The founder of handbag brand Florian London is expanding in the US following a double win at the Independent Handbag Designer Awards.
What inspired you to set up your own accessories brand?
My wife often remarked how difficult it was to find a bag that paired great quality with a considered design at an affordable price. There are bags at the top end of the scale with designer names and price tags or cheap alternatives with no consideration of these details and quality. I wanted to find a balance where luxury meets affordability. So, as clichéd as it sounds, I took a risk and left a secure job as a media consultant in a design firm in 2011 - I put pen to paper and began sketching out shapes. My own personal design aesthetic has always been very classic and I soon found a common style to my designs which then rapidly developed.
Have you always wanted to work in fashion?
My debut in the fashion industry came about quite organically, but I think there was always a trace of this even when I was at school. For me, Florian combines a passion for great design with practicality. So when I’m designing, it’s not just about the look, there’s so much more, about the engineering of a bag, how it works and how it’s worn and used by a woman that really excites me.How did it feel winning the best handbag in overall style and design, as well as the InStyle.com audience fan favourite award at the Independent Handbag Designer Awards in New York in June? The double win was a huge landmark for the brand. Being up there on a global platform was a huge step forward and has really given us the entrance we needed into the US market. Florian was one of seven brands selected from more than 1,500 entries and voted for by big industry leaders, so it was a huge honour to be acknowledged by them in the best overall style and design category. For me, it wasn’t just about the win but the overwhelming reaction from the voters. We received 77,000 votes in the audience fan favourite award for our Vienna bag, which was very humbling.
How has the brand evolved since your first collection?
The signature style of the range has remained quite constant, but now I have the confidence to be a little more playful and push boundaries. I still look at British heritage design when I’m researching for a new collection and I am constantly evaluating the scale and practicality, but I think it’s important to evolve. The autumn 14 collection gives a wider scope of design, colour and scale; I like to think I’ve designed something for every woman. As a designer, I now have the luxury of hindsight. Looking at past designs that have worked really well and aspects that have been less successful has really helped me develop.
How does it feel to see your designs in stores?
When a store is willing to give you that platform it’s an incredibly rewarding feeling. When you have the opportunity to step back and see your product in a commercial environment, it gives your design context and credibility. Wolf & Badger in London has been incredibly supportive and took the brand on when we were still new to the market; having it as a stockist increased our name and credibility in the UK. Having Bloomingdale’s in the US stock our latest range is on a whole new level because of its international acclaim.
What’s your favourite trade show?
We’ll be attending Magic in Los Angeles and Las Vegas in 2015 and have previously shown at Pure London, in August 2013, which was a good experience. Scoop in London is also a fantastic show; The Saatchi Gallery is a really nice setting and has an intimate feel that sits well with our aesthetic. The Box in Paris also has that exclusive feel, which we look for in a trade show, more so than the huge shows, where you can feel a little overwhelmed and lost in the mix and scale.
What has been your career highlight to date?
Winning the two awards in New York was the biggest achievement for me. Having industry leaders like Deborah Lloyd, the creative director of [US womenswear and accessories brand] Kate Spade, acknowledge the brand is an incredible feeling. When I finally get the chance to visit a Bloomingdale’s store this autumn to see our new range that will also be a very moving moment.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Seeing all our hard work come to fruition - the finished result. So much time is spent on the development of our bags - ironing out the creases, making the most seemingly insignificant details perfect - that when I finally get a finished product into my hands, it’s such a huge sense of achievement.
Who do you admire in the industry?
I have an appreciation for real masters of craft, whether it’s a goldsmith, a tanner or a tailor. For me it’s about an appreciation for the craft that goes into producing a high-quality product. Someone like [luxury leather goods designer] Bill Amberg, who has built a name as an artisan with an uncompromising attitude to focus on quality.
Where do you do most of your clothes shopping?
I’m a pilgrim of the online shopping generation. I mix high-end high street with designer labels - Asos and Mr Porter are favourites.