Hemptress™, Inc. was created by design team Håkan and Arlene Nilsson. Hakan, originally from Sweden, comes from an advertising and marketing design background. Arlene has been designing handbags since 2001, designing for various handbag companies including BCBG, Zina Eva, Rough Roses, Reveal Bags and others. I learned of The Hemptress through the InStyle Magazine’s Independant Handbag Designer Awards. Continue reading to learn more about these eco-friendly bags.
When did you launch The Hemptress ? We lauched in January 2010.
When did you start designing handbags? I started designing handbags in 2002, but I have always been a designer /artist in one way or another. I went to school at HS of Art and Design and then FIT in NY, but eventually became a graphic designer, technical illustrator, animator and illustrator before becoming a handbag designer.
Have you always created fashions that were eco-friendly? Although I have personally always been a “health nut”, and into the environment and animals, since I was working for other companies, (like BCBG, Rough Roses, Melie Bianco, Zina Eva and others), I mostly designed conventional leather handbags. The exception is a company called Reveal Bags who I designed eco friendly handbags for. In 2007, I was designing a bag out of lambskin for a freelance job, did the math to see how much leather would be used and realized that two animals would die for one bag! That was my light bulb moment, and I started researching eco-friendly alternatives to leather. It took 3 years of research and development before I was able to have all of the materials and vendors needed to produce Hemptress handbags.
Why do you feel that Eco-fashion is gaining so much popularity? As more people gain an awareness of how we are destroying our planet, and begin to request conscientious alternatives to cotton, polyester, plastic, PVC and conventionally dyed leather, the fashion industry will have to accommodate the switch to eco fashion. The building industry has already started using LED lights and other eco friendlier materials. It is just a matter of time before the organic, recycled and eco friendly alternatives become the norm in apparel and accessories. Barneys NY is selling hemp handbags with leather trim for $795. That’s very encouraging.
Is your wardrobe mainly Eco-friendly? –Whatever I buy new is eco friendly. But I tend to buy good quality classic styles that come back into style again and again and I never throw anything out. It either takes its place in a box on a shelf waiting for round 2, or goes to the Good Will for someone else to enjoy. I am currently wearing leggings that I bought in the 80s! Now that’s sustainable fashion!
What is one of your most recent accomplishments? My Mona Satchel was selected as a finalist by InStyle Magazine for “best green handbag design 2010”. Also, one of my bags will be in the “Most Wanted” feature in November Vogue.
How has the public responded towards your handbag line? Of course it takes time to get the word out and build brand recognition, but considering the fact that we launched 8 months ago, we are getting a lot of press and sales are beginning to take off.
What is your best selling bag from your most recent collection? So far the 3 best sellers are the Mona Satchel, the Mercedes Satchel and the Mona Mini.
What is in store for The Hemptress? We are adding a new vegan collection for spring that is inspired by the Pompidou museum in Paris. The “Pompidou” collection is made from PU laminated hemp/organic cotton with a lead free “vegan” leather trim. Should be in stores in April 2011.
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