Brand Story: Fig Bags

Where did the idea for Fig Bags come from and how did you develop your brand?

I was working as a wedding and portrait photographer and I returned one evening from shooting a wedding; it was late, I was tired and I had a sore back from carrying around my photography kit and a handbag all day. I sat at the kitchen table and moaned about the fact I was aching and that there must be an alternative to carrying around my kit like that. I started to think about what I wanted and I realised it was a stylish but practical camera bag. I wanted something I could take on location to shoots which would carry both my kit and my personal belongings. My husband encouraged me to stop moaning and to do something about it, so over the course of the next days, weeks and months, I started designing and researching what I wanted from a bag. The more I looked, the more I felt the market was dominated by practical and boring bags; that’s where the idea was born and where Fig Bags began. At first I had no idea how to develop the brand, however the more I researched the more I started to believe that it couldn’t just be me in that situation. As I started to prototype I got some really positive feedback, then three years ago we launched at the photography show with a small stand and a small range but the response was great. From there we kept developing more styles and more colours; straps, satchels, laptop bags and rucksacks. The range has grown but we still think there’s lots that can be done.

Your bags are handcrafted here in England. Was this something that was important to you from the very beginning?

The vision was for the whole range to be handmade in the UK which was a key element for me. I was determined to have them made right here so I could ensure that the items were built to last and aged well. That being said, it’s not always easy. It can be hard to produce smaller runs and manufacturing is expensive. Especially when I was starting out, it was hard to find a good partner. Over time we’ve brought more of the skills in house, that way we have more control.

Where do you source your materials from and how did you end up making a decision on the quality of leather you used?

I’ve always had a love for both vintage styling and leather. I knew that I wanted the bags to carry a classic look, to incorporate a feel that was timeless. I then looked at materials and the only option for me was a premium leather. The leather is sourced from Italy; we’ve built up good relationships with the suppliers and although this took time, it was worth it. When we’re at shows or fairs people always love the smell! Of the product, the aim was to develop the range in such a way that people will instantly recognise a Fig Bag when they see one.

Who, or what, inspires you?

My children are my real inspiration. As a mother running her own business it can be tough, but they tell me regularly how cool I am for running my own business and they tell everyone they meet about the bags, corny I know but it's true, so I want to make them proud. My husband is very supportive and always pushes me out of my comfort zone; you need someone to be brutally honest about the positives and negatives and he is very good at doing that. I see various other people following their dreams and love the fact that social media is a great platform for them to document this. It gives an insight into their successes but also the struggles behind building up a brand or company from scratch. It’s been great to see other people on their own journeys. I have met some great characters along the way doing various pieces, from silk scarves and cakes, to soaps and cushions.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?

Hell yes, running a business there are challenges everyday, some big and some small. The first challenge I encountered was in wanting to keep everything made in the UK; I found this incredibly tough going. I've had some real knock backs and struggled to find the right partner. It was very hard at first trying to find a manufacturer that fitted our needs and produced smaller quantities but kept the quality high. But you have to learn from bad decisions; we all make them, but it's about how we handle them. I’m not particularly strong on the financial side and have had to learn along the way. The creative side comes more naturally to me but the accounts, cash flow and stock management are a necessity. I‘ve learnt more about marketing and have tried some things that have not worked at all. Dealing with retailers can be tough; you’ve got this product you’ve created, nurtured and are so passionate about, but sometimes people simply don’t like it. It’s all about being persistent, keeping moving forward, and enjoying the highs and learning from the lows. 

What advice you would give to other creatives who are just starting out on their journey?

Do your research, but go for it and don't let people tell you otherwise. Be prepared for it take over your life but remember that it's best to have given something a go rather than looking back thinking what if, as you never know what will happen. If you are passionate about what you do then that will always shine through in your actions and into your brand.