How we started our small handmade business

British Handmade Leather Bags:

story of a small handmade business

Burnham on Crouch

When Steve was appointed a .6 Senior Lecturer position at London College of Fashion, we moved to Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, in a tiny mid-terraced house overlooking a lovely little park called the Pippins Reserve.

Having lived in the chaos of central Turin for many years, surrounded by cars, trams, buses and screaming people, this was heaven. Only an hour by train from Liverpool Street, this small country town ticked all the boxes for us: several pubs, Indian and Thai restaurants, yacht clubs, a wonderful quay side along the river Crouch and everything at walking distance. 

However, we were both working hard without being able to save much.

One evening, Steve said to me: "Why is it that I can't make a living off my art?"
- Mon cheri, because nobody knows about you and your bags. You are invisible. You need to go out there and show them to the world. 
- How do we do that? We don't know many people in England...
- Well, we need to invest in Trade Shows and a website!

 preparing the show

That's how it all started.... we applied for our first show: Pure in London. Steve created new styles to complete his existing collection. We had a little money that paid for an expensive stand and more Italian leather. 

Pure London

Everybody loved his bags: from organizers to exhibitors and of course, retailers. We were invited to show at a German fair with other British new comers to the world of fashion and design. 

We took credit cards to fund dozens of trade fairs in Paris, Frankfurt, Milan and of course London. We totalled about 50 outlets in the UK, 20 abroad from Brussels to New York, Hamburg to Palermo, Milan, Amsterdam, ... 

Tendence Trade Fair

...until Steve quit his job at LCF (he hated the bureaucracy)... in July 2008... 

just before the big financial crash!  Many shops disappeared or had to reduce their stock, even Takashimaya New York had to close down! Amazon and online shopping transformed the retail industry. 

Takashimaya New York

Now ten years later, Steven Harkin bags are still made in Britain, by just one man and have acquired a pretty loyal group of followers. I have slowly developed our online presence and am still very busy at it. You can find us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and we also have an Etsy shop.
Bags have been purchased by Museums, featured in the press, even worn by a few celebrities....
It's all down to a great talent, a lot of determination, endless optimism and absolutely fantastic supporters: you, our friends. 😊

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