8. The Journey of a Bag - Part 3

8. The Journey of a Bag - Part 3

Part 3: Selecting Materials

I don’t want to tell you how many hours I have spent in my career and life looking at materials.  It was always part of my job, but it was also what I did on the weekends and what I studied in school.  I have always had a love affair with textiles and love the role they play in indigenous cultures.  If you go into my healing center, you can see the role textiles play in my life.  They are prevalent around every corner in Ceremony. 

When TheOne08 came together we had many discussions on our consumers, on sustainable materials, on our product mission as well as our company mission.  Especially on what “sustainable materials” even means!  It’s a lot and it has been a lot.  Each choice has a million other choices cascading from it.  I am not only choosing a material, I am choosing the process in which it is made, the life of the bag and how it will or will not merge back with the planet when its life is complete.  And material choices VASTLY span the cost spectrum.  When we’ve polled our consumers we hear the long list of desires for the bag (and materials) and then ask them how much they would be willing to invest in these items.  That’s where the hard conversation begins.  We as consumers want x, y, & z but we have been conditioned to buy items that are cheap.  We are not used to how our grandparents lived, how they invested in pieces and had very few items that were made well, were expensive (compared to what we pay today) and lasted a very long time.  We are used to grabbing something cute and cheap from easy retailers nearby or online.  We are not used to taking care of our items or repairing them when they need it.  Just try to find a cobbler in your town!  We have created habits that are difficult to break.

As you know, being someone who is interested in TheOne08 this has been shifting for a while, you probably already shop in vintage stores and with conscious companies.  You are the one convincing your friends to spend less at the fast fashion retailers and have already changed your habits.  You know high quality items that last a long time are going to cost more. 

I wish the story of me choosing materials were sexier.   A long table, every sustainable material from under the sun laid out beautifully.  Me flipping through books, feeling swatches and consulting the price list.  Oh wait, that is how it happened.  It just happened in many, many stages and in several different locations around the world. 

The first selection left me a little concerned with what our scalable options were.  The things I had in my mind to use didn’t exist yet for a cost we could afford, or in a way that made any sense to get a product to a consumer.  It was a constant request from me as I went through the plant families: mushrooms?  Bamboo?  Linen?  Cotton?  Hemp?  Each choice meant something sacrificed.  Too expensive (for now).  Not readily available (yet).  Processed with chemicals (why?!! L), short shelf life……  or the material that I finally thought I had hit a home run with the vendor started to tell me that their customers were not concerned with sustainability and began telling me how much water and power and resources were wasted in making their materials!!!  Ayiyiyi! 

I was continuously frustrated and disheartened.  What to do???

But as you read before, you heard that we are an incredibly supportive team who listens to each other and does our best to align in each decision to make the best possible choices with what is available right now.  So the 5 of us met in the restaurant at the top of our hotel in Ho Chi Minh Coty, after knowing how frustrating it has been to find the right material for right now, we spread out new options that were softer, more durable, more eco-conscious than I had seen before.  I flipped through swatches observing each one closely until I finally opened a swatch book and landed on The One. 

And it’s on its way to our factory so we can see samples in my new favorite material.  (cross your fingers)  I can’t what to share it with you.

Marnie Quinn

7. The Journey of a Bag - Part 2

7. The Journey of a Bag - Part 2

Part 2:  Design Inspiration

I have been fortunate to be able to travel all over for inspiration.  I have been able to see cities, people and cultures completely unique, experiencing them for the sole purpose of understanding this uniqueness so I can look at world, art & design from a new lens.  As soon as I step out of the familiar I get creative bursts of inspiration.  Some days its as easy as going out to a new market near home, but if I want new big ideas it helps to get on a plane and go somewhere completely new to me. 

When I travel I spend a lot of time in markets, shops, bazaars and especially antique stores.  One part of my role is knowing what is being mass distributed so I can understand the tastes of brands and consumers and make an educated choice to participate or not in what is happening so I visit not only the nooks and crannies of cities but I also have to get into malls & galleries and see the big brands.  If it were up to me (and I suppose it is) I would spend all of my time in the nooks and crannies.  The Designer brands have the funds to make some beautiful hardware pieces that you cant necessarily find in boutiques (and I am a sucker for hardware, in case you didn’t see my blog about considering hardware) so I do pop into their shops to experience their offerings. 

