Fashion: Meet the brands bagging sustainable style




Fashion does not have to cost the earth and can even be a power for good. Meet two local bag brands making their mark by combining sustainability and style. Lisa Millard takes note

Pedal & Brass, Cambridge

Lottie Seaborn, founder and director of Pedal & Brass and mother to three young children, was an employment lawyer before launching her own business creating beautiful bicycle-friendly bags using surplus leather

Pedal & Brass 1 (50628899)
Pedal & Brass 1 (50628899)

Tell us about Pedal & Brass

I’ve always had a creative side and having rediscovered my love of cycling a few years ago I struggled to find a lovely bike bag for all my trips to the shops, pub or to see a friend. I didn’t want a boring pannier bag and I wanted something stylish. I needed a handbag that could also fit to my bike and so Pedal & Brass was born. I launched the brand in June this year after months of sourcing materials, creating designs, making samples and building the website – while juggling home-schooling my three young children! It wasn’t easy (home- schooling was probably the most challenging part) but the response I’ve had makes it all worthwhile.

First and foremost, our beautiful leather bags are designed to be worn all of the time – with or without a bike. They are handmade to order in Cambridge, with each bag’s name inspired by a Cambridge college. There are currently four styles in the range including a satchel-style crossbody bag (the Sidney), a zip-top tote bag (the Cavendish), a large ‘bucket’ bag (the Trinity) and a large work bag (the Darwin). Each comes in a number of leathers and colours and wherever possible we try to use leftover or ‘surplus’ leather to reduce industry waste. All the bags include patented pannier clips and a whole host of bike features including anti-snatch details such as lockable zips and closures.

Pedal & Brass 3 (50628905)
Pedal & Brass 3 (50628905)

How’s it going?

It’s early days but we’ve had a great response from the public so far. I’ve even had a few people say that it makes them want to cycle more, just so they can use the bag.

Why is sustainability an important aspect to what you do?

All businesses should be focusing on their sustainability credentials and for us, this is about ensuring we reduce waste both in the leather industry generally and in our own production process. Quite often, large design houses or well-known leather goods companies over order on leather, creating surplus stock that if not used, could potentially end up in landfill. As we produce our bike bags in small numbers, we have the ability to use this surplus leather to create limited edition ranges. We also ensure that any pieces of leather leftover from the making of our bags are used to create small leather accessories such as keyrings and cable tidies – known as our “Waste Not” range.

Lottie Seaborn, Pedal & Brass (50628897)
Lottie Seaborn, Pedal & Brass (50628897)

What inspires you?

While the Covid pandemic presented a few challenges to my business launch, I feel hugely fortunate that I’ve still been able to keep going as planned. All those independent businesses that have adapted what they do and persevered over the last 18 months to survive (and in many cases thrive) in the pandemic, have been truly inspirational.

Pedal & Brass 2 (50628901)
Pedal & Brass 2 (50628901)

Future hopes for Pedal & Brass?

There’s been a real revival in leisure-cycling over the pandemic so I really hope we continue to thrive and inspire more people to get back on their bikes. One day we would like to offer a vegan leather range of bike bags but until we can find a genuine alternative to leather that is affordable, as strong and long-lasting as leather and not simply a non-biodegradable plastic, we will continue to use surplus leather whenever we can.

Pedal & Brass 4 (50628907)
Pedal & Brass 4 (50628907)

See pedalandbrass.co.uk and @pedalandbrass

From Belo

Best friends since meeting at school in Suffolk, Charlotte Bingham, from Sudbury, and Maria Costa, from Brazil, are the co-founders of From Belo, a brand of beautiful bags made from seatbelts, fabric offcuts, plastic bottles, and inner tyre tubes that helps support poverty-struck communities in Brazil. Charlotte shares the From Belo story

Street style recycled seatbelt bucket bag by From Belo (1) (50628917)
Street style recycled seatbelt bucket bag by From Belo (1) (50628917)

Tell us about From Belo

While travelling and working as a physio in South America, I volunteered in some of the most impoverished communities and saw how food was such a limiting factor to many. Maria has been working to support her community in Brazil since she was 13 and created a fashion business which donated clothing to a female orphanage for every sale made. We decided to use our friendship, love for design and Maria’s business model to build a fashion brand that would create opportunities for poverty-stricken communities. Our goal is to show that what you wear can be a catalyst for a better world.

From Belo Mini Leka Tote Bag - helps feed 4 people in need (50628913)
From Belo Mini Leka Tote Bag - helps feed 4 people in need (50628913)

How’s it going?

We love using materials that would otherwise go to waste. One of the most rewarding aspects of our company is to collect all these materials considered rubbish and repurpose them into something beautiful and useful once again. So far, we have saved 4668 plastic bottles, 3005m of seatbelts and 615kg of fabric offcuts and 100 units of inner tubes from landfill.

Waste materials are collected locally in Brazil, we then process them with our artisanal partnerships that deliver a living wage to the craftspeople – turning waste into beautiful bags is not an easy process. Every product is then shipped to our customers and every purchase re-invests back into our community by donating meals to the homeless and in-need via our partner charity ‘Casa de Maria’. Maria delivers the food herself so we can guarantee that we do what we say.

Char and Maria Founders - From Belo (50628909)
Char and Maria Founders - From Belo (50628909)

Why is sustainability an important aspect to what you do?

Sustainability goes beyond just minimising materials in the system to include those working in the supply chain as well. We are all capable of making a positive impact in the world and for us, From Belo is our way to contribute to a kinder world. We work in the biggest and most violent slum in Belo Horizonte called Cafezal which has 50,000 inhabitants and see first-hand how our business impacts the community. Being able to create opportunities for those often forgotten by our society while repurposing waste are the most rewarding part of our jobs.

From Belo - Recycled seat belt Ju bucket bag (50628911)
From Belo - Recycled seat belt Ju bucket bag (50628911)

What inspires you?

We are inspired by the people in our community. This is our driving force to get out of bed every morning, to create beauty in the world. We believe in the importance of a circular business model to use discarded materials and refurbish them so that their use and life continue to live on.

Green Ju Bucket Bag by From Belo (50628915)
Green Ju Bucket Bag by From Belo (50628915)

Future hopes for From Belo?

We want to be leaders in the reformation of the fashion industry and to show that fashion can be kind without compromising on style. Our business model is centred around strengthening impoverished communities. As we grow, we aim to create more jobs and amplify our actions on the issues preventing communities to thrive. Our goal is to make a positive impact – first the community of Cafezal and then replicate our model to others in Brazil and globally.

See frombelo.com and @frombelo


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