Fashion and ethical practices can in fact coexist. That’s what Katie and Millie Smith, the sibling design duo of Angel Jackson stand for. And what sparks them? Architecture, definitely postmodernism, the amazing fusion of cultures, and the bright idea of a brave new world. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s hear these ladies out.
Young British Accessories Label Angel Jackson, quickly became known for its unique and modern accessories. A serious fashion player, the Brand won the Topshop New Designer Award in its first season. Love thy sister, they say. And this sibling design duo behind the innovative brand – Katie and Millie Smith – have an uncompromising and loving attitude in their approach to design and production and are both passionate and dedicated to the belief and importance of producing beautifully hand crafted products in ethical working conditions. Recognised by the British Fashion Council and British Vogue, Angel Jackson was the first and only accessories label to be short-listed for the highly esteemed Designer Fashion Fund, alongside catwalk designers, Erdem and Christopher Kane. And yes. They do keep it in the family, with Katie being the designer and Millie the marketing guru.
Widely recognized for their designs that have a “don’t mess with me” attitude, Angel Jackson continually deconstruct ideas to produce accessories that are both modern and super chic. But with a healthy dash of underground edgy-luxe. Production takes place in Angel Jackson’s exclusive factory in Bali, allowing the brand to control every element of the manufacturing process. This is all done with a specific emphasis on ensuring the highest quality of workmanship, alongside an excellent working environment for everyone involved. And Angel Jackson continues to impress and is available in the most prestigious stores globally. This is a label that is determined to create unique and modern statements for the effortlessly stylish and intelligent woman.
But these talented girls can speak much louder for themselves. Not necessarily through words. Although we have indeed used quite a few during this interview.
Let’s start with the founding of the label, what inspired you to start an accessories/luxury handbags brand?
We wanted to create something we felt proud of.. There weren’t any accessories in the market at the time that we felt had the perfect mix of feminine, edgy and rock chick all rolled into one. Your style is an expression of your personality and character and we wanted to make bags that reflected that.
It was really important to us that our collections were produced fairly and to the highest quality. That’s why we set up our own fair trade workshop so we could control working conditions and production processes.. Happy workers = happy bags!
You are sisters and running a label together. What are the challenges? Is it easy or rather difficult to keep business and family matters apart?
Easy peesey lemon squeezy.. We’re super lucky to be able to work together. We get on ridiculously well. There’s never a dull moment and when we’re together or talking on the phone we’re always laughing.. until we cry, generally!
You live between Bristol and Bali. How does each place influence you?
We get inspiration from everywhere we go so it’s tricky to pinpoint what it is in each individual place that influences us. Growing up in Bristol and being surrounded by the music and art scene there has definitely influenced to a certain extent the style of the brand. The amazing skills of the crafts people we work with in bali is inspirational in itself and being surrounded by the colours and incredible culture..
Being an ethical luxury label, you founded your own workshop in Bali. Tell us a little about what led you to that decision. And how about the production process ?
We originally started off by looking for a manufacturer who mirrored our work ethic and understood how we wanted the collections to be produced. We couldn’t find one! We decided to hire a production manager, rent a space and buy a few sewing machines and it all started from there. We knew that we had to control the production process ourselves to maintain our standards and to give our employees the working conditions and benefits that we believed in. It’s been a hard process and there has been a hell of a lot to learn since we started, but it has definitely been worth it.
All our bags are hand made and the tailors that make them take a huge amount of pride in their work. Attention to detail is paramount and we have worked very closely with our team to make sure everyone is working to the same goal. It’s really important to us that the production team are proud of what they make.. Every time the bags are in magazines or worn by celebrities we frame the picture and give it to the tailor who made that bag. We also share all the positive customer feedback we receive so that everyone feels the sense of achievement.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
We’re lucky enough to have our own factory which means we have the versatility to work with as many or as few materials as we want to. We aren’t restricted by huge minimums per colour, which is why we love to include so many colours in the collections.Natural skins are durable materials and our bags are made to be handed down through the generations.
You have seen various celebrities holding your designs. Is there an ideal woman that you would like to see wearing the brand?
Kate Moss, Katy England, Jaime Winston, Gwen Stefani, Gemma Arterton, Daisy Lowe, Alexa Chung, Lady Gaga. They have indeed all honoured us, by choosing the brand. But there isn’t one particular person we would like to see wearing Angel Jackson. Not really. The bags are designed for sophisticated women with an implicit understanding of luxury and who have a strong defined vision of themselves and their personal style.
Are you opening your own concept store in Bristol?
We don’t have any plans at present to open our own store, although it it something we have considered. Right now we are focusing on our relationships with the best stores around the world, and also with our online shop. And we’d love to diversify into other products and ranges- sunglasses, clothes, diffusion line – but at the moment we are concentrating on strengthening the existing brand and making sure everyone knows about it.