before, and we’ve also looked at further 2-tone versions of ELeather that create an aged, patinated effect.
Eleather New romantic collection

~ New Romantic Collection - Image copyright of ELeather ~

And now for the 'million dollar question'! What has it been like working with me on these commissions?

Our relationship with Lauren started when she decided to use our material for some of her bags.  Obviously we were very pleased to see her products in our material, as this is a great way for people to see the potential and benefits of using ELeather.  These bags are always produced to the highest standard, so when we needed additional bags and accessories for our product showroom in Peterborough it was a no-brainer to ask Lauren to produce these for us.  Most recently, we asked Lauren to use ELeather for a bag style that we selected.  We appreciated her input on the design and her suggestions for the details such as straps and fixings.  The 7 bags are now on display in our showroom, using our New Romantic collection and we’re delighted with them!

Portrait of Lauren Holloway

~ Lauren Holloway in her studio in Bristol, UK ~ (Image copyright Jo Hounsome)

Thank you to Nicky for answering my questions in such great detail and giving more insight into her role as Head-Designer at ELeather, it's so interesting to hear about the people behind-the-scenes!

Working with the company over the past few years has been really enjoyable and I love the challenge of creating new designs and seeing them come into fruition. 

If you’re interested in using their engineered, sustainable leather I fully recommend them. Head to their website to find out more or contact them with your enquiry.

 

ELeather logo

* Quotes taken from ELeather website


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