When Emma, from Charlie Feist, got in touch with me back in June via Instagram the brand was yet to launch, but I was immediately drawn to their aesthetic. I waited patiently, following their Instagram like an excited child waiting for Father Christmas. I wasn’t disappointed when their first collection dropped in September. I am now the proud owner of one of their backpacks, and very much doubt it will be the last! I’ve been so impressed by the Charlie Feist and by Emma’s professionalism, passion for the brand plus her understanding of what blogging is all about, I am proud to say I am now a brand ambassador having signed up to their affiliate programme. Keep an eye out on my YouTube channel for an unboxing video, coming later this week. But for now, let’s get to know Charlie Feist in my interview with Emma…
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Tell me a bit about yourself and the brand Charlie Feist.
We are team of two full-time staff and with 3 part-time members not counting the fulfilment team at the warehouse. I manage social media marketing for the brand while the founder of the brand; Subal looks after the design and production end of things.
How and why did you come up with the name Charlie Feist?
During our preppy wardrobe days of structured navy blazers and crisp blue oxford button-downs, we were obsessed with Hunter boots. And we thought that rubbery material would be perfect to make a backpack since it’s waterproof and hardy. We began researching around the lifestyle of a hunter. Looking at several images of hunters, we began noticing that almost always a dog would accompany them. What followed was a weeklong research of names of hunting dog breeds. After going through several of the usual suspects and variations of spaniels, beagles, etc. we stumbled upon the “Charlie Feist” which is named after a hunting dog. Immediately we fell love in with the name because it kind of has the sound of a human. Both Subal and I are WAY too self-conscious to have our own names plastered on the product!
As a start-up company I remember you getting in touch with me earlier in the year. What has been your progress? Can you talk me through the stages?
It’s become almost cliché to disregard the “build it and they will come” adage. But this is disregarded for a reason especially in 2016. To think that our product is SO good that it could bubble up from all the noise out there is ludicrous. From the get, we were amply clear that we couldn’t launch to crickets. We knew that when we opened our digital doors, we needed to have a warm audience who was excited about the launch. With this in mind, we began talking about the brand on Instagram.
What is the history behind the brand?
The idea of a well-designed backpack has been with us since 2014, but it was only in 2015 when after many failed production samples, we finally created the product that we could stand behind.
One of the first things I noticed when you got in touch is the minimalist yet luxury feel of the brand. From what sources have you drawn inspiration?
It’s funny you say luxury when the starting point of the brand is £59! We always wanted to keep our price accessible since we wanted more people to enjoy our products. When designers get asked the question about where did they get their inspiration from, you probably hear a long-winded answer mostly involving an era that you wouldn’t have heard of and it goes above the heads of most people. I won’t do that. Our inspiration is the works of great brands like Givenchy, Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, and a bit of Zara and River Island! Having said that, these different elements have to be combined to form an aesthetic that appeals to you. I think a lot of designers work in this way, but are some a bit afraid to talk about it.
What has been the most difficult part of the Charlie Feist process?
For us, the part that we don’t control has been most difficult for us, i.e. manufacturing. Finding factories that can make a quality bag has been a big challenge. Since none of us comes from a design or fashion background, we literally had to rip open bags just to learn about different materials and fabrics. Certainly a test of persistence.
What has been the most rewarding moment?
Getting a quality bag made! (Playing off your previous question!). But that would be at micro level. At the macro level, I find myself doing the thing that I truly love. I have started to love Mondays. No more TGIF or ‘live for the weekend’ anymore. The level of confidence and zest for life that I find in myself is certainly the biggest reward.
What are your goals and plans with the brand? Where do you see the brand in 5 years time?
For the moment, we are focusing 100% on making beautiful utilitarian backpacks. Five years is such a long time to predict where we will be!
How important is the vegan element of Charlie Feist to you? How do you see the brand also appealing to non-vegans? (like me!)
This is a great question and we get asked this all the time. As animal lovers (especially puppies), we could not allow ourselves to use animal products such as leather or fur in our product. However, we don’t resort to in-your-face marketing or shaming those who don’t share our belief. We don’t judge anyone’s dietary choices.
Name a person or a company who inspires you.
COS is an inspirational brand as their art direction is always on point and they have a very clear understanding of who their customer is.
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