Discover the inspiration and  designer behind Hill & Friends, born in 2016 and founded by Emma Hill. A female founded and female led brand, determined to put the fun back into fashion with the girl-gang inclusivity. Read on to know how Emma fuses quality, craftsmanship and desirability of a luxury brand with the democratic and emotional appeal of a brand created for people just like us!

Emma, we are excited to have the Hill & Friends brand join Lone Design Club! We would love to know more about your story. What has influenced you to create Hill & Friends?

I grew up in the Seventies, a decade that continues to be of profound influence to me, as the child of an artist mother and a mathematician father. As a teenager I was obsessed with all things fashion, going on to study for my BA in Fashion, at Ravensbourne School of Design, where I majored in Women’s RTW.

Upon graduation I was lucky enough to be hired by Burberry to be their Accessories Designer, which would prove to fundamentally alter the course of my career, kickstarting my love of all things accessories!

I then moved to my beloved New York City, where I spent 14 years being privileged enough to work for geniuses like Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein. After my son Hudson was born I then relocated back to London, where I spent six incredible year tenure as the Creative Director of Mulberry.
The Hill & Friends collections are fun, bold and certainly make a great statement. What inspires your designs and where do you seek inspiration?

I have a really eclectic sense of inspiration, drawing from both the past and present, and always have my eyes peeled!

With our brand motto of ‘Fashion Just Got Friendlier!’ always in mind, I am obsessed with the saturated colours, bold graphics and humour of iconic Seventies cartoon characters like Mr Men, Barbapapa and my all-time heroine of Minnie the Minx.

I love how unique metal pieces, like our iconic round twist lock that you have to ‘wink’ to close, can transform a handbag to the magical, and so I am often found roaming around traditional hardware stores.

I have always been massively influenced by both music and film, and heavily reference both in my work.

And, finally, I am addicted to people-watching, which always gets my creative brain racing, and I am often to be found chasing after strangers trying to discretely take photos of their handbags!

Each designer has their own unique process for creating a collection. When it comes to designing and production, what are your main processes for creating a product?

In no particular order….. buckets of iced coffee, bags of chocolate biscuits, loud music, inspired sketching frequently interspersed with some procrastinating tidying up and OCD label making, coloured pens, zoom calls, walking the dog, creating a colour palette and working with my utterly amazing team, without whom I would be nothing.

What does sustainability mean to you and why is it important to you as a Founder?

Sustainability, arguably the single biggest issue of our time, has been at the heart of our brand ever since its conception. As the founder of a fashion brand I obviously consider it to be my absolute duty to employ, to the fullest of our ability, the very best of sustainable practices across the business. And also to continue to promote the fact that we all have a collective responsibility for the future of our planet and that consumers becoming ever more conscious of their purchasing choices will be one of the single biggest factors that will cause significantly positive change.

Sustainability, ethics and social responsibility are key to any and every brand’s DNA. How does Hill & Friends integrate this into the business?

Mostly UK manufacturing base, plus a UK central warehouse, has allowed us to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint. Recycled and bio-degradable packaging, with a single box performing the dual functions of both the gift and the shipping box, negating the need for a second box. We have a strict adherence to recycling and reusing all of our leather and hardware raw materials waste, always turning them into something else.

We are voracious fans of up cycling, often using the simple process of hand painting to transform redundant bags into something new and wonderful! The transformation of how we sell (from Wholesale to H&F/Third Party D2C and from traditional fashion calendar big bi-annual collections to agile monthly drops) has removed the need for excessive and wasteful sampling. 
The launch of ‘Loveworn’, our trailblazing resale platform.

We aim to create cherished, heirloom pieces, that endure seasonal trends. The bags are made with great integrity, using only Accredited Tanneries in order to uphold our very highest of animal welfare standards in leather production. We are deeply committed to celebrating the incredibly unique history & practice of artisanal British craftsmanship and, as such, the vast majority of our handbags are lovingly made in England.

Are there connections between your previous designs and now?

I am obsessed with the idea of each brands individual DNA, and have always designed with that as the priority, but like most designers, I definitely think that I have my own innate creative signature that is visible in everything that I do. Which I would sum up as a devotion to a love of bold colour, print and unique hardware, an unusual play on proportions and my go-to spin of subverting classics, with a unique mix of form, function and fun!

Finally, we’d love to hear a bit about the collections and your own personal opinion on them? Can you tell us which are your favourite items, and how can we style them this season?

Our new ‘Pimp My Bag’ collection, which gives a completely new life to some of our most loved styles, like The Multiway Clutch and The Happy Bag, by giving each one a uniquely hand painted graphic facelift – 100% one-of-a-kind!

Brand spanking new and literally my latest obsession is ‘The Lovelock Bag’! Inspired by Paris’s Pont des Art Lovelock Bridge, our ultimate shapeshifter is able to be worn not only on the short, long or cross-body shoulder, but also as a clutch or belt bag. Each of the four colourways is exquisitely crafted of a tonal mix of multi textured leathers and finished with a distinctive Neon Pink leather wrapped padlock & chunky chain closure. Wear it your way!

Hope you enjoyed getting to know the designer behind Oceanus. But that's not all. We're telling more brands stories every day here and on our Instagram. Check out the full schedule of brands here.  


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