I dont Know the way

FASHION: It’s Not Me, It’s You Hand Printed Bags

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Hackney-based brand It’s Not Me It’s You has had great success since launching their hand-made leather handbag and accessories label last October. Debuting at the 2012 East London Design Show in December, INMIY were soon a permanent concession in the Topshop Oxford Circus by January and Topshop Dublin by May. Recently they have become a fixture in Harnett and Pope and Lie Down I Think I Love you – a small London boutique offering handmade and vintage finds.

INMIY is the work of Londoners Billi and Kitty along with Jems from Cambridge. Billi and Jems were forever united on a LCF course and Kitty has previously worked in both fashion and finance. Delighted, they cite their success so far as exceptional with stockists also in Brighton and Italy and opportunities in Greece, Dubai and Japan on the horizon.

“When we launched we did anticipate that things could potentially move quickly. So we had strategies in place to cope, and so far so good. We are lucky as all three of us believe in our vision and agree on it. Our team is now roughly ten and each is an important cog to the whole machine.”

A usual day at the Hackney studio begins with a cup of coffee. With small numbers, and demand increasing, the girls divide and conquer. As head of production, Jems will create new samples and slogans and order equipment while Kitty, the proclaimed “numbers girl”, is in charge of the books and budget. As designer, Billi can also be found in the factory or visiting suppliers around London or in Italy.

Having recently attended Paris Fashion Week Billi admits to having a strange relationship with fashion shows. “I think you have to be an avid follower of the industry you work in but I feel Fashion Week is tedious in a sense. It’s the same brands, the same celeb turn-out and the odd designer trying to shock. But I won’t say I don’t get ideas from what I see”.

On the subject of inspiration, they reveal to be all-embracing. Their name, however, is not inspired by Lily Allen’s sophomore album but rather an amusing sequence of events. “One of us was seeing a guy and one evening, when we were discussing a possible name, she just realised she couldn’t be bothered with him anymore and actually texted the phrase to him.”

Foil-embossed slogans and pre-dyed Italian leather are trademarks of an It’s Not Me It’s You product, but experiments do take place inside Hackney HQ. Being a non-seasonal brand allows Billi the freedom to test and try new ideas whenever necessary without pressure. Having studied leather and design, the techniques involved to make any idea become reality usually known. “We have tried floral printed leather and some studded bags. If I come up with an idea and I can find the materials, I will try it out. Some ideas leave the factory, some don’t.”

Going from strength to strength in retail outlets, and with new items popping up frequently on the website, INMIY have no current plans to explore textile opportunities; “We haven’t stopped dreaming, obviously, but for the moment we will stick with leather accessories.” Yet asked about collaborations similar to Commes des Garcon and The Cambridge Satchel Company, the response is positive; “Of course, but it would depend on who the collaboration is with.”

It's Not Me It's You bags

Determined and motivated, all agree if this wasn’t happening they would only be thinking of a way to make it so. Having seen the mechanisms of below-par mass-produced fashion their desire to create their own was born. “We took the leap because that ambition to escape the very false environment of big brand fashion pushed us, it outgrew us and it took control”.

The factory has ensured jobs for the local community with all designs and manufacturing taking place there. Proud of this (Billi is from Hackney) the ‘Made in Britain’ issue is a contentious one. Utilised by many designers, when a product is handled in Britain for even the smallest part of the design process, such as stitching the logo, it can bear the coveted statement ‘Made in Britain’. “The fact that brands put ‘Britain’ on their stuff is because it’s good for business. Legally they are allowed and costumers rarely question it.”

Billi believes changes need to be made to the law to educate customers into being more quality-orientated. “Clearly-marked tags should be introduced: 10% Made in Britain/90% Made in China. It is not necessarily about buying British, but buying less and buying quality.”

With British-produced leather handbag designers on the rise, INMIY are not alone. Kate Sheridan, Williams Handmade, Lauren Geoghegan and Ally Cappellino are just some of their peers. Perhaps this surge is a good indication that customers are becoming aware of home-grown quality. Yet this increase in supply and demand is in stark contrast to designer, British Fashion Award winner and UK Trade Ambassador, Anya Hindmarch’s comments to Channel 4 earlier this year that “the handbag industry rather died in the 50s”.

Known to manufacture abroad but elude Britishness, her position is to raise awareness of UK talent and to encourage overseas interest in UK businesses. At INMIY, her comments were met with surprise. “It is her role, as one David Cameron’s UK Business Ambassadors that made the whole thing unbelievable. As a designer, she can make her own manufacturing choices, but we live in a world that will always opt for the short-term solution over the long-term solution, like setting up factories, training people. In any case, this industry is alive and kicking.”

With so much passion, dedication and determination needed to maintain their success in such a cut throat industry, the girls admit to rarely taking much time off. “It doesn’t ever feel like work, but you are always working. Our life has become, in some way, dependent on the brand. It’s like being in a serious relationship; you become selfless towards the other. We are always thinking of what we can do to make things even better”.

The girls have just announced a foray into men’s accessories but what else is around the corner for INMIY is a card they’re keeping close to their chest. “We want to keep the cat in the bag for now but we have been approached by celebrities and some UK singers have bought our stuff directly. Also, we’ll try and take over the world, one handbag at a time!”


By Clarissa Waldron

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