How A Gift Turned Into a Business
During this season of giving I will be featuring gifts that I hope inspire you. Not just to purchase and give (to yourself or someone else!) but to give us a push to take a risk and do something new and creative. I must say the bag featured this week is my absolute favorite work bag ever and believe me I have tried quite a few. As you know I am most interested in the backstory of the designer of the garments or accessories I am featuring. So I asked Natasha O'Farrell the designer of the bag I wrote about and featured Monday, to send me her backstory and here it is. She takes us step by step through her process of innovation and reinvention. For those of us embarked on similar projects her story is as much of a gift as her bag is.
I started out in film and marketing and more recently, have been heading up the Patrons and Membership department at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the UK’s oldest public museum.
I have always been interested in fashion and design, however, and the idea for making this bag came quite by chance when my husband brought me back a souvenir from a business trip to Shanghai. This gift was an unusually shaped bag given to him by a work colleague; it was made of low-grade felt, rectangular with a circular handle in the top corner.
I used the bag to carry the overflow from my own handbag in, and then gradually began to use it as my handbag for work. After wearing it for a few weeks, I received numerous comments, mostly from strangers on the street, such as: “Ooh, that’s an interesting bag”; “What a strange and interesting shape!”; “Where did you buy that?”.
Inspired by its practicality as a ‘work’ bag and motivated by the comments and reactions I was getting, I thought if I made a few simple changes to the design and material, this could be not only my ideal handbag but also something that might even be a new and dynamic edition to the handbag market. Unable to find anything similar, I decided to develop the design, convinced that I could make a new style of tote bag that was geometric in shape, elegantly simple and manufactured in both leather and suede. And so, the design and concept for the O Farrell Collection was born...
I then set about sourcing an English leather manufacturer, determined that the bag should be made in England. Naturally, my attempts to find such a leather manufacturer took many unexpected turns and numerous setbacks. After much perseverance, I eventually found one in Northampton, a town known for manufacturing shoes and leather goods, now made famous by the Broadway show Kinky Boots. They loved my design and were keen to incorporate women’s handbags into its portfolio. As a manufacturer, they are quite traditional in their craftsmanship, which suits me perfectly and fitted in well with the ethos of the bag. They offered an exciting selection of leathers and suede from tanneries across northern Italy to choose from, and most importantly, they were flexible enough for me to produce the bag initially in very small quantities.
The next stage was to design a website for the launch. I found a website designer locally who offered to build the site pro bono. A great friend of mine agreed to model the bag, while another friend helped me produce the logo.
The first prototype arrived in the spring of 2014 and within the next few months, the current design for the bag was finalised. As compliments on the bag continued, by the end of 2014, I had various contacts lined up ready to buy one and the website itself then went live at the beginning of 2015. From this my enthusiasm grew exponentially and I felt as if I had to keep on going, introducing the bag to a wider audience in whatever way I could.
The last couple of years have been busy, juggling my family, job and newfound guilty pleasure. Ever since the bag became something of a reality, I have been expanding my knowledge of leather, social media and fashion. I still have so much to learn, of course, but I am convinced that this unusually shaped tote handbag encapsulates certain simplicity that stylish women will adore.
Natasha O Farrell was launched in January 2015.
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Did a gift ever inspire you to do something creative and new?