I had the pleasure of visiting the studio of Ellen Box, the creator of Victoria-based hand bag and accessory company Bonspiel Creation. It was so interesting to see her work space because I felt like I was able to learn more about her design process and her sources of inspiration. Ellen was happy to answer a few of my question related to her process and inspiration as well as some device for budding designers.
Laura Mitbrodt: Why did you start Bonspiel?
Ellen Box: I started Bonspiel as a side project while I was working at Smoking Lily. I was introduced to Etsy by an awesome work colleague (thanks Alex!) in 2005 and started listing things I was making, small purses and such. As sales picked up there, I got really excited to create my own brand and product line. Sewing full time at Smoking Lily plus sewing in the evenings and on weekends caused my shoulders to freeze so that wasn’t fun. It reminded me that I am not a robot, unfortunately.
I left Smoking Lily to focus on my own business in March of 2007. I had a year and nine months before the global economic crisis hit, and those were some golden times. But since September 2008 it has been more of a struggle.
LM: Where do you find inspiration?
EB: I get a lot of inspiration from the materials. They suggest to me what I could do with them. I’m sure it frustrates my customers when I refuse to make a certain type of wallet because I can’t find the right leather … but if it’s not right, it won’t really work. I am also inspired by films (Wes Anderson, duh) and other people’s aesthetic presentations. And natural forms and things you find on the beach. For example, I have been meaning to design a purse from a shark egg case I saw on the beach in White Rock quite a few years ago.
LM: Who is your fashion icon?
EB: I don’t really have a fashion icon. I’ve enjoyed Prada stuff over the years and am a fan of Alexander McQueen, especially his last collection. That blew my mind. I love mid-century minimalism in furniture, clothing and accessories but not in buildings.
LM: What is your favourite decade for inspiration?
EB: A favorite decade (is) late 60s, early 70s. The sex-kitten, babydoll era. Such an amazing style for women. And the hilarious free wheeling flared pants etc. and the long straight hair. And nothing was ironic. Just the best.
LM: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start their own fashion business?
EB: Everything about being a self-driven, self employed, business, cottage-manufacturer person: the risk, the ongoing daily self-motivation and all the decisions that shape the company, the accounting and designing and marketing and production, I love it all. When I recently contemplated taking a full time production sewing job, I had no question that I wasn’t going to do it. I don’t know what else I would do if I wasn’t doing this. It’s so rewarding, but so demanding. You have to have the passion, because a lot of the time you ain’t getting paid. So don’t do it if you’re not passionate about it.
Check out Ellen’s Etsy Shop to see more of her designs.