The Handbag Collection Proving that Sustainability and Luxury Aren't Mutually Exclusive
Today’s interview comes from someone who is no stranger to the crazy world of fashion entrepreneurship.
Meet Bridget Brown.
Bridget is the founder of Filbert, which is a luxe, cruelty-free, Made in the USA, and Vegan certified handbag collection under $500.
Officially launched just two years ago, Bridget and her co-founder Nick (also her husband), set out to create something that matched their beliefs that ethical and luxury shouldn’t be mutually exclusive of each other.
As a veteran of the fashion or wedding industry, I should say, Bridget originally started her entrepreneurial journey in the late nineties in which she founded Bella Bridesmaids after realizing a gap in the market for chic, modern and wearable bridesmaid dresses.
About seven years later, the company became franchised and grew to 43 stores across the U.S.! They sold the company in 2012.
So needless to say that these two are clearly a successful duo.
Bridget may have seemed to hit the nail on the head again because Filbert is right on point when it comes to a gap in the sustainable + ethical + luxury space.
What inspired you to start Filbert?
“After selling our previous company, we took some time off and spent a year in England and Europe traveling. I had moved to a vegan lifestyle a little over 4 years ago for compassionate reasons: my diet didn’t match with my beliefs that animals should be loved, not eaten. I found the dietary change was much easier than the fashion aspect of trying to find luxe, beautifully crafted, made in the USA handbags.
While we were traveling in Europe, Nick (my husband and co-founder of Filbert) noted that I was constantly struggling to find a handbag that ticked all the boxes for me: luxe, cruelty-free, made in the US, and under $500. So, when we returned home to California, we started the journey.
We spent 2 years sourcing the fabric (vegan leather and cotton canvas..and coming soon...luxe vegan suede!), the hardware (solid brass, made in Connecticut), the lining (organic cotton grown in Texas), and finding a domestic factory to produce the goods. We think that ethical and luxury shouldn’t be mutually exclusive of each other and than things can always be made better.
We launched in March with a curated 4-piece collection of luxe cruelty-free bags available for sale at www.shopfilbert.com
We want to bring awareness of why using cruelty-free fabrics is a kinder option!”
Do you have a background in fashion?
“Not fashion per-se, but in my previous business Bella Bridesmaid, we worked closely with many independent designers so I learned a lot through those brands about sourcing fabric, working with domestic factories….and a lot about women’s body issues! “
How did the idea for Filbert come about?
“ It was purely a selfish moment...I couldn’t find a luxury handbag in the $300-500 range that was made in the USA and non-leather.”
Where does the name Filbert come from?
“Filbert is a street that we lived on in San Francisco, but I was surprised to learn that it’s a type of hazelnut!”
What made you want to create an ethical/sustainable company?
“When we created Filbert, the most important aspect to us was not using any animal based products, followed closely by domestic manufacturing and supporting local factories, and trying to find the most eco version of every component.
It’s a tall order, but we worked tirelessly and asked a lot of questions about every component of the bag.
We researched all types of metals for our bag hardware and decided that U.S made solid brass was the most eco (and durable) metal to use. We sourced a U.S. made thread. Our linings are all Texas-grown, South Carolina-milled organic cotton.
We ship all bags in organic cotton drawstring dust covers (re-use factor: great for holding shoes or dirty laundry in your suitcase!), in 100% recycled boxes from Colorado based Eco-Enclose with no additional packaging inserts.
To us, all of these thoughtful details are the definition of luxury.
You use vegan leather that is PETA approved...that’s amazing!
"We were excited to find a vegan leather that was made in the US and non-PVC. It looks and feels just like an animal-based leather, but with the major upside that no animals were harmed to make your handbag! And we were proud to obtain our PETA-approved vegan certification."
Where are the bags made, and are they paid a fair wage?
"We work with a small, 2 person factory in Portland OR. The owners are a young couple who have worked in factories their whole lives and branched out and opened their own small factory last year. We have visited and met them both, and yes they are paid fair wages since they are the owners!"
What’s been the biggest struggle for you thus far as an entrepreneur?
“Educating consumers that ethical and luxury aren’t mutually exclusive, and that leather doesn’t necessarily equal luxury. Why can’t a vegan leather bag be luxurious too? Luxury to us means that we know where the bags are made-that they are made in an ethical factory in the USA where the workers are treated well and paid fairly- and the bags are of the highest quality and craftsmanship.”
Where do you currently sell?
“We’re currently direct to consumer, but you can also find our Pixley bags at Amour Vert, a San Francisco based company that shares our same ethos of mindfully made goods.”
What would you say to someone just starting out in this journey?
“I can tell you that creating a U.S. made product is hard. Very hard.
The upside, however, is holding a prototype in your hand when you’ve worked so hard to source every single component from eco and/or U.S. based suppliers. Seeing it all come together is the best feeling.
There’s a lot of stalls and dead-ends, and you need to be well funded, both in money and patience!
Research as much as you can, and reach out to as many people as you can in your field. Ask a lot of questions and be relentless in finding out answers to questions that will enable to you to make a decision as to if you have an idea that will be successful."
What’s been your biggest accomplishment to do that you’ve felt like “wow, I did this!”
"I was pretty excited to see our Steiner tote featured in GOOP in a roundup of their favorite weekend-ready bags! Now if I could just see that bag hanging on Gwyneth’s arm……."
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