London-based handbag designer Esin Akan launched her Eponymous label in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since. An award-winning graduate of London Business School and Central St Martins, Esin designs ‘smart bags for smart women’, which cleverly adapt to different situations throughout the day. Loved by celebrities including Olivia Cox, Jasmine Hemsley and Lorna Luxe the collection includes the City, which is large enough to carry a laptop for work and features a detachable clutch bag for evening; the Mayfair, which can be worn as a cross-body, shoulder or clutch bag with a leather overlay that enables you to switch the colour and the Notting Hill, which is expands to accommodate a laptop and your gym kit whilst still remaining light and stylish.
Esin has just showed at London Fashion week and is in the process of launching her SS18 collection. Her bags are stocked in Harvey Nichols and are available to purchase online at www.esinakan.com.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
Yes, I remember designing bits and pieces from about 7 years old, I would visit my neighbour who would put make them into clothes for me. I was always very fussy about the things I wore, so Mum would have to go to the fabric store with me to pick out what I liked and get them made into dresses.
How did you get into the industry?
I got my first taste of fashion working with Italian designers and travelling between Istanbul, Paris and Milan after finishing my international trade degree in Turkey. I loved the lifestyle and the whole process of creativity and wanted more, so studied shoe design in Milan then did some internships. When I returned to London I was lucky enough to get an internship at Jeager, which was followed by a full-time job at Burberry - and guess what I worked on? Handbags!
Was that the beginning of your passion for handbags?
Yes! I had never thought about handbags before, but I learned so much about them. I now know the best producers in the world, the best leather tanneries, how to liaise with suppliers and designers, how to quality control and bring a beautiful product to life.
What makes an Esin Akan handbag special?
Our bags are the ‘smartest bags in the street’ because you can use them in so many ways. We know that women go out at 7 in the morning and come back at 11pm in the evening, and within that time-frame they go to work, client meetings, go to the gym in their lunch breaks and meet a friend for a cocktail in the evening. This is the lifestyle of the Esin Akan woman, and our bags adapt to every situation throughout her day. Women shouldn’t have to spend a lot of money on a beautiful designer bag that doesn't hold their laptop and gym clothes. Our handbags are beautiful but also have that functionality.
Where are they manufactured?
Since so many big brands have relocated from Turkey to the Far East to cut costs, I have taken advantage of all the expertise in Turkey. Everything is handmade by small ateliers with excellent craftsmanship. We use bespoke leathers which allows us to be so much more creative when we are doing a collection.
Which is your most popular bag?
The City bag, with it’s detachable clutch has been telling our story for a very long time and is our best-seller. We were the first to introduce such a bag to the market, then everyone introduced their own, and it became a bit of a thing.
Who is your greatest influence?
Probably my Mum! She is my most fussy customer! She have me a lot of warnings about weight, secure closure, zips and quality of interiors. Pleasing my Mum is going to be a lifetime mission - but this is very valuable - the people close to you are the most honest.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned so far?
To listen to your customer better. Your customer is key and the more connected you are, the more you will be successful.
Who in the fashion world inspires you?
Anya Hindmarsh for her lifestyle. She is creative and successful, but still very family orientated. She doesn’t work at the expense of family life. This industry is extremely competitive; you need lots of passion; it’s very hard to succeed and there are lots of challenges. I admire her for being able to strike a balance and ‘do it all’. I have been working from home for the last two years to spend more quality time with my young son. This is so important to me.
Tell me about your new collection.
I’m so excited! It has been 100% designed by me which has been so satisfying. I have done so much research! I have looked at every single handbag in Paris, New York, Milan and London. It gave me huge scope and inspiration; colours, leathers, little details in the designer stores, but even things like the print on a dress can inspire me. We have done huge trend research. It’s a very exciting collection with lots of never seen before elements.
What are your visions for the future?
I want my handbags to become the ‘it’ bags of the modern woman.
Esin Akan handbags are available at Harvey Nichols and online at www.esinakan.com