Arran Frances is a luxury design label for a modern lifestyle. Resistant to the allure of transient fashion trends, the studio celebrates design honesty by using materials and manufacturing techniques to inform each design. Though designed in London, their products are truly the result of international collaborations — with bags made by second-generation leather connoisseurs from Central Italy. We spent five minutes with Arran to learn more about her accessories.
How did Arran Frances begin as a brand?
It’s been a journey of self-discovery and experimentation. I was working as a product designer for many years designing a wide range of different products from furniture and homeware to bespoke mechanical objects. I have always been interested in how things are made and how things work so I enjoyed the challenge of designing a variety of things, but I never felt like I found my niche. Then one day on my way to work a chance encounter occurred when I stumbled into a shop supplying hardware to the fashion industry. I found it fascinating as they stocked things I had never seen before. So, I started to experiment with them in my own time and soon enough I was designing and making my own pieces of hardware, which lead to further experimentation with leather and to my first collection.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
Honestly no - I’ve always had my own sense of style and have not always been ‘a la mode’. I’ve always bought pieces that I know are going to last me a lifetime rather than a season or two and then put them together in my own way. I like to bring that idea into how I design too - creating beautiful handbags that are classic and timeless, an extension of our own personalities.
What have been the highest and lowest points on your journey so far?
Taking the leap to start my own brand was a huge gamble for me. The highest point was when my first collection sold out in 24hrs - I couldn’t believe how supportive people were and it made all the hard work and sleepless nights worth it.
The lowest point was probably discovering how difficult the process can be. It’s a very different world to the product design world that I was used to - it’s its own game with its own set of rules like any industry. So, the challenge is to learn the trade and navigate through it gracefully.
What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?
My inspiration usually comes from the materials themselves and this collection was no different. When you start with materials you can find that they have a natural movement or character which lends to being used in a particular way. By playing with two materials together and exploring how they interact with one another you can find some really interesting results.
Do you ever struggle to stay inspired?
I always panic about it but when it comes down to it, inspiration usually strikes when I’m not focused on the task. If I sit down “to design” that’s usually when I’m least inspired. I have my best ideas when I’m not concentrating, like traveling on the tube, or if I see how a material has been used in a novel way in a piece of furniture for example.
Where is your go-to meeting spot?
I try to meet people outside of the studio as much as possible, I think it’s so important to get out and clear your head - that’s when I’m most inspired. So it’s usually an independent coffee shop or a nice wine bar.
How would you describe your customer base?
Our customer is definitely someone who knows what she wants, with her own sense of style. Someone who is less focused on trends, has an eye for detail and appreciates design, craftsmanship, and skill. She has this aura of fun and playfulness and embraces life with its complexities.
Is there anyone you would love to see wearing your designs?
I couldn’t pick out one individual as there are so many accomplished women who I’d love to see wearing one of our bags. So just let’s say women of the world who constantly strive to #AccomplishFurther in their lives ..
What are the morals you run your brand by?
We like to support craftspeople who are experts and really excel at what they do. Currently, all our hardware is handmade by skilled artisans in Italy and Spain and the bags themselves are made by a second generation family-run factory in Italy, who have been making handbags for luxury brands since 1971.
Do you have a mentor?
I don’t have a single mentor but I am so lucky to be surrounded by so many people who I can turn to when I need some advice.
What apps keep you sane?
I love a good list and I run my life by them so I’d be completely lost without the Notes app. Also staying connected to friends and family is hugely important to me so WhatsApp is essential. But I love problem solving so when I loose wifi on the tube I’ll get lost in Boxed In.
If you could only wear one piece from your collection, what would it be and why?
Iona - I just love her. She was the first bag I launched with so she’ll always be special to me. But on top of that for me she’s the perfect size - small and light but just big enough for all your essentials.
What’s the biggest style mistake you’ve ever made?
Combats - let’s just say it was never a good look for me!
Is there another designer whose work you particularly admire?
I have always admired design heroes such as Jean Prouve and Dieter Rams since I come from a product design background... But in terms of my peers now in the fashion industry, I would say Marni.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I always turn to my Mum for the best advise - in fact I keep a list! My favourite is the classic yet timeless “what goes around, comes around”. So, treating people fairly and with respect will always lead to good things.
What drew you to Wolf & Badger?
The vision and commitment behind the Wolf & Badger team to support independent designers around the world is noteworthy. Also, I love the founders decision to name the platform after a personal and fun story. It’s kinda like our brand. We strive to deliver the best but we have a sense of playfulness in our teams.
Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
Well… Life, customers and businesses are constantly evolving and we do understand the importance of adapting to change. But, what we want to focus on is building a lifestyle brand that is celebrated for its considered design, craftsmanship, and experimentation. Designing and crafting products that arouses a sense of accomplishment to the wearer, to the team of Arran Frances and to all our investors.