When did the idea to start Bronte bags come from?
I started when a friend gave me a piece of old vintage Hungarian linen, and asked me to make a bag out of it. I needed to source some leather for the handles and found a leather merchant in Brighton and that was it, once I had walked in there. I loved the shop so much it was like an Aladdins Cave and so that was the beginning of Bronte Bags.
Did you sew when you were younger?
I had always sewn, my Mum was an upholsterer and some of my fondest memories from growing up are from times when I was making things at home with my sister. We always had a sewing machine out with something on the go and I used to make clothes for my Son so sewing was just a part of my life. I don’t even remember learning to sew.
What were you doing before Bronte Bags?
I had stopped working when I had my daughter, she is now 13 and when she was old enough I worked in a shop part time in Cuckfield but before that I worked in a school for 8 years in Burgess Hill which fitted in round the children.
So did the move into Fashion Retail come quite naturally and was it something you always had an interest in?
I love fabric but also fashion, but I think as you get older you try to buy more classic pieces. We had a lot of music in our house, my Brother played music and that brings with it a certain fashion. My sister was absolutely amazing at making clothes and she was a Punk Rocker, she was a Bay City Roller, she was all the eras and made all the clothes. That’s just how it was really, if you couldn’t find it, you made it.
Can you talk to us about where your materials are sourced from and how you do this?
It’s a combination. The leather merchant I found doesn’t sell the D-rings and clasps, so I found a source for those in London. I was up in London recently- it is so inspiring. I found the Leopard Print I am using up there. The Linen I find at Antique Fairs which I love for the history. Some of the Hungarian Linen is hundreds of years old and it’s been patched, all hand sewn and they grew the flax to make the Linen and I find it all so fascinating. Sometimes when you get the striped Linen the stripe denotes which farm that wheat came from.
Looking back on the journey of Bronte Bags is there anything you wish you had done differently or learnt along the way?
Everything I know now about running this business was completely self taught. I guess you could say I am winging it! I wish I had learnt a little bit more about the business side of things before I embarked on the journey however. And I am not sure I realised just how difficult it would be to run a home, be a good mother and a business owner!
Can you talk to us a little bit about your keyrings for Alzheimers charity?
I recently lost my Father to Alzheimers so the charity is very close to my heart. My Father was always into his clothes and fashion and he was always so proud of my work. I knew I wanted to do something so I decided to use the scrap leather from the Polly Pouch bags to make a laser cut star keyring. These are available in tan or black with a high quality split key ring. All the profits are going straight to Alzheimers UK and these retail at £5.00.
Knowing that you have to be every part of the business, what is the most rewarding part?
It is just so lovely when people love your products. When you are making your products completely from scratch, by hand, at home it is so rewarding when you get brilliant feedback from customers. That’s all I could have hoped for so I am very lucky in that sense.
What do you think is one of the most difficult things about running a small company?
Probably just juggling everything. Getting your name out there! Marketing and keeping up with social media is very hard as well as running the company and making everything yourself from home !
Can you talk to me about what would be your top 3 picks for a Xmas Gift from your range?
For a Classic gift, my most popular bag is the Celine Clutch Bag which has a detachable handle, a pocket and a star riveted on the front. You can have it as a wrist look or take the handle off and use as a clutch. It works for evening and day to day and you can put it in one of the bigger bags in the range so everything is together. Also the card wallet is new so you can buy a set maybe of that, a keyring and a clutch purse. Then finally one of my big Linen bags would be a great gift as we are all aiming to reduce how much plastic we use.
You can visit Rachel’s website at https://www.brontebags.co.uk/