Spotlight on: LPOL, a British brand specialising in sustainable bags and unique art prints made from leather offcuts
As creatives, many of us tend to steer clear of the brasher side of the fashion industry, leaning instead towards independent designers and makers who craft quality items, ideally with sustainability in mind. One such British brand that's caught our eye lately is LPOL, a specialist in timeless bags made from reclaimed fabrics.
Founded by Central Saint Martins graduate Katy Maskell Bell in 2009, LPOL (short for Lost Property of London) began life with its first collection featuring a tote bag made out of coffee sacks and vintage Liberty fabric, which she then launched with the aforementioned prestigious store. "Since then, we have evolved our upcycling concept to a full-leather range, but our responsible approach to design remains the same," Katy tells Creative Boom. "Staying true to our roots, every lining is now made using surplus fabric that has been sourced locally, and some of our totes are crafted entirely from vintage fabric and vegetable-tanned leather."
Today, Katy runs the business with her husband John, and they sell an expanded range of bags and accessories to customers worldwide. They still maintain Katy's original mission, to consider the materials, the processes, the packaging – all with the environment in mind.
The brand is going one step further with a brand new collection of saddlebags made from leather offcuts collected in its workshop. Called Dinky, the range is a "true celebration" of LPOL's zero-waste ethos, as it uses pieces of surplus leather that would otherwise end up in the landfill.
The limited-edition bag design comes in three colourways, each using a combination of different surplus leathers from LPOL's core range. The result is a series of unique bags in a rainbow of complementary colours: Tutti Fruity, Khaki and Chestnut. Personally, I'm a huge fan of Khaki, which uses a forest green, black and lime for a lovely earthy feel. But you might prefer something brighter and bolder with Tutti Fruity presenting a gorgeous clash of pink, red and mustard yellow – a design that perhaps nods to the retro Fruit Salad sweets of the 1990s.
"Dinky is a true celebration of our zero-waste ethos. Its circular production method not only gives the material a second life, but it's kinder to the environment, saves water and reduces carbon emissions. The Dinky ethos seems to really resonate with people, and the collection sold out within the first month."
Although LPOL is actively reducing its waste wherever it can, some offcuts are just too small or uneven in shape to use in bag production. But all is not lost, as the challenge sparked an idea – to collaborate with abstract artist Seraphina Neville and create a one-off collection of 12 original collage artworks using its smaller surplus materials. Launching on Global Recycling Day this Friday, the debut Zero Waste Art Drop is the first of many to come. "We've admired Seraphina's work for a while now, and her collage style lends itself perfectly to working with our offcut leather, so it was an honour to collaborate with her on this creative project," Katy says.
Neville's thoughtful compositions are inspired by the natural shapes and curves of LPOL's design-led bags and demonstrate a unique eye for colour and minimalist form. Using a combination of pebble grain and smooth vegetable-tanned leather on recycled waxed paper, the works have a rich and tactile finish, giving a sense of calm and serenity. The collection launches with six A3 and six A5 original works, priced at £395 and £259, respectively. Each one comes framed to order in a simple solid beech tray frame, unglazed to "honour the depth of the material".
Speaking of the collaboration, Seraphina adds: "I often work with paper offcuts, but this was my first time working with leather. I feel excited about the new dimension brought to my work through the leather's depth, texture, and markings. Many of the offcuts show subtle hints of their past through their cut and the shapes created. I used these pieces as a starting point for my compositions, building up my own shapes around the existing forms to create simple abstract compositions which celebrate both the history and materiality of the leather."
Katy admits a lot has changed since LPOL was born. "Back then, it felt like there were very few luxury brands who were focused on creating products that were well made and inherently sustainable," she continues. "At the time, we were perfectly placed to offer retailers and customers products that embodied those values. Because of that, we cut through a saturated market in an industry that was overproducing. It is still true today, of course. However, we are now competing with increasing numbers of sustainably-minded brands who are all vying for the attention of the conscious consumer.
"And consumers are becoming increasingly educated and sophisticated in terms of making highly considered purchases based on these fundamental values. Now more than ever, we want to understand how the product is sourced, designed, made and how far it's travelled. We are proud to be able to give shoppers those reassurances, and we continue to build, express and share our philosophy in new and exciting ways – from the point of view of a brand born from a true upcycling and zero-waste mindset."