I wanted to write this purely as a presentation of what Taylor Yates is as a brand, talk about them, what they do and how do they do it. However after giving it a lot of thought, I decided that the story would be much more interesting when heard straight from the founder, and so therefore I decided to meet up with her and ask her a few questions during their launch at the Wolf and Badger store in London.

As many of you know I have decided quite a long time ago to stop wearing real fur as well as leather, and one of the things which intrigued me the most about this brand is the fact that even though they are using real leather, they classify themselves as a ethical and sustainable brand. How is that possible and what is the story behind the brand Taylor Yates? Keep on reading below.

I met Karen and her lovely daughter Ellen back in November. After long chats and laughs over a glass of Prosecco of course, I finally made the courage to ask Karen aside and start this interview.

Teo: Hello Karen, and thank you so much for taking a little bit of time to talk to me about you, your brand and what does it mean to you. First of all, how would you describe the ideal woman who would wear your creations? Was there ever such  thing as you imagining a certain type of woman you would like to see wearing your products, or that was never the case?

Karen: Yes, the Taylor Yates woman to me is a woman who is always doing something, always on the go. Doesn’t matter to me whether she is looking after her children or her family, running a big, or a small business, as long as she is doing something, keeping active. A woman who is busy, a woman who has got her own style and doesn’t go by the actual trends, but more towards timeless pieces which can be worn over and over again. We like to think our products are worn by confident women, or that in some way our bags helped them in gaining a little bit of extra confidence. It was always about somebody who had a purpose.

Teo: Your bags are designed in Ireland, what is the one thing which inspires you the most about the country itself?

Karen: Ireland for me is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I live by the sea so I would probably say the space, the colours, and the sunset. These have really inspired the whole collection in terms of those muted colour tones we currently use. We do get a lot of grey days but in all honesty, seeing the colours from those days come to life is one of the most beautiful things. That is when you realise that a grey day is probably not that bad. We do want our bags to enhance a look, more than being the look itself.

Teo: In your opinion, what would be the most versatile item from the collection?

Karen laughs a little: Well right now my favourite piece in the collection is Agnes. Agnes is to me the modern tote, the slouchy bag that you can take where ever you want to. But equally if I am going out somewhere and I had a day to night kind of thing then I can wear it just as good. Alice is good too, Alice was the original, but at the moment I would say Agnes is the most versatile and can be easily taken from day to night anytime.

Interview-with-Karen-founder-of-taylor-yates

SHOP AGNES HERE

 

Interview-with-Karen-founder-of-taylor-yates

SHOP ALICE HERE

 

Teo: I know you already mentioned Agnes as your go to, but if someone would want to take their look from day to night and maybe looking for something quite smaller? Would it be another bag which you would truly recommend?

Karen: Yes, absolutely! Another bag worth a mention in this matter would be Frances. It has a cross body strap which makes it perfect for daytime, and then you take it off and put it in and you can wear it at night. It has little compartments in it so you can easily put in everything you need. I have also used that if I was out during daytime but knew I had an event or a dinner in the evening.

Interview-with-Karen-founder-of-taylor-yates

SHOP FRANCES HERE

 

Teo: We hear more and more people discuss sustainability, what steps does your brand take into this direction?

Karen: We gave this a lot of thinking in the beginning, and specifically because we are working with leather. All of the leather we use is strictly a by-product of food production and all of our products are made in Britain. So, as far as the product travels, that is quite important to us. One of our biggest challenges especially as we grow, will be the waste. All remaining leather from our products is still in the factory, and currently we are working on a range of bags in which we will be using the leftovers and create something beautiful and creative without waste.

Teo: So you are going towards the Zero Waste side?

Karen: Yes! Another big issue we face at the moment is the packaging of our products. It is quite hard to find a packaging to which is fully sustainable. You know sometimes our bags could arrive with bubble wrap and that is not environmentally friendly, as well as not ideal for us as an ethical brand. This is the biggest challenge we face at the moment and something we are working towards very hard.

Teo: So do you have anything planned in regards to that? Any ideas on how you could avoid that as much as possible?

