For todays Monday Motivation, we are interviewing our very own Founder and designer of Charlotte Elizabeth, Charlotte! We discuss how our brand started, what the vision is for the future, how Charlotte's design process works and her thoughts on how we can be effected more positively from the Coronavirus pandemic. Enjoy!
When did you have the initial idea for Charlotte Elizabeth? How long did it take for your dream to become a reality?
The idea came somewhere in-between late 2013 - early 2014. I had left school rather abruptly, after developing a heart arrhythmia in my teens. I underwent surgery in late 2012 which really took it out of me and caused a whole host of other health issues.
Between the days of being between four walls in my bedroom, I had a ‘shining light’ of hope amongst the darker days. I saw a flash of a handbag, an outline which was classic, chic and with such beautiful, distinct curvature - the design is now our bestseller ‘The Bloomsbury’, and has gone on to sell internationally with supporters all around the world, including members of the Spice Girls, Meghan Markle!
Due to my health situation, it took me quite a while to get things moving, but looking back, 2 years is nothing for setting up a business! I built the site from my bed and launched in March 2016, with 40 Bloomsbury’s, which were handmade in Somerset and stored in my bedroom.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
I am, and have always been, rather old any heart and have a complete fascination with vintage cars! I actually based The Bloomsbury design off the shape of a Fiat 500. I adore the curvature on older cars, new ones really don’t feel as characterful and so I love bringing those aspects of design, through the curvature and play-fullness, into our designs.
I am also inspired by nature, so I’m always fascinated by all aspects of it! I particularly love fish skin, butterfly’s, trees and flowers for inspiration on pattern and colour.
Tell us about the design process?
I don’t force a design and we don’t create to tick a box of a design needed, so I let things flow in when they need to. I often find I create what I would love, first and foremost, which usually guides a lot of our designs.
I’m a real dreamer and love visualising, so I will work on the design over and over again in my head before even putting it down anywhere! Then I’ll do a very rough sketch, before creating it digitally, adding it to my sketchbook with the process of sketches and watercolor versions.
I’ll then create the bag using a more ‘DIY’ way, through paper! This is actually the route a lot fo high-end, well-known bag brands use, as it’s cheap and fuss-free, and you can keep creating over and over again until you nail it! Once I’m happy with it, I’ll measure up the dimensions of everything and send it on to the factory, who will then begin their design and sampling process.
This is the part which is a bit more challenging, as you have to really build the picture of what you want the end result to be. It’ll take a few good goes before we get it right, with a hell of a lot of learning along the way about which leather would work better for each style, hardware choices, interiors - there is a lot that goes into this part of it!
Finally, much to my relief, there comes a day where a sample arrives through the post and it is exactly what I’ve been dreaming of! It can take over a year or a few months.
Then, we will begin working on our launch, then it’s out there adventuring in the world!
What is your dream for Charlotte Elizabeth?
My dream has always been to create good. That for me comes under a number of aspects of our company. Personally, my intention was always to create a family business and something that myself and my sisters could work on together. I understood how important it was to have financial freedom, flexibility in the workplace and stability for our futures - this is something I’m very passionate about as a female founder!
Professionally, I intend to create classic products which daughters, mothers and grandmothers can wear with pride. A handbag really is an extension of your personality, it is your ‘home from home’, and so I wish to create products which really make our customers feel special.
What is your favourite part of Charlotte Elizabeth?
I have several!
I love creating and feel that is my absolute happy place! But I also am really interested in the more business, retail aspects which I love learning more and more of as we grow.
I really enjoy building our community, connecting with our customers and our working relationships with the key components to our company, our suppliers.
What motivates you?
I feel motivation can be found from outside sources, but the proof is in learning self motivation! Health and wellbeing is such an important pillar of life for me, and when I focus on this, I find I feel far more capable, empowered and inspired to continue to create the vision.
What is your long-term dream?
I want to continue to create beautiful, classic, high-quality products while also inspiring others that their darkness, can create the very brightest light.
How do you want your customer to feel when using their Charlotte Elizabeth product?
I want them to feel special, loved and important!
What are your favourite everyday moments?
