The latest in our Creative Hub interview series sees Editor Tasha chat with Helen Gutteridge, founder of luxury brand Englana on the concept and craftsmanship behind the brand. Plus, Helen shares her insights and experience of the creative industry.
British made fashion
Englana is a luxury lifestyle brand specialising in premium leather fashion and homewares. The brand is passionate about keeping everything British, from English leather to the tissue paper the products are wrapped in. Founder, Helen strives to keep her brand in the UK, utilising British craftsmanship for each hand-made piece.
Helen, please give us an insight into your creative/industry background
I had a wonderful childhood with a fabulous creative upbringing in a house of grand pianos, music and the arts. Although professionals in their own right, my parents were quite bohemian and were always making things including harps, lutes, dulcimers, chess sets and model locomotives and so since a young girl I was always involved and loved drawing, designing, fashion, music and watching the skills of true craftsmen.
Like many of us, my career has taken me along different paths…. from a degree in music through to teaching and training and, for the last 20 years working with my husband’s medical company designing products, mainly fabric, that solve problems in the healthcare field. It was that experience, working with fabrics and designing products from scratch that helped when the concept of Englana® was born.
What was the main influence for starting Englana?
My husband and I were looking to move house and I got fed up of throwing our wellies in a black plastic bag in the back of our Landrover and thought that there must be something better on the market.
After looking for a solution, I found that there wasn’t anything! Certainly, nothing that was stylish, elegant and would suit the vehicle as well as my wellies! So I remember telling my husband that I was going to design my own and make it out of beautiful leather so it would last a lifetime!
After a few sketches and designs, my husband encouraged me to follow my dream… and so the idea of Englana® was born. A luxury brand where raw materials were sourced in our British Isles, where all the textiles and material were natural and sustainable and where products were made using skills and craftsmanship and designed to last a lifetime.
Why does Englana stand out in this competitive industry?
Designed for a better world, Englana® is quintessentially English but very much in tune with today’s desire for sustainable, stylish, elegant products that are beautiful, practical and will last. We have a range of exclusive products with USPs that run through our entire product range that mark us out as different.
- We have deliberately set out to use only natural textiles and fabrics in all our products, even our quilting is filled with wool, not polyester.
- We source and make everything here in the British Isles and work directly with mills, weaving and dying plants, tanneries and with skilled craftsmen and women – all based here in England.
- We don’t just claim to be British, we are truly British and source our raw materials and products directly from British manufacturers.
What has been the most challenging aspect when bringing your company into the industry?
Finding raw materials, components and manufacturers still based here and still manufacturing in our British Isles.
Over the years I have been saddened to watch so many companies export their skills and manufacturing bases abroad and seen the U.K. lose vital skills and capabilities to other countries. Also, so many products claim to be Made in England or Made in Britain but are not, they may be tweaked and just finished here.
Unapologetically English, we decided from the outset to try to reverse this process and our decision to use only natural textiles and materials was coupled with the necessity to source and make the raw materials as close to the source as possible. We also find the components and the skilled artisans here in the British Isles, which helps to sustain the industries, skills and techniques that for so long were indigenous to our islands and responsible for much of our industrial wealth. Even our labels use English produced paper and our boxes are handmade here as well.
Are there any challenges the fashion industry faces which new brands should be aware of?
The fashion industry is a crowded marketplace and new brands need to have a clear ethos and find novel ways to stand out. They need to build in serious marketing costs into their product price as the cost of promoting products to get noticed can be a large percentage of the overall product cost. Packaging materials, marketing materials, trade shows, influencers and advertising all cost and must be chosen with care ensuring that nothing is done which can detract from their brand message and ethos.
Describe the key images you want to portray when people see or hear your brand name?
One of beauty, design, elegance, sustainability, exquisite workmanship and practicality. We make pieces that have a practical use but which will grace and enhance any beautiful home or luxury vehicles for generations to come.
What are the key trends that’ll we’ll see in the next few years?
More bespoke options. Customers will have the chance to choose their collection colours and own design elements to make a product uniquely their own. We will also be developing new design additions to the range and exploring new fibres, textiles and trends that support our natural and luxury brand tags.
Can you give any advice to aspiring designers and businesswomen looking to enter the creative sector?
Love what you do and be passionate about it because you will need that to drive you forward if the going gets tough. Learn all that you can around your chosen areas, understand where the sector has come from and read all you can about where the future might be taking it and if you have the time to get hands-on experience, in any form, take it! Nothing beats practical experience and at least it will confirm, or not, whether this chosen area is one you still want to work in.
What is your hope for the future of the Englana?
That it is a brand that is still here 100 years from now and still known for beautiful, timeless, luxury pieces for home and lifestyle where all the raw materials, components are made in the British Isles and where the skilled artisans involved in their manufacture are trained and skilled by us.
I envisage us developing a design and innovation centre in our field, a skills centre where people can join and upskill and develop their careers with Englana, and where we can research into new natural fibres and textiles that are sustainable and put something back into the environment. We will continue to work with British industries to develop components that we need for our new designs and hope Englana will become the Dyson of luxury home and lifestyles, creating a design, innovation and manufacturing hub to invest in brand Britain.