When Cathleen Nicol, founder and designer of luxury leather accessories brand C.Nicol first approached The GBE to become a British producer we were very impressed with the quality and professionalism of not only her products but also the C.Nicol brand image.
Having always wanted her own business and having designed accessories as a hobby, Cathleen took the opportunity when living abroad with her husband to invest in her passion and began studying with London College of Fashion (LCF) in fashion business and handbag design. Feeling that she now had the skills to approach designs from a functional and saleable angle and having been inspired by LCF, Cathleen started her own accessories label and C. Nicol was established in 2014.
Looking back at the start of the business, Cathleen explains her biggest challenges, “I spend large parts of the year abroad as my husband works in the Middle East which means a lot of communication with my material suppliers and my factory in the UK is done via email and phone, which can sometimes slow down processes and result in rather expensive phone calls. For a start-up business, keeping a close eye on timings and budget are paramount. Over the past eighteen-months I’ve built relationships with my factory and suppliers that allows communication to be much more streamlined.”
Cathleen designs each style in the C. Nicol collections and she has a clear vision as to what she wants her brand to represent, “Producing in the UK is key to the C. Nicol brand. Every C. Nicol bag is made in the UK and always will be. I wanted C. Nicol to be an authentic British label and I feel that it really is. When people ask me where my bags are made I feel proud telling them that they are made by two lovely British ladies in a factory in Hackney, London. Yes it would be cheaper and faster to produce in India or China and they have more snazzy machines to do it all on but that isn’t what my label is about.”
As well as manufacturing C. Nicol products in the UK, Cathleen also sources all of her raw materials from the UK, “The leather for the ‘Water Sirens’ collection comes from a tannery in the Scottish borders, the salmon skin is sourced from a company that uses only Scottish and Irish salmon and the metal fittings come from a small hardware company in London. To begin with finding suppliers of materials in the UK that I could afford and that would supply me with the small quantities I required for sampling and a small production was a challenge. I took time to research and where possible, visit suppliers, to ensure I was comfortable with the quality and understood the product.”
During the process of sourcing materials and manufacturers for her products Cathleen came across ‘Fashion Capital’ in London and credits their CEO Jenny Holloway with helping her move her business forward, “Jenny really helped me to push ahead and dive into the launch. I thought I wasn’t ready but I was and I am so glad I didn’t give up.” Cathleen went on to comment, “I hope that there will be more support out there for those who go to great lengths to make goods in the UK in terms of professional support and funding and that the support be readily available regardless of where you or your products are based in the UK.”
Looking ahead Cathleen plans to increase her number of stockists and she hopes The GBE will help her do this, “Connecting with buyers is really hard. I hope that GBE will help me to grow my business in the rest of the UK too.”
Finishing our discussion with Cathleen we discussed our shared passion for British made products, “If you are looking for quality, innovation in design, authenticity and craftmanship – buy British!”
We couldn’t have said it better and we’re looking forward to working with Cathleen and all the British producers who have joined us so far.