My design journey began with an antique Singer sewing machine. One Christmas, feeling deflated by my London-based job in public relations, I started tinkering away on the dusty old machine that my great aunt Sylvie had left the family. My mother, a very good home-seamstress, handed me a bolt of cloth and showed me some of the basics. I used some turquoise silk, embellished it with some beads and made my first ever bag. It screamed DIY not designer (which I put down to the rather unrefined, clumsy fabric handles) but it had me absolutely hooked.
Over a decade later, I have seen my bags line the shelves of some of the best stores in the world and have design accolades to my name. I still pinch myself when I see someone carrying one of my clutches.
Naturally, I have honed my design skills since those early Singer sewing machine days but I am still as involved in each and every piece as I was back then. As a niche brand owner, I am across all aspects of the business, from marketing to (groan) accounts but first and foremost I am the designer - so every bag, wallet, purse or accessory bearing the Elyse & i name comes from me.
Aside from some technical courses and being naturally pretty ‘arty’, I have no formal training in fashion so I rely purely on my instincts to drive the designs. Each designer will have their own method, but for me, each season begins with a bank of ideas. Some I will come up with while I’m sketching, others might be inspired by something I’ve seen – the piping on a vintage bag, a piece of art, a colourful record sleeve, a patterned tiled floor or a stitched pattern on an embroidered shirt. I find that inspiration is everywhere. I usually don’t know where the idea will take me, but over the course of the design process everything begins to build into one of our coveted pieces. The trick is to be able to turn an idea into something wonderful that people will hanker after - it doesn’t always work, but when you see someone else delighting in your creation, it is unspeakably rewarding.