MEET: Cameron Saul + his bags of BOTTLETOP

Back in the Old Days, when I was writing this blog multiple times a week, I was regularly asked by friends (and friends of friends) if it might be possible for me to write about their recently launched widget or daughter in law’s (unexceptional) art or even a neighbour’s recently opened (kebab) restaurant. It was a curious position to be in but, after quite a bit of practice, I became a dab hand at editorially ducking-out.

Cameron Saul of  Bottletop at One Marylebone

Cameron Saul of Bottletop at One Marylebone

On this occasion, there was no ducking out to be done. I was all YES-YES-YES.   This particular friend was offering an interview with Cameron Saul.  Cameron launched The Bottletop Foundation back in 2002 with his father, Roger, through a design collaboration with Mulberry and these aluminum pop art handbags, made from recycled ring pulls, have been on my shopping radar for a while. But the retailer isn’t just pulling at purse strings because my head and heart are desperately impressed by how his business is also generating local employment and raising vital funds for grass roots education in Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Brazil and here in London.

bottletop purse

So I wasn’t just intrigued to meet Cameron, I really wanted to properly check out his latest range –designed by Vincent Du Sartel, former Creative Director at Loewe – while also hear in more detail where this positively ethical brand is moving…

did you always feel a career in handbags was on the cards?  Not handbags as such but I’ve been really interested in the design process. Growing up, Mulberry was very much a family business and my father often included us all in business decisions with lots of discussion around the kitchen table.

Cameron Saul of Bottletops

how has your father supported your business? Well, he co-founded the Bottletop Foundation with me by kick starting a fundraising campaign around Mulberry – after he visited me during my 9 month stint teaching heath education in rural Africa. We raised £150k to support the health campaign in Uganda.

which bag has been the best seller to date? Without doubt, the Bellani.   This is the classic style that we named in honour of Oliver’s (Cameron’s business partner Oliver Wayman) mother who taught us this crucial crochet technique.

bottletops bags

what are the limitations on making bags with Zero Deforestation leather?  Actually, there aren’t any limitations – fundamentally it’s simply a super high quality leather which has been ethically sourced. But the crucial point is that awareness of destruction of Amazonian Rainforest due to cattle ranching for beef and leather is disappointingly low. An area the size of New Mexico has been wiped out due to ranching for the beef and leather industry. Do you know where the leather of your handbag comes from? We need the consumer to want and need to know…

what is your day-to-day role in the company? I touch on all the key areas of the business, product development with our atelier in Salvador, digital marketing, how social media is reflecting our brand essence, PR, fundraising for our foundation…

where is Bottletop currently retailed? Selfridges, all Conran shops, online and soon to be in the Edition hotels.

bottletop bags

where would you love your products to be stocked? I’ve always been a massive fan of the retailer Matches so that would make a great partnership. Darkroom is also very high on my list…

what have been the biggest obstacles bringing an ethical bag brand to market? Simply those obstacles any brand trying to enter the premium fashion world would find themselves up against … ie those other brands with very different budgets… but our mission helps out here.

where would we find you taking some time out? I love skateboarding and surfing.

who would you love to be seen carrying one of your bags or wearing one of your belts? We are huge fans of Emma Watson and everything she stands for.

how much do ambition and connections come into play when working in fashion? Undoubtedly they come into play a lot. You need to reach out to anyone and everyone in order to survive. The larger piece of the jigsaw is achieving the rest.

is your business your life or your life your business? Most of the time it’s a healthy balance – maybe because I’m deeply passionate about what I do.

what’s next for Bottletop? This weekend we are launching our first pop up shop on Redchurch Street, Shoreditch.

I cheekily asked Cameron if he could pass a 15% discount onto my readers until 16th May if they dropped into this pop up. He said yes. Nip down and quote Life of Yablon at the till. You’ll LOVE these bags and feel a whole load better about how they came to be.

 bottletops belts

 

 

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concrete jungle

It’s been a week.  A brilliant, exhausting week in this concrete jungle of a playground.  I know some of you are going to ask where we stayed and what we did (just as I quizzed those who have recently played here).  So I’ve made a word cloud in the shape of a (type of) skyscraper with our list but – of course – you can email directly if you want more details.

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And it wouldn’t be my blog post without photography.  I hung the AMAZING new Olympus Pen F around my neck and off we walked…

new york life of yablon

new york life of yablon

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new york life of yablonnew york life of yablon

 new york life of yablon

new york life of yablon

For more images of our NYC adventure – follow me on Instagram.

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a Scandi-inspired brunch for kikki.K

It all started around the big white table at Push.   A few of us were chit chatting about kikki.K and their new homeware range Svenska Hem Sma Stunder. As with so much of their stunning wares, there’s a strong Scandi-vibe coming through from Kristina, the founder.

beetroot, blood orange, apple and ginger juice prepared by Building Feasts for kikki.K and served in their glass water bottle

beetroot, blood orange, apple and ginger juice prepared by Building Feasts for kikki.K and served in their glass water bottle

Scandi-inspired living is more than just ‘a thing’. The super cool Nordic theme has infiltrated our cookbooks, interiors, entertaining, literature, art… and it’s best appreciated up close. Intimate. In someone’s private living space.

