A few weeks ago my friend Sarah McDougall of Concrete Candy landed in my inbox telling me about her new venture with LPOL Creative Director, Katy Maskell Bell. I don’t know about you, but personally I love it when creatives come together to create something new. There’s something so exciting about the forging of ideas and concepts – I mean who knows where it could end up?
HOOPLA! is a series of limited edition handbags featuring joyous, handcrafted resin hoop handles. It brings together Katy’s expert knowledge in crafting leather bags and Sarah’s love of material and shape. Every piece is designed and handmade in London, and celebrates friendship, design, colour & craftsmanship.
It’s not easy launching in the midst of a global pandemic, but in the spirit of remote interviews, we chatted over email so that I could find out a little bit more about these fellow colour-obsessives and the new Hoopla! collection. I also styled up a few photos of the Micro Arlington in Red and Pink (my favourite of the collection). I hope you enjoy learning a little more about them and manage to nab your own bag along the way.
How did the two of you meet?
Katy: We met while interning at Liberty London design studio in 2006. So we’ve known each other for 14 wonderful years!
Can you each tell me a little bit about the experience each of you have in your industry?
Sarah: I started my career undertaking a Masters in Decorative Arts and I was approached by Heal’s to design a range as part of Heal’s Discovers – a new collection of products to showcase emerging British designers. After the internship at Liberty of London I worked at Romo fabrics as a design studio assistant where I learnt about colour. I then went on to freelance in textile and print design before becoming a lecturer and course manager for a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design course. After 7 years, and while pregnant with my second baby, it was time for a new chapter and so my brand Concrete Candy began.
Katy: After studying upcycle concepts at Central Saint Martins (little did I know this approach would shape my future business), I was discovered by Julius Schofield – a British fashion talent scout – in my last year, which meant I worked as a freelance fashion print designer while applying for internships. After a few months I was hired to work as a print designer for a pattern focused design studio. This soon helped me realise I didn’t want to be a patten/repeat print designer! Ha! It was too repetitive and robotic.
Then, serendipitously, I found a one-of-a-kind and highly regarded set designer who needed a design assistant. I worked with her on design projects, whilst also tutoring A-level students helping them edit their portfolios ready for college applications. The consistent hours meant I was eventually able to turn it into a part-time role, which gave me time to dream up and work on my own product and brand idea.
When did the idea for a collaboration first come about?
Sarah: Over a year ago now we met for a coffee and discussed the possibilities of doing a collaboration. We have a mutual appreciation for colour and modernist / Bauhaus design and it just made perfect sense to bring our two brands together.
Katy: It’s funny because we’re both “ideas people” and once we’d landed on this we didn’t stop talking, adding more and more angles and sub-projects to the mix (yes, there might be a little something else coming later in the year too). It was then a case of breaking it down to a core concept and working it into a manageable project for both of us. I’m so glad we made it work!
The collection has a focus on both colour and material. What makes those elements so important for you both?
Katy: One of my earliest memories is of my grandad – a RIBA architect – talking passionately and in detail about paint colours and how important the decisions were in terms of the psychological effect. Amongst other things, he designed doctors surgeries and waiting rooms, so would explain the importance of calming blues and stimulating yellows. I learnt from him quite early on that the colour that surrounds you in your everyday can totally dictate and shape your mood. This is the same with natural materials – the right material and texture can help evoke a mood and emotional response through enhancing your connection to nature and memories, places, familiar objects, people.
Sarah: I see colour as another language. Colour enables us to communicate our emotions whether it be the way we decorate our homes, the outfits we choose to wear etc. Materials can be much the same yet perhaps more subtle by their tactility which I also find really exciting. Both Katy and I have enjoyed working with both elements in our own collections which made it easy to communicate with this collaboration.
And how did you decide collectively on the overall shapes and design of the collection? Any disagreements
along the way?
Katy: We started by focusing on how we best bring together our two crafts. The idea of hoop bags came to us quite quickly, and we stuck with it – the first idea is often the best, as they say! We then focused on two of the best-selling LPOL shapes that we could craftily convert to include hoop handles. We explored many different styles and shapes and worked hard on making sure the hoops felt substantial and sturdy whilst being comfortable, elegant and architectural. To achieve that we decided on a rounded square profile. The hoop texture was all-important too, and we both instinctively favoured the character and idiosyncrasies of a handmade finish.
We are both enthusiastic designers, so we each got carried away with colour options but we managed to edit them down to what we hope our customers will agree is a great curation.
If you had to pick one of the collection to don on a daily basis, which one would it be?
Sarah: I would definitely choose the Red Arlington with black and white terrazzo hoop as the red is so striking and reminds me of my favourite shade of lipstick. Or maybe, the soft Candy Pink Mini Elwin with white and black terrazzo hoop which is ideal for summer days exploring.
Katy: Agh, that’s tough! I have many favourites. But I’d have to say the White Micro Arlington with the beautiful soft pink hoop. I need a new bag for future Summer weddings and parties and that particular piece goes with so many of my favourite summer dresses.
Finally, share the love! Tell me about another small business that I should check out right away.
Thanks so much to Sarah and Katy for letting me into the history of Hoopla! I’m sure you can agree that the collection is stunning. What do you make of it? The pair are donating 20% of sales to the UCLH COVID-19 Emergency Staff Support Fund – their local London NHS hospital. You can view and buy the full collection of bags on the LPOL website now.