Former Creative Director of Mulberry Emma Hill has struck out on her own with Hill & Friends luxury handbags – and the industry’s finest are taking note. Here, she discusses her creative process, her new handbag collection and life as a city girl
WORDS: Mark Kebble
What will see from your label Hill & Friends this season?
We have grown our accessories collection, which has almost doubled in size, so you will see lots more choice and variety of function, size and price point.
Where do you start with creating a new collection?
My inspiration is usually quite spontaneous, so it’s difficult to describe the process – however, film and photography often play a part. I balance this inspiration with a more analytical review of the collection, adding functions that are missing, evolving and refining designs. In this way new collections balance newness with continuity.
Also in the news is the fact Harrods and Selfridges will be stocking your bags. How big a thing is this for you?
It’s huge! No matter how successful or established you are there’s such a thrill to see your brand in the context of these great stores. It’s also great to hear the consumer feedback and when I have a moment I love to pop in and spy on customers interacting with our product. It’s really insightful.
What will this offer the consumer?
For the first time our customers can touch our bags. Until now we have been sold exclusively on Net-a-Porter and our own website. There’s nothing quite like seeing a bag. Most customers want to open it and check the internal structure, how many pockets it has, what can it accommodate? They want to feel and smell the quality and try their bag in front of the mirror. It was great fun attending the launch at Selfridges last week. Customers are blown away by the quality, every bag is lined in softest suede, and the leather and hardware quality is really exceptional. Hill and Friends’ customers are really switched on, they recognise these details.
No matter how successful or established you are there’s such a thrill to see your brand in the context of these great stores.
Do you live in London?
Yes, I live in Holland Park, or Notting Hill, depending on where you draw the boundary! I moved back to London from New York nearly ten years ago. I love the neighbourhood feel of this area and the access to parks and open spaces. I’m a real city girl. I can’t drive, I’ve always lived centrally and make the most of everything London has to offer, the culture, the food, the shopping and the cosmopolitan vibe of the city.
Is London an inspiring place to be?
Absolutely. I think the pace of innovation gives London an energy, there is always re-invention sitting alongside what is established. It’s this tension that I think is so British, which we all feel in London.
How is London doing when it comes to fashion?
London’s doing great, this city has always created incredibly talented designers. I don’t think that will ever change and we are now getting much better at creating strong British businesses. The support of organisations like the British Fashion Council is essential.
What initially inspired you to launch Hill & Friends?
After leaving Mulberry I looked at the market and felt that there was a gap. , a little subversive and cool, but essentially a practical classic shape crafted with exceptional attention to detail.
Do you have a particular unique selling point?
I think it’s a magic formula, a mixture of luxurious quality, easy practicality and a playful wit. These qualities are present in everything we do.
Every bag is lined in softest suede, and the leather and hardware quality is really exceptional
How has the response been to you since you launched?
It’s been wonderful, we are so appreciative to have the support we’ve received from our team, our suppliers, the press, the industry and of course the consumers. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Have you taken little bits of every role you have had in the past in the way you run Hill & Friends?
Yes I guess so, and alongside this I’ve always been myself in every role I’ve had so there’s a degree of continuity. I’ve certainly learnt a lot along the way. The benefit of the diversity of experience I’ve had is an ability to draw on past lessons, which give me perspective when we come across an issue or opportunity we weren’t expecting.
What would you say the greatest thing you have ever learnt is?
That’s a very tricky question… I think it’s not to take anything for granted. I try and make the most of every situation and appreciate the people around me. I’m very lucky to have my gorgeous son, amazing friends and a really exciting career. I have a lot to be thankful for.
Will ready-to-wear to be next up?
Yes, but only when the time is right, so watch this space!