There is nothing I love more than a mini bag. It’s the one thing that encourages you to throw out all those receipts, downsize your credit cards and live a shoulder pain free life. So in light of my fondness I though I would select a few of my favourites this season for your shopping pleasure. I feel like a mini bag is also the perfect opportunity to add some colour and some crazy to your wardrobe in a little dose. So don’t be shy with your choices.
I’ve had this idea for a long time to do a project on my blog on Fashion in Wales and I’ve been looking for potential designers, photographers etc to get involved. One of these brands is Swag and Tassel, which I discovered on instagram and instantly fell in love with. The designer Sophie Wordsworth creates beautiful, unique bags out of vintage carpets, as well as a selection of small leather goods. After sending me the most beautiful bookmark ever, I asked her if she would do a quick interview for StyleRarebit and she agreed. She will also be the first person I’ve ever interviewed for my blog so it’s an extra special one. Here goes…
When did you first discover the antique rugs and what inspired you to work with them as a textile?
I am lucky to have been brought up by parents who are antique collectors (and hoarders!) so have always had a real appreciation of antiquities, history and beautiful objects. My mum has owned a handmade carpet bag for over 30 years. A lot of my style inspiration comes from my mum, I can remember sneaking into her wardrobe to borrow this coveted one of a kind handbag. So when I was given a damaged antique carpet, ideas flooded in….
Most of the carpets I use are hand woven by nomads and villagers in Persia are not pre designed but created by the weaver as they go along. I try and work in much the same way creating individual patterns for each bag and letting the different thickness of the materials, the colours and the patterns influence each creation as I work.
I love the aesthetic of your brand, it’s so unique. What was your vision for Swag and Tassel before you launched your business and has it changed?
I was never sure when I started the business whether I would be best placed in the craft market or the fashion market, I think finally I have found a good measure of both. I began creating carpet bags using leather as a structural secondary material, this has changed somewhat and I now use and appreciate both materials equally. As my vision began to grow I rebranded to what is now Swag and Tassel, this certainly helped me be more sure of the aesthetic and vision I want for my brand.
What’s your favourite piece you’ve ever made?
Its really hard to say as each piece is one of a kind, the materials are so precious and I put so much time and effort into each one… So I really love them all! Not to say I haven’t had a few disasters along the way… If I had to choose it would be a toss up between the handbag I made for my mums 60th birthday, its a hand painted veg tan leather shoulder bag I designed especially for her. Either that or the Finley Bag, that’s the name I gave to the large veg tan leather tote with a front carpet panel/pocket. It is such a simple and effective design, its the bag I use everyday.
What’s a typical day in the studio for you?
Typical day in the studio for me begins with checking up on orders from Notonthehighstreet, I can then plan what needs to get made and sent out,and when. I like to get orders out the way in the morning and then leave the afternoons free to design and create new things. I recently made a collection especially for a stockist in New York using fragments of antique rug they had sent me so for about a month my days were spent blissfully designing and making a beautiful extra special collection.
Who is the Swag and Tassel woman?
The Swag and Tassel woman is someone with a very individual style who appreciates something completely different. Someone who appreciates elegant and simple effective design, with a certain Je n’est ce quoi. Age really doesn’t matter, two very stylish women I would like to see a Swag and Tassel handbag on would be Paloma Faith and Iris Apfel.
I think Wales is becoming more and more well known for creative talent all the time. What is it about Wales that inspired you to start your business here?
The calm! My studio is in a little village in South West Wales. Its right by the water and is quiet and beautiful. It helps me create, I do miss living in London but feel more inspired and free here. I feel influenced by my surroundings and can’t imagine being anywhere but somewhere in Wales…
I’ve noticed lots of little accessories popping up on your Instagram (like my gorgeous bookmark!) are these developments part of a bigger plan for the future? Do you see Swag and Tassel becoming a lifestyle brand?
As most of the handbags take days to make I found myself looking for smaller projects that I could see more immediate satisfaction with, I also found myself falling in love with working with leather and began experimenting with techniques and different small leather goods. I also like the idea of being able to personalise items. Notonthehighstreet has been a great platform for this development.
Are there any other designers in Wales who’s work appeals to you and how do you feel about the creative scene here?
I am very lucky to have a number of creative friends in Wales who are always on hand to give constructive criticism. I am really inspired by a close friend who I began in college with 13 years ago, went to the same university with and have shared the same trials and tribulations of starting and running a small business. Her name is Rose Wood and she is an award winning jeweller who now runs a successful business and has a studio in the village of Drefach Velindre where she expertly teaches jewellery making workshops. She works with leather as well as precious metals so is great to go leather shopping with! I think you have to look for the creative scene in Wales, but once you find it, it doesn’t disappoint.
For more products and info visit SWAGANDTASSEL.COM
*All images from Swagandtassel.com / Nic Ford