Kensington and Chelsea Review - Unpack Issue - Autumn 2018

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BAGS OF STYLE We’re big fans of your label. How did it come about? After studying my degree in Bratislava, I spent a year working in the UK and then studied for a MA in Nice, France. I worked many different jobs and internships, and I was inspired when I discovered an amazing community of founder-led fashion businesses in London creating some very high-quality products. Customers are more receptive to these small artisan brands than ever before. In my opinion people are growing tired of mass-produced mass-market label’ brands and becoming attracted to the moresimple artisan values: beautiful design, practicality, high-quality materials and solid craftsmanship. I wanted to create something that was objectively beautiful and timeless, which felt long-established and based on classic values, but with a contemporary twist. The goal was to make people feel special. What was your initial motivation for building the brand – your ‘lightbulb moment’ – and why did you choose to make leather business bags? One of my own frustrations was that, like many women, I was always having to carry a separate handbag and laptop bag. This is particularly inconvenient when flying or going to a meeting. I wanted one single bag that would be as beautiful as a handbag, but also as practical as a laptop bag. And so, after months of planning and many visits to tiny artisan factories in Italy, we had our first product: a rigid leather case with beautiful curves – we called it our Attaché Case – and thus, Bucklesbury was born. How did Italian craftsmanship enter the arrangement? There’s a lot of emphasis on intergenerational learning in Italy and a reluctance to simply forget techniques of the past that have been perfected over many generations. Quite simply, when it comes to producing a handcrafted leather product, Italy leads the world for skill and expertise. It’s a lot more expensive to work with manufacturers in Italy than in many other countries. But it’s important for us that every single Bucklesbury bag is a little bit special. Every piece of beautiful leather is like a fingerprint, and you can rely on Italian craftsmen to make a virtue of any differences and variations. Every Bucklesbury is handmade, and we are comfortable with imperfections when they enhance the unique beauty of an individual bag. You simply can’t get this level of artistry and craft anywhere except Italy.


You’re just 27 and your business turns over upwards of six figures. How do you view your success as a millennial entrepreneur? Is it easier to get into business nowadays with the reach of the Internet? And what were some of the hardships you encountered? What we have achieved with Bucklesbury so far is just a small fraction of what I want to do, and while I’m pleased to have gotten this far, I’m anxious to ensure we achieve our greater potential. It’s easy to think that the Internet makes building a brand much easier, but online you’re competing with a lot of big brands for the eyeballs of fleeting customers. I’ve been happy with an early decision to take the long way around’ so that through word of mouth, customers can connect with Bucklesbury much more deeply. The bags speak for themselves and the people who own them are enthusiastic global ambassadors. And I think it says a lot that we sell bags to new customers in Asia and the USA where the only way that people can discover Bucklesbury is by seeing a customer carrying a bag. Just last month I was stopped by a lovely Japanese couple at Heathrow, who wanted to know the brand of my backpack. As for hardships, we operate on much slimmer margins than our ‘super brand’ competitors because of our preference for high-quality materials and traditional production methods. So, there have been plenty of moments that I’ve seen friends progressing in their stable salaried careers and wondered ‘Why am I doing this?’ – but I think it’s important to do what you love, and I love that Bucklesbury brings pleasure to so many people. You went from being a student in Slovakia to a high-fashion designer/ entrepreneur in the UK, via France and Italy. Was this planned? And – perhaps a thorny subject – but, how do you view Brexit? There’s been a big adjustment in the PoundEuro exchange rate since the Brexit vote which we had to be careful to factor in to our plans, and whatever Brexit brings next we will work around that too. I am a Slovak founder of a British brand that is handmade in Italy; and many of our customers would think of themselves as global citizens. And our Anglo-Italian heritage is now an immovable part of our DNA. We are also realistic. The overwhelming majority of people have never heard of Bucklesbury. But that’s also part of our specialness – that we are a discovery to be made, and then whispered about. So, PAGE 20

whatever happens with Brexit, we will just keep doing what we do for those who have an appreciation for the values that we stand for: beautiful design and high-quality craftsmanship. We have heard about Bucklesbury Backpacks – what are your futureplans for these new products and others in the range? When people first discovered our Attaché cases they would say: ‘I have lots of handbags, but I don’t have this!’ and then buy one. When they first discovered our backpack – which we created because so many of our existing customers asked us to make a backpack version of our cases – they loved the combination of beauty and comfort, and the thought that had gone into making the backpack extra comfortable for women. Over time word started to spread, and Bucklesbury is something of a well-traded secret in certain circles, particularly among professional men and women who travel. We also hear from people who don’t need an Attaché or a Backpack, but who want to buy into Bucklesbury, so we’ll be adding new items to our collection soon. Initially these will be offered privately to existing customers. What connections do you have to Kensington and Chelsea? Bucklesbury exhibits at trade shows and events at Olympia, so we have a bit of a team tradition that afterward we always go to Whole Foods for noodles and a bottle of wine. It’s simple but satisfying. On a nice day I like to stroll the streets and explore the smaller independent stores. I’m also a fan of proper British pubs, and taking a stroll is a great way to find the Royal Borough’s hidden corners. What inspires you? Coco Chanel – she had a humble start in life and used her talents to make big changes. She invented trousers for women as a fashion item, launched the first unique scent for a fashion house, pioneered costume jewellery and turned the little black dress into a wardrobe staple. Her life was one of strength, determination and creative vision. I also admire Sophia Amoruso, because she started her Nasty Gal brand aged 22 and quickly built a global empire with distinct core values. I went to see her speak at her GirlBoss event in New York last year, and I was struck by how modest and self-depreciating she was about her success and her anxiety as her business flourished.

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