I absolutely love my morning routine, which really grounds and sets me up for the day. I love connecting with nature on my daily walk or run. The sound of the trees, the birds, the sky is so inspiring, grounding and calming. I practice yoga or pilates most days which challenges and strengthens me both on and off the matt. I’m a big believer in mindfulness and living more in the present moment, so I fit ’10 deep breaths’ in throughout my day, mostly before I eat or when I’m a bit stressed out! I enjoy a turmeric latte everyday at 3pm, it’s a ritual I have come to enjoy greatly. Cuddles with our family dog, our very sweet Golden Retriever really is what I live for - I adore dogs!
How do you balance out your days when working from home?
Routine is so important for me, I’m definitely a creature of habit and feel I operate far less-scattered when I know what’s coming!
I usually have the mornings to myself and work in the afternoon until about 6pm. I’ve read a lot of studies on healthier ways of working and more and more studies are pointing towards less hours = more efficiency and effectiveness. I can confirm, so far, it’s true!
Everyday is different but at the moment, I have been thoroughly enjoying going into my ‘happy place’ through planning for the future, getting lost in designing new bags and working with my sisters on the everyday things which pop up.
What inspires you most?
I have come to really believe that the most inspiration thing we can do is be vulnerable with ourselves and others. We so often cover things up because we have a society which thrives on perfection, on being consistently happy, which is just not sustainable and not human! Being vulnerable, even at our darkest, really is the most inspirational thing I have discovered we can do.
What everyday practices do you believe we should all be doing?
Gratitude! We actually have to practice gratitude to see the effects, so I do try to soak up anything I’m grateful for in each day. The heavier life stuff, I try to find the gratitude in.
Mindfulness is key to a happier, healthier life I have discovered. We have become so fast-paced and so disconnected from how we are meant to be - human beings, not human doings!
Yoga, or movement of any form has opened up so much to me. Our bodies are designed to move (of course, in any way that makes us feel good) and so I feel yoga is incredibly at stretching, releasing and becoming more present.
I practice a lot of breath-work, which I feel we should all be doing! It grounds us, connects us to the present moment and has a whole host of health benefits.
What are your plans post lockdown?
Honestly, I just want to hug my grandmother, Elizabeth (our brands namesake!), have a good cup of tea and cake with her, and giggle like we always do!
I want to see my friends desperately and spend a good time with them, connecting and going deeper than the usual conversation.
I am dreaming of doing a Charlotte Elizabeth party, just to connect us closer after such a dark time, I think that connection is such an important part to all of our wellbeing, which we really need to focus on more so.
What lessons will you take from Coronavirus?
I’m rather spiritual so I always like to look at any situation which is challenging as a deeper meaning. It is interesting how one virus has essentially halted the world in its tracks, particularly fast-paced, fast-developing countries. I think it is a huge wake up call in so many ways.
On a personal level, I am sure it’s making many realise how important health is, how money or status doesn’t actually help you avoid illness or disease in life. I hope it is making many realise that prevention is far better than a cure (although I know this is impossible in this case here, broadly speaking I’m talking!) and that we all have a responsibility to ourselves and others to look after our health.
It is a massive question for how much excess we have in our way of living. I’m sure it’ll make people realise just how much needless coffees, trips on a train or plane are. I really hope it’ll make the little everyday moments in life far more meaningful and with intention.
In terms of the environment, I so hope that our more humble way of living going forwards will connect with nature and benefit it. I think we all need to learn that life is a balance, so you cannot have one extreme or another. Respect for ourselves, and in turn our environment has a massive effect on how our climate’s health will be coming out of this.
Obviously, there has been great tragedy and darkness globally from this devastating illness. My hope is that we can all be far more compassionate, vulnerable, and supportive of our fellow beings. We shy away from talking about grief, death and illness - maybe this will be our wake up call to begin opening up such important conversations which all of us will face throughout our lives?
I feel this has been such a lesson to realise how YOUR own actions effect others lives. Think of how one person contracted this virus, and now thousands around the world have and have had it. IT just shows how you behave, how you treat others and your words have a chain reaction - this is something to really sit down and think about!
Ultimately, I have great hope that this major life alteration will only benefit us far more going forwards. I really hope that people will value health and healthcare far more going forwards, supporting business and our economy has been is key to our health as a society, but we must also learn that family, our wellbeing, our home, our security, nature, connection, and helping others really are all that matters.
What advice would you give to other budding entrepreneurs?
Dream big! If you can dream it you can do it. Man only went to the moon because he believed it was possible. Everything you need to achieve any dream you have is already inside of you.