For anyone that travels often the Eddie Harrop Voyager holdall is the stuff of dreams. Practical, chic and durable, it’s the fashion set’s go-to weekend bag. Eddie launched her namesake line of luxurious travel accessories in 2012, after struggling to find carry-on luggage as stylish as her favourite designer handbags. And she now has a loyal customer base of fashion-forward globetrotters.
I caught up with Eddie a few weeks ago – whilst her baby daughter Xenia quietly took a nap – to discuss bags, business and her typical workday. Here’s the story of her 9 to 5…
How did you get into design and accessories? What did you study?
I’ve always been in interested in fashion, which probably stems from the fact I was constantly raiding the dressing up box as a child. I did my art foundation year at Leeds, and then went on to study Photography and Styling at London College of Fashion.
After graduating I interned in the PR department at Gucci and spent a lot of time on the phone to fashion stylists. That experience gave me a great introduction to the team at Tatler magazine, and I soon started assisting on their shoots. Isabella Blow would always call in the craziest accessories from Philip Tracey and Alexander McQueen – and that’s when I realised the impact of a great accessory.
What inspired you to create the Eddie Harrop brand? And what was that first year after launching like?
In 2012 I moved to Saigon, the capital of Vietnam. I went out there because of my ex-boyfriend’s job. The boyfriend didn’t last but I was determined to stay, even if I had just been dumped and was feeling heartbroken. To earn a living I opened a shop showcasing the best young, local designers. The shop had quite an eclectic feel and sold incredible clothes, but I knew I wanted to add accessories. There’s an amazing entrepreneurial spirit in Saigon, and you have incredible access to materials and craft. So I drew upon my styling experience and designed a range of bags to put in my shop.
At that time, I was traveling extensively – from Cambodia and Sri Lanka to Hong Kong and Bali – so I knew the benefits of having a great ‘carry on’ bag. I wanted to combine my love of luxury accessories with something useful, so I decided to produce stylish weekend bags.
The first year of launching was so hard. I was constantly on my motorbike going to and from the workshop, tweaking designs and getting materials. I had to adopt the Vietnamese resilience to deal with all of the problems that came with setting up a business. But it was also a really exciting time.
What does your typical workday look like? If such a thing even exists…
I normally get up around 7am and go for a run around Kensington gardens. And my breakfast usually consists of a hot chocolate and a croissant – often eaten as I jump on the tube to the office. My New Year’s resolution was to replace the hot chocolate with a green juice, but that doesn’t always happen.
My office is in Fulham and I work with my brother, so everyday starts with a quick discussion about what we need to achieve that day. And because my workshop is still in Saigon, we usually spend the morning catching up on emails that were sent overnight because of the time difference.
Afternoons can be so varied. Sometimes I’m working on designs, sometimes I’m rushing in and out of meetings, and sometimes I have to stop everything and take my rescue dog from Vietnam out for a walk. I always find that fresh air in the afternoon helps clear my head and enables me to be more constructive when I am working into the evening.
How do you like to unwind after a long day at work?
I love to unwind by heading out for supper with my husband or a group of girlfriends. We’re all mums now, so I love having a night off and heading out to Notting Hill for a good chin-wag over a nice glass of vino. And during the week my evening bath is essential. I light a Jo Malone candle and use Olverum bath oil. It’s heaven! My bath overlooks a garden square with amazing Victorian oak trees, so I often open the sash window and let the cool air come in whilst I soak in the hot water. It’s like having a bath in the canopy of the trees.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your 9 to 5?
As my production is in Vietnam, and there’s a 7-hour time difference, it can be hard to co-ordinate everything over email because I sometimes have to wait until the next day for a response. But my newest and biggest challenge is juggling work with being a mother. It can be really hard, so I try to be as organised as possible and plan ahead to get the balance right. Luckily I know so many amazing women who combine work with raising a family, so I’m constantly looking to them for inspiration.
And, on the flip side, what are the biggest perks of your job?
The freedom to be creative and the ability to translate my ideas into a reality are two of the things I value the most about designing. I love being inspired by things around me, especially when I travel – whether it’s a gorgeous print from the Northern Hill tribes of Vietnam or cool graffiti in New York.
Being your own boss, how do you manage to stay motivated and constantly creative?
I design a new bag collection every season, so my deadline acts as a constant motivation. There are so many aspects to running a fashion business – from managing production through to retail – and I’m lucky to have my brother on board, because it gives me enough freedom to focus on the creative side of things too. We make a determined team. I’m always pushing myself and thinking ahead. We genuinely feel so excited about our product each season.
Which other women working in the fashion industry inspire you?
I think Natalie Massenet is obviously a huge inspiration, having founded Net-A-Porter before online shopping blew up. She has incredible insight and vision. I also think Victoria Beckham is a great ambassador for women in the fashion industry. Being a working mother of four and having the courage to move into fashion having come from a music background is definitely inspiring. I think she has evolved into one of the most stylish and fashion forward women of today.
And, finally, what’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given? And who gave it to you?
The best advice I’ve ever received came from my grandfather. He said, ‘You can only do your best, and if you remain true to that in your career and other aspects of your life you can do no wrong.’ I also find the TED take on motivation really inspiring, and I love J.K. Rowling’s Harvard speech in which she says, ‘Anything is possible if you have enough nerve.’
Follow Eddie Harrop on Instagram, and shop the current travel bag collection at eddieharrop.com and Net-A-Porter. All images courtesy of Eddie Harrop. Catch up on the previous #my9to5 interviews here.