Karen:  Initially, we had our bags wrapped in ground paper. So we are currently talking to the factory as in why and if we couldn’t go back into that…our dust bags too, we do not use the normal dust bags. We source ours from an organic cotton  and make them usable. Personally, I don’t particularly like the idea of a bag which is just there to protect your product and nothing else. So from the beginning we always had an organic tote that we use to give away with our product. It is indeed a constant challenge but we try to make progress everyday and hope to be able to achieve a brand which is as sustainable as possible.

Teo: If you could pick three favourites from the collections, be it old or new ones, which would these be?

Karen: Three favourites, ok! I am loving Norma, she is one of the new shoulder bags we have. It is really hard to pick three. All of the bags are made based on the people they were named after, so there is an element of uniqueness in each one of them. Norma is new and beautiful and it is a bag which was brought back based on a model from the 90’s. My mom pushed me towards it, she said ”Go for it!” and so we recreated it. Another one would be Elsie, I love the fact that we managed to get the pleats in the leather and the way it folds together is just gorgeous, and then I would be really torn between either Alice or Agnes.

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SHOP ELSIE HERE

 

Teo: Ok, I will give you four favourites then and we will be fine {laughs}. Tell me a little bit about the beginning, the starting point of the brand, the critical point when you decided whether to do it or not? How and when did you start the Taylor Yates journey?

Karen: So we launched in November 2016, almost three years go. However, I was working on it and on the idea of it about two or three years before that. In the first place, I started a business with designing t-shirts with images on the front that I thought were beautiful, and I wanted to create a socially good business, the kind of business that would give back to people. After starting a few business I realised that the giving back idea is a good one, but it is not that easy. The idea of handbags actually started with Ellen, my daughter, back to when she turned eighteen. I was looking on the market place thinking what could I possibly buy her ;but there wasn’t anything which really caught my eye and know that she will indeed love . I couldn’t find anything that would actually feel like real leather, soft, slouchy and nice to touch. We were actually, as cliche as this sounds, we were around the kitchen table. Mavis was our first bag and I looked at Ellen and said to her ”Can you imagine that, in the same leather as your jacket? It would be gorgeous wouldn’t it? Much better than those plastic ones you would get for the festivals” and that is where it started. She looked at me and asked me ” Ok so why not do it then?” and I suppose that drove me to go forward and actually bring this idea to life.

Teo: I know all your bags are named after really important and influential women in your life, your auntie, grandmother, your mom, etc. How did these women inspire you?

Karen: We were actually driving to Belfast one day and I said to Ellen ”I know what we going to name the bags” and she was like ”what?”. I remember that every Saturday morning when I was little I would be in the hairdresser with my mother, aunties, and grandmother at my grandmother’s house, that is how I spent my early years, listening to all these amazing women! I think it was somewhere in that time spent…they kind of inspired me to be who I wanted to be.

Teo: So what was the moment which made you be sure about this idea, naming your products after each one of them? How did it happen? Where did the idea come from?

Karen: I remember them always carrying a handbag and a lipstick. They wouldn’t go anywhere without them. These were the two things they would never leave the house without.

Teo: Last but not least, what is the most important piece of advice you received until now?

Karen smiles at me and then stares into the distance for a brief moment, before looking back: You need a huge  amount of tenacity and motivation indeed. The first time someone buys one of your products, a product that you’ve designed, is huge. The thought that you created something which someone loves is amazing. Honestly, I think the most important thing I heard is that it is really important to grow organically and at your own peace, find your target audience and stay motivated. I feel like in today’s day everything happens really quickly, the industry is changing every second, so in a world like this, I think one of the most important things is to stand out, have a really unique story behind your brand and not go with the flow.

I smile then stand up and thank Karen for the time she took to give me this interview, she smiles at me and then we hug. It is very hard to find friendly and genuine people in the fashion industry, and Karen has indeed left me with a really really good impression along with her daughter, Ellen. You can shop your very own Taylor Yates bag HERE.

theblondewaves
theo@theblondewaves.com

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