Where I really find my inspiration is in those unexpected corners of a city.  The dusty antique stores with brass gramophones that inspire new print ideas, or a street market with an embroidered zip pouch.  A woven silk rug.  An old oil panting.  A book binding.  A door hinge.  A chipped old ceramic piece.  The spice market.  The ceiling of a hamam.  A cobblestone pattern.  Everywhere you look, if you’re looking, there is something to ignite the imagination.

I want to twist and turn on a city or country street to find the place with a face and a smile and not a word of English.  I want to get by using hand signals to communicate.  I want to negotiate having to write figures down on a scratch piece of paper.  I want to dig into boxes and shelves and find that piece almost forgotten and think of new ways to bring it back to life. 

When it comes to color inspiration, I go straight to nature.  I will admit there are some fantastic cities that are vibrant with color.  Doorways, shutters, shingles and paint all a new pop of life.  But when you see those colors in the wild, there is just nothing like it.  The first time I went to the Amazon I kept saying, how does this color even exist in nature?!  I couldn’t believe the neons & brights of the plant, animal and insect life.  The blue sky peaking between the leaves of trees.  The orange flower blossoming in a sea of green.  The purple butterfly resting on the trunk of a tree. 

I also love the juxtaposition of this wild natural life with something man made.  A plant in front of a bright doorway.  A line of vibrantly colored laundry in someone’s backyard lush with florals and greenery. When you combine the mastery of Mother Nature and our human twist you can get some real magic happening.

Marnie Quinn

6. The Journey of a Bag - Part 1

TheOne08 Team

Part 1:  A Team is formed

There are so many things I want to share with you.  We’re on a design inspiration, materials hunting, factory auditing, story building trip.  It’s been a total adventure filled with unexpected challenges and lessons but also with things we didn’t expect.  And that’s always the way it is, isn’t it?  The journey wasn’t what we expected but it was exactly what we needed.

We had so many tasks on this trip that several times along the way we thought, this just doesn’t feel possible.  The doubts come in, you think, how can we do this?  And then right at the end…. The miracles scoot in, sometimes on the last day in a location.

Before I get into what I was inspired by from a design lens, because there was a lot of be inspired by, and before I get into how difficult our materials hunting was, and before I get into seeing the prototypes for the first time, I’m going to share what this trip was really about. 

This trip ultimately and fundamentally became about connection: the beautiful interconnection of human beings.  The things that unite us, the things that inspire us, the things that make us so unique and needed in this world.  And also how people who were once strangers can be so helpful and supportive no matter where you go.

Five of TheOne08 Team members came together on this trip.  Forming the team that would make the product come to life, and the team that would record this happening. 

Three of us began in Toronto, meeting for the first time in person.  Our first stop was to meet with a materials supplier, inspiration shop and begin recording our journey.  Then we were headed to meet with our initial factory base.  Before we are able to build infrastructure in Africa, we need to have our bags made somewhere else in order to be able to fund our mission.  We did not choose the easy route;, we for sure have tasked ourselves with something that at times we question if we’re going to be able to do it.  But when you get a group of people together who believe with their hearts in our WHY, you are able to move mountains.  At times, we do feel like we’re moving a mountain. 

As a team we came together.  Our connection to each other solidified.  Our mission driving us.  Our support of each other and what has to be done materialized.

I used to get so excited about seeing new cities, eating new cuisines and trying new things when I traveled.  Now my cup is filled by experiencing people in their fullness, when they’re challenged, and when I’m challenged.  How to be supportive and supported.  How to be clear, ask what I need, allow things to unfold as they should and how to be giving in return to others in their needs and desires.  How to share the burdens and joys with each other so the impossible (seeming) can become possible. 

When you start a business, you can choose to be an entrepreneur of something you are skilled at, and do it your way, taking a more known route.  Or you can choose to do something that isn’t being done, because it’s a difficult thing to do, and know in your heart you are strong and brave and fully supported by a team of individuals that are also all of that and more. 

And when you become the embodiment of strength and grace, fluidity and agility and supportiveness you meet people all over the world who are this too.  Imagine what we can do when we all come together and create the change that the world so needs right now.

We are doing it.   It may not look the way we thought it would look but our journey has begun.

Keep following our journey to hear about each leg of the trip and what we were able to accomplish.

