Umbrella Collective: Handmade with Aloha
Posted on January 15 2018
You may or may not know that I spent some time working for the Italian brand, Gucci, during my retail career. Gucci is one of the few luxury brands that still hand-crafts their products in Italy. I used to love learning all the details about each handbags, how the tassels are hand-cut and the production of the intricate appliqués and so much more. Because of this, one of the things I've developed a deep appreciation for is fashion that is hand-crafted and carefully made. I deeply value the story behind each dress, bag and brand. When you know the care behind a product or the story behind the piece that has now made it into your hands, you see it as more than just a bag or a piece of clothing. It's someone's work of art and a product of their creativity and hard work.
I was quickly drawn to the handmade, simple designs of Umbrella Collective. Even when I was still working for Gucci, I used to browse the Umbrella Collective website and go back and forth about which bag I really wanted. The bucket bag was and still is my favorite. Every bag is hand-crafted with aloha with a thoughtfulness to the practicality of each design. It's not hard to become addicted to her bags and start looking for more styles to add to your collection.
This month, we pick the brain of Erin Sim, who owns Umbrella Collective and makes each bag you purchase. We wanted to know more about how the brand got it's start and the little details that make Umbrella Collective a brand we love.
Camille: Every brand has a story. What inspired you to start Umbrella Collective? Was starting a business always something you've wanted to do?
Erin: After graduating from architecture school, I had a really hard time landing a job. The economy wasn’t great and I also moved to a place with zero contacts and connections. I put myself in a challenging situation but I’m pretty happy with how things turned out. I’ve learned many valuable lessons, so far. I was never interested in starting my own business but my dad owned his own business so maybe it’s in my blood.
C: We just love the soft, light-weight leathers of your handbags! How did you select the leathers and materials that have become so distinguishable as features of Umbrella Collective?
E: I would say it’s through lots of trial and testing. I’m interested in the quality of materials so I’m always looking for materials that will make a great product.
C: A lot of aloha goes into making your handbags. What's the typical process for putting together a hand-crafted bag and how long does it take to make each bag?
E: Right now, everything is done by hand: From cutting fabric and leather, to making and sewing on labels, to sewing on zippers and pockets, riveting handles on, to constructing the final product. It can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours for each piece.
C: We've seen first-hand how durable Umbrella Handbags are. How would you suggest customers care for their handbags as they age gracefully?
E: Definitely try to keep it as dry as possible. Be careful when carrying water bottles or liquids in your bag. If it’s totally necessary, keep it in a plastic bag to decrease the chances of spillage. If your bag gets wet in the rain, wipe it down when you get to shelter. Spot clean interior. Leather conditioners and cleaners can be used but always test products in a discreet location prior to using it.
C: What can we expect to see from Umbrella Collective as the brand continues to grow?
E: I’m not sure myself. Would love to continue designing and making useful things.
Well, we can't wait to see what magic comes out of this studio in the future! I'm sure more pieces that we'll just HAVE to add to our collection!
(Erin's Portland Studio)