Sartorial Satire with fashion designer, Chloe Marlow
When we met designer Chloe Marlow in a cafe in Shoreditch, the first thing that stuck out was her bright blue bag with a bold disclaimer. I immediately got out my camera and started to snap away at Chloe's statement bag, or as they are officially called "This Bag". The point of This Bag? As Chloe says, "to challenge consumers' perception of luxury through text, colour and collaboration". The bags are offered in two formats; a small (seen below) and a large, and come in colours ranging from bright red to a more subtle nude or black. The shape of the bags are inspired by the paper shopping bags you get from luxury stores such as Selfridges, and the large disclaimer is inspired by the disclaimer labels attached to luxury goods. Putting the disclaimer focal to the bag emphasises the craftsmanship that goes into the making of the product, because as Chloe (rightly) says "what's more important, the logo or the craftsmanship?"
But I am not the only one who has noticed the genius behind This Bag. While I was chatting with her, her bag had just been featured in a Daily Mail article of Ella Eyre wearing a yellow This Bag the night before. All I can say is, this young designer and her This Bag are on to great things, and I am lucky to have caught up with her on her way up.
You graduated from Central Saint Martins (CSM) in 2015 and already launched your brand one year later, how was that?
For my final year project at CSM, I decided to make a handbag to go with my collection. I had never made handbags before so I applied to a course in north London at a bag manufacturer. I had not thought much of it at first, but slowly started to fall in love with the craftsmanship and handwork that was going into the making of the bags. So after I graduated from CSM in 2015, I decided to do a nine month apprenticeship at the same bag manufacturer. I enjoyed it so much that after the apprenticeship I decided that I should give my own bag idea a go! I based the idea of the bag on the one I had created for my final year collection as I had gotten a lot of positive feedback on it and had them manufactured at the same manufacturing company I worked at. It was quite funny, I had gone from being the employee to being the client.
Looking back, I definitely think that I was a bit naïve to have started my own brand label only a year after graduating, but I think that worked in my favour because it allowed me to take a lot of risks and be more creative.
How was studying Textiles at Central Saint Martins ?
My degree was intense, but I loved it. The tutors are incredible and all have these amazing CVs and careers which meant that we would get to work on projects and collaborations briefs from these huge companies. But I never actually learned about the business side of fashion. Central Saint Martins is a an amazing name and a great creative hub, but no teacher will teach you anything about margins, delivery times, profit and losses, etc. I had to figure that all out myself. I recently read that 8 out of 10 UK businesses fail within the first year, at leat I've beaten that statistic!
What is a typical Marlow girl?
I describe her as a creative individual who's looking for more than just a pretty product, she wants a story. Each bag is an art piece and no two bags are the same as they each have a different bar code on the side. My customer is artistically inclined, bold and doesn't just want any luxury item, but one with a certain je ne sais quoi.
Tell me more about how you got inspired to create This Bag?
I was looking at luxury items and why people buy luxury goods. So that is how I got inspired to make the shape similar to a luxury paper shopping bag. To add a bit of humour to it, I made the disclaimer text central to the bag. Luxury products on the mass market are typically all the same, but on my bags every barcode is unique so no one has the same number. So in a way This Bag tries taking a satirical approach to the luxury market.
Best way to wear a This Bag?
I personally love it with all black. I just love the way This Bag pops out and can really dress an outfit up or down; you can take the strap off for the evening or wear it as a cross body for a more casual look.
Most difficult part about setting up your brand?
The most difficult part is the self-doubt. I have spoken to a lot of entrepreneurs and we all go through the same cycle, some days are a high and some a low. Never take no for an answer, even if someone does not like what you're doing, that doesn't define you. So my advice is to really believe in what you're doing. If you don't, no one else will.
It's also important to immerse yourself in the industry you're in and to know what's happening in it right now, as well in the past. Read the latest news, go to networking events. I find myself sometimes going to events, which I did not think would be that beneficial, but they turn out to be incredibly helpful. Just the other week, my friend invited me to an Erdem X H&M press event. I did not think much of it, but when I arrived, every single major person from the fashion press was there! All the people that I had tried to email and reach out to for weeks, were all right in front of me.
Where do you get inspiration from for your designs?
I love going to museums like the Saatchi gallery. I love that the gallery features artists that are inspired by current social issues like myself. I also spend an unhealthy amount on Instagram and that helps me see what the current social trends are and what major issues people are concerning themselves with.
Who are fashion figures you love?
Ooh there are so many! On instagram I love Eva Chen, the head of fashion partnerships at Instagram. I also really like Adwoa Aboah, she has a very unique style and would be the absolute perfect girl to wear a This Bag.