Since interviewing Jo Malone - a legend in the beauty industry and a name that is globally recognised- I've become fascinated with how individuals build personal brands. One success story in the making is Arran Frances who has created a chic paired back collection of handbags that will likely become classic items in years to come.
With a background in product design there is structured detail in every element of the bags. The first collection sold out rapidly predicting she's onto something big.
As she gears up for a second release I was able to catch a few minutes with her to discuss building a personal brand. I'm always fascinated by how much thought goes into every single detail, and what drives people to produce and also how they balance and make their work, work. This will provide some insight into her world-
What is your morning routine?
Since becoming a mum it kind of revolves around when my son gets up. My husband and I take it in turns getting him ready and out the door. I do love our mornings together. We have some porridge or eggs. In general there's very little time for me to get ready but the number one thing is I moisturise properly, especially in Winter. I use a variety of products but currently I'm loving Neo Strata and Kiehls. I usually arrive in the office at about 9.30 and firstly I write a list and prioritise. Then it's emails and trying to work my way through it.
Why handbags initially?
I came from a product design background having studied in both DIT and Kingston University and I was designing furniture, tableware and mechanical design. I was making a handbag for my sister for Christmas over four years ago and I was working above this specialist haberdashery. I went in on my lunch-break. To be honest I had never seen most of the stuff before and I was asking what does this and that do and I found it all so fascinating. The key moment for me was when I when I saw these rolls of rubber cord and I was told they are used inside leather handles to make them stiffer. In my head I couldn't understand why would you hide the rubber in the leather when it's such a lovely material in itself. For me it's all about design honesty and using materials for their strength - if the rubber needs to be used to support the strap, why not just use the rubber? I started designing with the rubber cord, which is still in my designs today, and I just ran with it. I kind of found my niche.
What drove you to create your own brand?
I was working for other companies for a long time and I really wanted to create my own designs rather than adhering to someone else's brief in their style. I wanted to be able to fully express myself. I made the transition and gave up the day job just over three years ago. Something happened which was really beneficial. I quit my job and I was very scared and overwhelmed initially. My old boss called me and asked would I come back in for a few days and I remember the feeling sitting back at my desk and it brought home the fact that I needed to be personally fulfilled and it gave me the confidence to move forward.
How is what you are offering unique?
I think my background reflects in my design and my stance on design honesty, using materials for their strength and eliminating superfluous details. I almost start with the raw materials and they really inform the design from the beginning leading to something innately beautiful. I think it really speaks to people when they see something so simply beautiful. I think that's why my bags have been received so well. For my first collection I wanted it to really reflect me and there's a lot of personal choices but as much as I will do collections, I like to think that my bags are timeless. We've focused so much on quality. Every element of the bag is sourced within the EU to support local employment and reduce shipping mileage. The leather is Italian, all the hardware is handmade in Italy, the rubber cord is from the UK, the lining is Spanish. Even our packaging boxes are made in the UK.
Have you any particular techniques for time management and goal setting?
I use lists in my private and work life as I find they really help me clear my head and focus. For production I've been focused on critical path management. As the company is small at present I am involved in so many elements.
Do you live your brand or is it something you leave at the office over the weekend?
When I am with my son I am just Mama so I don't check my emails and I don't answer work calls when it's just the two of us. Initially I was working at home and I found it very hard as I couldn't switch off but now that I have a studio it's a lot more healthy but I try and leave work to the studio as much as possible.
In terms of hiring key members of staff how do you make sure they stay true to your message?
At this stage I am able to be involved in every aspect to enable that the brands message is communicated as effectively as possible but as we grow I know I will have to allow other people take the reins more. I am very lucky to have a great team behind me so I know I will have nothing to worry about and making that move is a likely next step.
As technology develops do you delegate or are you keen to know how to do it all yourself?
I try and understand it as much as I can so I can make informed decisions. I didn't build the website but I was involved in it all. But I know where my strengths lie so I'm happy to delegate.
Who do you follow on social media?
I like to follow the other smaller brands to show them support because I know how hard it can be and also because I find it very inspiring as well. I also follow a lot of galleries, artists and architects.
*This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Arran Frances. For more information see my disclaimer.