How would you describe your designs?
Our designs are a combination of classic shapes and vibrant colors and textures. Our collection is created with professional women in mind and, as such, form and function are both equally important. Being able to easily transition from a busy day life to a glamorous night life is a clear advantage in a world where we are increasingly time-poor.
Clever details like pockets for smartphones and retractable wristlets that enable a wallet or pouch to be used as a clutch, like our “Antibes” and “Pick Me Up” models, has differentiated us from many of our competitors.
Our best known and greatest feature, however, is still the incredible eco-skins that we use. The variety, exuberance and beauty of these skins ensures that each bag becomes an inimitable statement piece perfectly blending sustainability and style.
How did Heidi and Adèle begin?
The story really begins in 1993 when we met at school. Friends ever since, we decided to start our business in 2013. We knew we would work well together because we have a similar life ethos: where happiness is the greatest measure of success.
So we created Heidi and Adèle the brand. We wanted to be 100 percent hands-on and, to this date, there are no middlemen or agents involved at any stage of the process. This allows us to offer the best possible quality at the lowest possible price, with the added guarantee that all parts of the process are in line with our ethical guidelines.
From where do you source your materials?
As byproducts of the food industry, our eco-exotic leathers are produced close to where the animals are farmed and consumed. Therefore, our salmon skins come from Iceland and our eel skins from Korea.
Tell us more about your ethical and sustainable objectives.
Sustainable and ethical sourcing is something we are passionate about. By using our names as our brand, we are etching our values onto each individual product—our own personal stamp.
There have been so many scandals in the fashion industry, from the terrifying conditions of some factory workers to the use of illegally poached endangered species.
We want to offer an ethical alternative, whilst maintaining high quality, originality, and affordability.
We personally audit each of our manufacturers and become familiar with the production chain from start to finish. We spent several weeks with each of our manufacturers, meeting the factory owners and workers to ascertain that our values match.
We have vowed never to use endangered species in our designs.
We use fish skin, which offers similar visual characteristics to snakeskin but is the byproduct of the food industry. This means the fish is farmed for its flesh, and we recycle skin that would otherwise be thrown away.
In contrast, snakeskin for fashion is obtained at a high human, animal and environmental cost. We wish to see this practice disappear and be replaced by the ethical, sustainable version of exotic leather—”eco-exotic” leather—which we are now making available.
How has Heidi & Adèle been received so far?
The first reaction is usually shock. People are surprised and amazed that leather—and handbags—can be made out of fish.
Fish leather is incredibly strong and hardwearing, which can be difficult to apprehend when faced with the remains of your dinner!
Leather is very sensory, and there really is no substitute for getting close and personal with it. Even more so in our case, where the scales of the salmon or the spine ridge of the eel are such prominent features.
The second reaction is smelling the skin, as if people expected a fishy odor but, of course, this is not the case.
Overall reactions have been overwhelmingly positive; our clients are excited to discover a new fashion brand that is at once innovative, ethical, and affordably priced.
There definitely is a feel-good factor associated with buying something that has been responsibly sourced and manufactured.
Any future plans you can share?
We expect that, as people begin to hear and learn about sustainable fashion alternatives, there will be an increased surge in demand for products like ours.
We are 18 months old—still a new and emerging brand. Last year was spent selecting our suppliers and manufacturers, creating our designs and experimenting with various skins, colors, and finishes.
We have designed a forthcoming collection which perfectly encapsulates the Heidi and Adèle brand. It’s currently at sampling stage, and we will be targeting department stores and independent boutiques over the next few months.
This year’s main focus will be to promote our brand—its ethos, beliefs and style—and to make the world fall as deeply in love with eco-exotic leather as we both have.