Shona Easton is a bag lady, in the nicest possible way. She’s a bag designer. If you’ve ever wondered how you become a bag designer we’re about to find out. Shona has been running her own business since 1996 and her own designer label launched in 2002.
Jane: Shona, do share, how does one become a bag designer? Did you leave education with the idea of designing bags? Can you do a course in bag design?
Shona: Not a course in bag design – they weren’t around when I was a student. I studied Fashion Design at Kingston Uni (Poly then) and I thought I wanted to be a casual/weekend wear designer. Luckily for me, I was offered a job in fashion accessories, just 1 week after leaving my degree. I absolutely loved it but it wasn’t the ‘fashion clothes’ that I’d trained to design but after a while I realised how lucky I was. I was designing all accessories – belts, scarves, handbags, hats, hair accessories (they were big news then), while my ‘clothing designer’ friends were stuck working on blouses or men’s formal trousers – just one garment type!
In your opinion, what makes a great bag?
It’s got to be practical and look great. I usually go for bold colour – especially if the design is very simple – I imagine a stylish retired lady on the beach,or on a fabulous cruise using one of my leather shoppers as her bright beach bag. It’ll last forever.
I’ve always thought bags must have a huge appeal; after all they always fit you… When did your love affair with bags actually start?
I love the ‘fit you’ idea Jane.
I hand sewed my own bags when I was at school – out of off cut materials from the clothing I was making, with leather trims I bought from a local market. I even hand made leather neck purses for my friend’s dinner money at school. I wish I had photos of them. But my real love of what I was creating, came from my time working at Jane Shilton in the 1990’s. As the main designer there for leather – I was so lucky to have a sample maker, ready to put my latest design into prototype, so I could see it in 3D just hours after putting pen to paper.
Seeing your tweets I can tell you are a great globe trotter. How much travel does the business involve?
I travel a lot for business. It’s great to keep up with trends all over the world and I do need to visit my factories and suppliers. However, I really love my holiday travel to more unusual places – like recently to Al Mussanah in Oman and to Pondicherry in India. I’m looking forward to a trip to Petra, Jordan in October this year.
I’ve got travel envy now…What has been the most challenging thing about running your own business?
And what is the most rewarding aspect of running your own business?
Being able to work when I like (like 10pm on Monday night) but also being able to pop out. I usually get up at 7 and work from 7.30 to 8.30, then I go to the gym (for a class) back and at my desk at 9.30. Feeling great!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received about setting up and running a business?
When I was 18 or 19, my college arranged a trip to London (from Chester) to visit the shops, museums and to see Paul Smith give a lecture to students from all over the country. That Paul Smith lecture made me realise – I can do this. I can be whatever I want. If you know the Paul Smith story, you’ll understand.
With the benefit of hindsight, is there something you would do differently if you were to start again?
Yes, I wouldn’t have tried too hard to conform to what other people ‘think’ they want me to design. I’ve made money out of that – yes but it’s taken me longer to realise that my own style has merit and that there are plenty of people out there who love what I do.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Be true to yourself. If offered an opportunity take it but if you can, stay as true to your own self belief as you can.
You may not want to answer this but what is your favourite bag in the current collection?
Ha ha – my current favourite is one that is about to arrive – a super suede (limited edition) large hand-held – we have it coming in purple, citrus, rose and olive. I’m toying with citrus or rose…but if we’ve pre-sold out already I won’t get one!
Obviously you are a true bag devotee but if you had to pick an alternative career, what would it be and why?
My alternative career would be the one I thought of before this one – Chef! I love cooking and inventing recipes. I hardly ever use a cook book. Cooking and inventing meals is my hobby now and I can do it every day. All made from fresh, raw ingredients – no cheating! See the smoothie recipes on my blog. I might post other invented recipes in time.
Shona thanks so much for speaking with us. I have a couple of your products and just love them!
If you’d like to see some of the bags Shona’s talking about simply click this link to go directly to her website.
Posted on June 11th, 2014 by Jane