On one end of the line is Brazil, at ten o’clock in the morning. On the other, direct from England where it’s (believe it or not) ten degrees warmer than the cold, windy hills where the Melissa factory is located, we’re Skyping with Julie Deane.
The cheery-voiced Brit is also the founder of the Cambridge Satchel Company, the iconic brand of leather bags — and Melissa’s newest collab.
In an inspired conversation, we talk about partnerships, sustainability, our DNAs, and fashion. “If life becomes all about what’s absolutely necessary then it becomes very grey and not very nourishing — if that makes sense. Fashion and design are so important to keep life colorful and interesting.”
we wholeheartedly agree.
So working with fashion keeps your life colorful?
YES! AND I THINK THAT I’M SO LUCKY TO BE WORKING IN THIS AREA BECAUSE IT’S SOMETHING THAT MAKES PEOPLE VERY HAPPY. WHAT WE HOPE TO GIVE PEOPLE IS SOMETHING THAT IS SO INCREDIBLY WELL MADE AND IS SO BEAUTIFUL THAT WILL MAKE THEM HAPPY EVERYDAY WHEN THEY USE IT. AND IT’S NOT SO CHEAP THAT YOU WOULD JUST THROW IT AWAY. IT WOULD JUST BECOME SOMETHING THAT YOU BUY AND YOU TREASURE. AND I THINK THAT THAT IS WHO WE ARE AS A BRAND. ALL OF THE THINGS I’VE SEEN WITH MELISSA HAVE THE SAME UPLIFTING FEELING TO THEM.
That’s a very sustainable way of seeing your business. Is that a preoccupation that you have? Being sustainable?
YES. I REALLY DON’T LIKE DISPOSABLE SOCIETY. I DON’T LIKE THAT AT ALL. AND TO BUY THINGS AND NOT CARE ABOUT THEM AND NOT GIVE ANY THOUGHT INTO WHAT YOU ACQUIRE I THINK IS A VERY EMPTY WAY OF LIVING.
The Cambridge Satchel was created very hands on. Its purpose was to make money for the education of your children, you designed your logo on the living room table. How much this background marked the history of CSC?
I THINK IT RUNS RIGHT THE WAY THROUGH THE COMPANY. YOU KNOW, WE’RE A COMPANY THAT LIKES TO DO AS MUCH AS WE CAN OURSELVES AND TO BE VERY, VERY HANDS ON. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT LOOKING AT NUMBERS AND DOING EVERYTHING BASED ON WHAT THE BIGGEST GROWTH MARGINS GOING TO BE ON. SO I THINK THAT’S WHY THE BRAND FEELS VERY PURE, VERY CONSISTENT. BECAUSE IS A VERY SMALL TEAM AND WE DO EVERYTHING. SO THE VOICE IS VERY STRONG THROUGH WHAT WE DO.
Melissa is a brand that was born in the in a small town in Brazil. Although we sell them worldwide, they are still made in Brazil. We see some similarities in both stories…
YES, THERE ARE GREAT PARALLELS. THE BAG THAT WE STARTED WITH WAS BASED ON A BRITISH SCHOOL BAG. IT’S VERY SIMPLE, VERY WELL DESIGNED AND IT IS BEAUTIFUL IN IT’S SIMPLICITY. AND ALL OF OUR BAGS ARE MADE HERE IN BRITAIN SO THERE ARE SUCH STRONG PARALLELS BETWEEN THE TWO BRANDS AND I THINK THAT’S WHAT’S SO LOVELY. IN TWO COUNTRIES SO FAR APART YOU CAN FIND TWO BRANDS THAT HAVE SO MUCH IN COMMON.
By the way, our concept stores are “neighbors” in Covent Garden…
I KNOW! YOU HAVE A VERY BEAUTIFUL STORE! I’VE BEEN THERE MANY TIMES. IT’S LOVELY…. AND IT ALWAYS SMELLS SO LOVELY.
In our collab, it was the first time that a Satchel was made in a material that was not leather?
YES. WE TRIED ABOUT TWO YEARS AGO, I THINK. WE THOUGHT, “WOULDN’T IT BE FUN TO TRY MAKING A NON-LEATHER SATCHEL?” BUT THAT’S NOT WHERE OUR EXPERTISE IS SO WE DINT’S GO PAST THE SAMPLES. THAT’S WHY IT IS SO EXCITING TO BE WORKING WITH MELISSA.
And how was the process to adapt a Satchel for a new material — plastic?
I THINK ONE OF THE REASONS WHY WE’RE SO HAPPY WITH THE OUTCOME IS THAT OUR BAGS ARE VERY ICONIC SHAPED — IT’S A VERY RECOGNIZABLE BAG. AND SO PUTTING THAT TOGETHER IN A DIFFERENT RAW MATERIAL, LOOKING AT THE BAG YOU CAN STILL TELL “OH, THAT’S CAMBRIDGE SATCHEL”. THE STICHING AROUND THE OUTSIDE YOU KNOW, THE DETAILS… WHEN YOU LOOK AT IT FIRST OF ALL YOU ALMOST THINK IT’S GONE THROUGH A TRADITIONAL LEATHER MANUFACTURING PROCESS. THAT’S THE KIND OF ATTENTION TO DETAIL THAT YOU ONLY GET WHEN YOU WORK WITH A BRAND THAT’S THE RIGHT CALIBER OF BRAND.