Building Feasts' beautiful home

Building Feasts’ beautiful home

I immediately thought of Building Feasts. Half American, designer by profession, entertaining kitchen guru by nature – there’s no denying a strong influence of something absolutely Swedish in her stunning (self-designed) home. And right there and then (without speaking to her first), a Scandi-inspired brunch for kikki.K and a particular bunch of in-tune influencers was born.

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from left: Poppy, Sophie, Vikki and Nathan

Building Feasts with her baked oats

Building Feasts with her baked oats

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Building Feasts demo’d gravadlax with dill and mustard sauce on rye – served on kikki.K’s wooden tray

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Most of the curated guest list have written their own version of the Building Feasts’ cooking demo, the menu we consumed and their thoughts on the new kikki.K homeware. Some have even included recipes (so dig deep) while others have mentioned that they might never need eat again.

I’m busy negotiating another version of the events. Do shout if you’d like to be on the guest list.

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MEET: Jessica de Lotz + her jewels

It is so VERY rare that I come face-to-face with the daughter of an antiquarian book dealer.  Someone who might understand just how it felt growing up surrounded by dusty, stained dust jackets, appreciating literary treasures with ‘age tan’ and original leather boards all while living permanently amongst box upon box of out-of-print, high value relics.

Jessica de Lotz shop kentish town

But recently, when catching up with that friend with a jewelDAR Esther Coren, she suggested nipping into the new jewellery workshop/shop at the end of her road, I did indeed find Jessica de Lotz, the daughter of a bookseller.

Jessica de Lotz + Esther Coren

Jessica de Lotz + Esther Coren

Local to the neighbourhood, Jessica chose Kentish Town as the location for her first shop and then went on to design her retail space so that the workbench is visible from the shop floor…  a genius move bearing in mind just how personal all her designs feel.

Jessica de Lotz

Once over the threshold, I was right in there – drooling, photographing and quizzing this minx of a girl in her room of quirky antiques and alluring jewels:

How long has your shop now been open?  For just over a month now – early days? but I’ve had such an overwhelmingly positive response so far.

there wasn't one ring I didn't want... but there was one ring I HAD to have...

there wasn’t one ring I didn’t want… but there was one ring I HAD to have…

match box obsession

What has been the most surprising thing you have learnt as a shop owner?  It requires a whole new level of responsibility! It’s like having a baby but without the sleepless nights. I have to either be looking after the shop or find cover for it – we’re open 6 days a week! I’m learning to delegate more now so I’m not always playing shop girl and juggling workshop pixie too! I’m working towards more of a work/life balance since we opened, but want my core focus to continue being designing and crafting pieces.

Jessica de Lotz workshop

I adore your nod to nostalgia. Tell us more about your love for the old.  My father was an antiquarian bookseller so I was brought up surrounded by beautiful old books that he lovingly looked after (and sold) so an appreciation of antiques was engrained in me from day one.

Jessica de Lotz + esther coren

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How important is design in your everyday life?  I know that when I see or hold something I admire, it makes me very happy. It all just depends on how you channel what you see and, as I appreciate quite detailed and intricate things, this then translates into what I make.

Who inspires you and why?  My mum inspires me. Just you meet her and you would be too! She is a miracle.

Jessica de Lotz shop

If not jewellery, what? Nursing or something that involves talking to people more to help them.?

 Vinyl or digi download?  radio actually.

Book or e-reader?  Book.

Where would we find you seeking me-time?  In a yoga studio or wandering around Spitalfields market. I go every Thursday morning. It fuels me creatively to get out and look around.

Biggest dream in the world?  For my parents and family to always be with me.

Jessica de Lotz

What would you tell your younger self?  I was chronically shy until my GCSEs and hated public performances so I’d say, ‘Go for it. It’s important to do things that scare you. Oh and to stick with a musical instrument and persevere!’

Piece you most enjoyed making for a customer?  I enjoyed the process of making the collaborative piece with Peroni – I had to design something that represented my interpretation of ‘100 years of Italian Style.’ I made a bike bell bracelet which then transforms into a bike bell ring. I travelled to Rome on my own to be inspired and visited wonderful flea markets and artisan studios. The end result felt very ‘me’ and Peroni were a very fun team to work with.

Where to next?  The shop has just been nominated by ES magazine as one of 50 best boutiques in London so I’m chuffed about that. I then have an exciting collaboration with Frame Chain launching soon? and another quite unusual project in the pipeline. It’s early days but I’m really excited about it.

Jessica de Lotz

Please drop by Jessica’s shop but DON’T blame me when you want (literally) everything in there.  {Including something old and rather rare.}

49 Fortess Road, Kentish Town

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