Marnie Quinn

5. Considering Hardware

5. Considering Hardware

Adornment has always mattered to me.  The communication of personal style through adornment especially.   Accessorizing as a way to speak with the external world what is happening with us internally.  

I grew up with a grandmother, my mother’s mother, who matched her scarf, her jewelry, her shoes, her handbag and her wallet.  She was sharp.  She made a statement when she arrived and never had to say anything.  Although she was never shy and always had something to say.  She was full of life, personality and wit.  I get my dry sense of humor from her, I get my sassiness from her, but I also get my sense of what style is and how to use it from her. 

So when I consider the bags for our consumer I think of how they will be used, who will use them and what the bag will say.  We as a brand want to send a message of being a considerate & conscious consumer, that is our Why collectively, my Why when it comes to pencil to paper is I want her (you) to be expressing yourself when you wear one of our bags.  I want you to grab this bag as your favorite item because it’s easy to use, it uplifts your style, it says something about you and you feel good wearing it.  

When it comes to designing the shape of the bags that are classic, functional, and understated, the hardware then becomes the expression of style.  Which to me means the hardware is not only aesthetically pleasing, it’s also functional and experiential.  It serves a purpose.  It makes you turn your head and it makes you notice.   It is the accessory’s accessory.  The jewelry of the bag.  The component that will take it from a nice bag to a GREAT bag. 

We also develop an intimate relationship with the hardware when we open our bag, when we adjust the strap, pull a zipper and hook our keys.  Each time we touch it, we in fact place our energy into the metal of the hardware and it holds our imprint.   It becomes a part of us and us a part of it.  We’re creating a relationship.  It may seem that the things we carry are just things, but if you have items in your closet that you love, you know there is an emotional connection to them.  You have memories with them.  They are on this life journey with you.   

As we patiently wait for our bus or train we find ourselves caressing the smooth metal of the clasp.  As we connect to our mother on the phone we rub the zipper pull between our fingers. These are sensory experiences that create this connection with the items in our world.  So they not only are functional and aesthetic connections, they are sensory as well. 

As I sit with my pencil to paper and our powerful logo, the designs of the functional, aesthetic, and experiential hardware designs dance in my head.  And we play with how to open this, clasp that, adjust this, and close that with open and expanding minds.  The creative collaboration with the tech designer supportive, exciting and fun. 

These are some of the additional things we consider as we design you sustainable bags that you can have a relationship with for a very long time.

Marnie Quinn

4. We've got conservation in the bag

4. We've got conservation in the bag

Money talks. Whether you are running a multi-billion-dollar empire or a small non-profit, money is at the root of everything you do. Business executives spend hours studying their bottom line and thinking about how they can increase their profit-margin, while charities simply can’t function without donations. Whether we like it or not, we need money to make a difference in today’s society.

The aim of TheOne08 was to be different, in order to make a difference, we needed to place purpose and planet above profit, and that is at the heart of our vision and mission.

Bags of Money

There was never any question that our collection would center around womens handbags.  We knew that our team was blessed with a wealth of experience and success in the field and that the potential to base the manufacturing in Africa was very doable. So we set forth to make sure that our company lived up to its purpose.  A portion of the profits from our collection will be split in the following four ways:

  • We will pay our employees a thriving wage.
  • We will invest in infrastructure and training in Africa, helping to improve the lives of the locals.
  • We will donate a portion of our profit to our partner conservancy, helping them in their work in Kenya.
  • We will make expand our collection and research the use of new cruelty-free materials.

Our collection will initially be manufactured in Southeast Asia, but once we have the infrastructure in place, our workshop will move to Africa. TheOne08 team will hire local people to develop and deliver the bags, providing training, education and empowerment to one of the poorest areas of the world.  And in turn, providing these alternative and meaningful livelihoods to our partner communities will ultimately reduce the ever-expanding pressure on the land.

Our work won’t stop there. We intend to work with our partner communities in providing education regarding their land and the importance of conserving it and its wild inhabitants.

Our End Goal

We believe that long-term conservation outcomes depend on vastly improving the opportunities and livelihoods of the people who share the land.  We believe that doing the right thing is good business. A good business enhances the lives of all who work within it and enriches the lives of all those whom it comes in contact. We honor that our customers want products that help the people who make them.  By purchasing TheOne08 products you become part of the solution and play an integral role in our efforts to make a lasting change in our partner communities, so thank you!