Drapers spoke to Susy Brown, founder and designer at luxury British bag brand Baia, to find out about her small-scale manufacturing and passion for “slow fashion”.
Susy Brown Baia
Susy Brown founded the luxury accessories brand Baia in 2012. Characterised by an understated, modern luxury, retail prices range from £180 for a shoulder bag to £380 for a suede tote, and stockists include Fortnum & Mason, Studio B and Young British Designers. Each bag is produced at the brand’s base in Yorkshire. Drapers spoke to Brown to find out more about her passion for “slow fashion”.
What’s your background? How did you come to be working in fashion?
I studied a BA in Fashion at Manchester Metropolitan University and then fell into working for a bespoke bag brand in Manchester, where I learnt my trade. After a year I decided I wanted to do things my own way, so I set up Baia. I never found fashion design particularly easy, but for some reason, bag design and making felt very natural.
Where does the brand name come from? What does it mean?
Baia is an Italian word that means “coastal bay”. I’d hoped for a name with no specific connotations, which is why I never wanted to use my own name, and found Baia while flicking through an Italian dictionary. It just clicked!
You focus on “slow fashion”. What does that mean and why is it important to you?
British-made “slow fashion” to me is about quality and integrity. I find it impossible to design without knowing how I will make a piece. I cannot divide the two. As a result, the cornerstone of Baia has always been that the pieces are produced by hand, in house. This means it’s about as far removed from mass production as can possibly be.
Can you tell us a little about your manufacturing? Why do you manufacture in the UK?
Baia started in my spare room, and I made each piece by hand. After five years and a lot of hard work the brand has continued to grow and all production has stayed in house. It didn’t occur to me to approach a factory and place a minimum order, and I certainly didn’t have the money. This has allowed the business to grow organically and keep in-house manufacturing at its core.
How has the brand grown since you first started out?
Initially I would work on one design at a time seasonally, and not ahead, but I quite quickly realised that to be a commercial business, I had to adhere to the fashion calendar. This allowed me to start showing at London Fashion Week Designer Showrooms, which really pushed the brand forward, both in terms of design and commercially.
It encouraged me to be more ambitious about where the brand could sit in the marketplace, as well as make bolder choices with colour and design. As a result, Baia’s wholesale order book has grown steadily and consistently, and we’ve experienced greater demand from online customers.
How do you keep yourself motivated and creative?
I visit London frequently and try to visit galleries and museums while I’m there. I think that inevitably I spend more time than I’d like to admit on social media soaking up current imagery, trends, and fresh ideas. I often find colour to be the most inspiring aspect of design, particularly when focusing on new collections.
Is there anyone in the industry you particularly admire?
The footwear brand Dear Frances is one I’ve admired for a long time. It has grown very successfully and maintained its beautiful brand identity. Also, Marina Guergova for setting up the Basics Store, which is such a brilliant celebration of independent brands.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received?
The best advice I’ve had is to listen to your gut and understand your instincts. The biggest challenge in running a business is learning to trust yourself.
Favourite clothing brand
Favourite places to shop
& Other Stories and Liberty
Last fashion purchase
A dress from Zara for my birthday
Majorca last summer
Last book you read
I read constantly, but the last book was The Muse by Jessie Burton
Last film you watched
I prefer a box set. GLOW was amazing
Waitress at the local pub
A gardener at Chatsworth House or a gift-wrapper
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
I’m a bit of a homebody, so I like to cook, walk the dog and get out in the garden if the sun is shining – a rarity in Yorkshire