Emma Hill departed Mulberry and left a legacy of It bags that helped revive the Brit brand. Now she’s back with Hill and Friends, a new handbag line with Georgia Fendley that hits a sweet spot price point and keeps things fun. The designer showed her collection at a pretty, mostly pink breakfast to an intimate group at Claridge’s today, presenting the six silhouettes with the help of handsome bellboys. There were also luggage trollies, silver trays and miniature ponies, but lets get back to the bags. Hill prides herself on imbuing fashion with a sense of humour—the hardware is a “winking” twist lock that appears to be a face winking when closed and opened. To keep the charm alive, each bag is named “Happy”—no Alexas or Caras here—and there’s some patriotism, as each is handmade in London.
Harpers BAZAAR: How did you approach designing this collection?
Emma Hill: I wanted something really, super classic. I’m not a bells and tricks person but they’re with a dose of fun. I just design what I think people want to carry. I like things that really have a purpose, that you can use everywhere. The twist is that the logo is in there smiling and he winks when you open it. It’s for my kind of girl.
And you’ve made it so they’re available as soon as you’re showing?
EH: Not all of them but six are on hillandfriends.com. Because we really wanted to address that as well, the fact that you don’t have to wait for six months. It’s not the whole lot because I was like, ‘I have no idea why everyone doesn’t do this.’ I found out quite quickly why people don’t do it. But I think it’s really important, people see something, they fall in love with it and they want to get it.
And to make the bags in England, you actually helped a factory that was in trouble?
EH: Yes, it was a factory that I previously worked with and I think manufacturing in England is really important. I think people are more concerned about the provenance of their things and they make an amazing product. It’s not just a political kind of stance, but it’s incredible. We’re staunchly a British company.
And staying local is important to you?
EH: Yes. Our teddies are made in England as well and the hardware is from Italy because I haven¹t found a hardware factory yet. But yeah, amazing. And actually even one of the leathers, the goat, is from an English tannery. English goats, tanned in England.
What did you differently with your own brand than you had in the past?
EH: I just wanted to really stay true to myself. If I look at my career and look at the things that I designed, it’s really quite amazing. I really like a sense of proportion, I like big fit, big hardware on little bags and vice versa, and I always like things that are a little chubby, I like quite classic designs with something funny, I don’t like an overtly difficult-to-use bag, so it’s quite interesting. Every time you go from one job to another, you think about what you’re going to change and what you’re going to do, but inherently everything I’ve done is me and you just have to, as a designer, you only have your gut instinct to follow. And I just did things I wanted to carry because that’s nice, isn’t it?
Why was it important to you to keep the price point approachable?
EH: Because I think it’s a real sweet spot in the market and especially to have something made in England at that price point. I think that a lot has happened in the bag world, especially with price points. I think that you have to remember that 1,000 pounds, for a lot of people, is a very expensive bag. I just think it¹s a great price point— I’ve accrued success there before and there’s no reason why you can’t do it.
Do you have plans to start naming them after your friends, the way previous bags are named after girls, or will you stick with “Happy”?
EH: The next season they carry on being happy, we’ve got a lot more happiness to give for a while.